Toxic Positivity: Why Restricting Your True Emotions Is Harmful

Optimism is good. And, typically phrases like "It's going to be all right", "Be strong", "everything will eventually be all right" can make us feel better when used in moderation. But, repeating them over and over again, whilst constantly imposing a falsely positivity attitude can quickly become toxic. Contrary to what we believe, not allow yourself to feel down or bad about things actually does more harm in the long run.

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'Anything of value in life is gained through an associated negative experience that has been overcome. Any attempt to escape, avoid or silence negativity will backfire on you. Dodging suffering is suffering' - Mark Manson - The Subtle Art Of Not Caring

Toxic positivity: When I must be happy at all costs

For many specialists in mental health, toxic positivity is the idea that we should focus only on positive emotions and the positive aspects of our lives. It is the belief that if we ignore difficult emotions or moments, we will be much happier.

Seeing the positive often helps to overcome hardships and protect oneself from the hardships of the world. It is also a way to reassure our loved ones, when they begin to worry about you. But as in all things, excessiveness is harmful and can be toxic. Refraining from feeling down in the dumps and ignoring our negative emotions and feelings with the idea that we will be happier in this way is totally counterproductive.

Be positive but don’t suppress your emotions

Although we are often asked to put things into perspective, to embrace the feel-good attitude and to remain, going against what we actually feel is never very healthy. Indeed, it is not because you ignore your stress, sadness or anxiety that they will disappear. Quite the contrary! To deny your emotions is to take the risk of exacerbating them because they will not be addressed. In short, being positive is good, but knowing how to recognize and accept your emotions is better.

The importance of taking care of your mental health

Toxic positivity is in fact denial that avoids taking suffering into account and therefore not treating it. However, our mental health is not to be taken lightly; if we ignore it, it will not get better. It is the same with the distress of others. Always reacting positively to other people's problems unfortunately encourages them to stop talking about them. Except that it is by feeling listened to and supported by others that one can heal oneself. In fact, hiding your feelings behind a fake smile can lead to more stress, torrents of uncontrollable emotions and sometimes even depression. Hence the importance of accepting a certain negativity for oneself but also for others. Sometimes, instead of telling a friend not to worry and that everything will be fine, you should just tell her that yes, what she's going through right now sucks.

So what if I’m negative at times?

Avoiding our problems by immersing ourselves in an unfailingly positive and therefore toxic attitude is not the solution, but locking ourselves into pessimism is not better. Toxicity must be transformed into something healthier.

Healthy positivity

The first step in overcoming toxic positivity is to recognize that there is a complex set of emotions that coexist within each of us. The basis for getting well without getting lost in the positive is to be able to externalize things. We must learn how to celebrate our victories, however small, and to talk about our failures too. Do you find it difficult to confide in your loved ones or a psychologist? Then write. Write down in a notebook what's getting you down. That way you will let go of negative thoughts and they will cease to dwell and linger in you.

Editor's note – Address social media

Positivity is very present on social media, but if you notice false positivity you might want to detach yourself from the concept. If you realize that after seeing certain posts you are melancholic, it’s time to take a step back and process what you feel. After all, we all need to analyze our feelings at one point or another.


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