“I nodded with genuine synthetic sympathy.” – Jeff Lindsay
What is Toxic Positivity?
This is a term that has grown in popularity, right alongside the popularity of positivity. Toxic positivity is when someone believes that no matter how dire, difficult, or painful a situation is people should keep a positive attitude. This next statement may seem outrageous, but it is a real problem.
The Problem with Toxic Positivity
Despite what some may think there are many problems with toxic positivity. Life isn’t always positive and putting the pressure on yourself and those around you to maintain a positive outlook is not healthy. As humans we are built to feel emotions, to feel more than positivity. Life throws a lot at us and expressing emotions is part of what bonds us and also what helps us to stay healthy. Our feelings are valid, no matter what they are and when we suppress them down to positivity despite how dire the circumstances might be is when we have reached toxic positivity.
Examples of Toxic Positivity
Although some of these can be good at times, when abused they are a classic sign of toxic positivity.
- Being negative won’t help you
- Good vibes only
- You’ll get over it
- This is good for you
- Just stay positive
- Smile, crying won’t help
- Look on the bright side
- Other people have it a lot worse
What is Genuine Optimism?
The main difference between toxic positivity and genuine optimism is that you are not diminishing the emotions that either you or someone else has. We deal with a lot of painful emotions and experiences and toxic positivity tends to throw a band-aid on a deep trauma instead of helping. Genuine optimism sees that negative emotions are not something to be ashamed of and they are not bad.
Examples of Genuine Optimism
- It is important to let out and speak of any emotions that you are feeling. Is there anything I can do to make this easier for you?
- This is difficult, this is painful, this is tough
- It is okay to cry, we all do
- Do you want to talk about it? Do you need anything?
- I am here for you, you are not alone, you have support
- Every emotion is valid, feel free to express everything
- I am sorry you are going through this
As you can see, there is a stark difference between the two. They are supportive, helpful, a level of comfort is brought that is not possible to be accomplished by toxic positivity. We all know that a positive outlook on life is good, but just like everything else, it is good in moderation.
I beg of you, do not fall down the trap of toxic positivity with the cute quotes and pathetic attempts at comforting someone. Genuine optimism is a million times more helpful than toxic positivity. Even if you are not comforting someone, in your day-to-day life and your own thoughts toxic positivity can approach without you realizing it.
Be bold, and be genuine.