The Dark Side of Positive Vibes
While there is certainly something to be said for having a sunny disposition on life, it’s also possible to overdose on the sickeningly sweet nectar of platitudes such as “everything is awesome".
While cultivating a positive mind-set is a powerful coping mechanism, toxic positivity stems from the idea that the best or only way to cope with a bad situation is to put a positive spin on it and not dwell on the negative.
I've never been a Negative Nancy. In fact, I've always strongly believed in the undeniable power of positivity (because it's worked for me so effortlessly).
BUT I now realize that as a naturally optimistic person I might have unintentionally caused others to feel pressured to "just be positive". And I finally understand that that's not the case for everyone; especially in some situations.
I also want to apologize if I've ever made YOU feel that way. With something I said, did or posted, I'm still learning.
Toxic positivity is defined as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity can result in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.
And just like anything done in excess, when positivity is used to cover up or silence the human experience, it becomes toxic. By disallowing the existence of certain feelings, we fall into a state of denial and repressed emotions.
The truth is, humans are flawed. We get jealous, angry, resentful, and greedy. Sometimes life can just flat out suck. By pretending that we are “positive vibes all day,” we deny the validity of a genuine human experience.
To force a positive outlook on pain is to encourage a person to keep silent about their struggles.
Most of us don’t want to be seen as a drag or “bad,” so when the choice is between
A) be brave and honest
B) pretend like everything is going great, we might be tempted to adopt the latter.
Author and researcher Brené Brown teaches in several of her books, presentations, and interviews that the energy source of shame is silence, secrecy, and judgment. In other words, where there is hiding, secrets, and denial, shame is usually in the driver’s seat.
Shame is crippling to the human spirit and one of the most uncomfortable feelings we can feel. Often, we don’t even know that we are feeling shame. (And sometimes we are super aware of it).
Several psychological studies show that hiding or denying feelings leads to more stress on the body and/or increased difficulty avoiding the distressing thoughts and feelings.
When we don’t want to show a part of ourselves, we create a fake face or persona for the world, which can then lead to living a lie (even to ourselves).
That's why it's important to acknowledge the reality of our emotions by verbalizing or writing about them.
This is what keeps us sane, healthy and relieves us of the tension caused by suppressing the truth. Once we listen to our feelings, we embrace ourselves as a whole being; we can then learn to accept ourselves; even the things we feel are flaws.
When we start to live authentically with ourselves and the world, we gain connection and meaningfulness.
The relationship with yourself, is often reflected in the relationship you have with others.
If you can’t be honest about your own feelings, how will you ever be able to hold space for someone else expressing real feelings in your presence? By curating a fake emotional world, we attract more fakeness resulting in counterfeit intimacy and superficial relationships.
True positivity is about accepting all your emotions.
Being a healthy human being involves being conscious of ourselves and how we show up in the world.
It’s okay to have a positive and optimistic outlook and feel sad at the same time. We can feel sad and/or be grieving and still look forward to the future. Both of those are necessary for a beautiful, imperfect life; embracing it entirely and reaping the rewards of bountiful aliveness.