Positive thinking and having a positive outlook can be beneficial, but it’s important to be aware of the potential downsides of prioritising “positive vibes” or “good vibes” to the exclusion of all else.
What is toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity refers to an excessive and unrealistic emphasis on being positive and happy, to the point of denying or invalidating negative emotions and experiences. It’s a form of emotional suppression and can be harmful to mental health and wellbeing.
This type of positivity can lead to a pressure to suppress or ignore negative emotions and experiences. This can cause individuals to avoid or dismiss important personal and societal issues, leading to a lack of awareness and understanding of the complexities of the world.
Toxic positivity can also create an unrealistic expectation to always feel positive, leading to feelings of disappointment, inadequacy, and burnout when this expectation is not met. The emphasis on positive vibes only can further lead to a lack of empathy and compassion for others who are struggling, as their negative experiences are not acknowledged or validated.
How does toxic positivity impact mental health?
Toxic positivity can have a significant impact on mental health. Some of the ways it can affect an individual’s wellbeing include:
- Suppression of emotions: By denying or invalidating negative emotions, toxic positivity can lead to emotional suppression. This can cause negative emotions to build up over time, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Increased stress: The pressure to maintain a positive outlook at all times can create additional stress, as individuals feel like they are not allowed to express or experience negative emotions.
- Decreased self-awareness: By not acknowledging negative emotions, individuals may be less in tune with their own emotions and experiences, leading to a decreased understanding of their own mental health and wellbeing.
- Inadequacy and shame: Feeling like one must always be happy can lead to feelings of inadequacy or shame when negative emotions do arise. This can cause individuals to feel like there is something wrong with them, further increasing their negative emotions.
- Limitation of growth opportunities: By not addressing negative experiences or emotions, individuals may miss opportunities for growth and self-improvement. Negative emotions and experiences can be valuable sources of learning and development. Denying them can prevent individuals from becoming their best selves.
It’s important to acknowledge and validate negative emotions and experiences, and find healthy and productive ways to cope with them. By embracing a more balanced approach to emotions, individuals can improve their mental health and wellbeing.
How to stop being toxic positive?
If you’re struggling with dismissing or disapproving your own or others’ “negative” emotions, here are some steps you can take to change this pattern behaviour:
- Practice self-reflection: Take time to reflect on why you feel the need to dismiss or suppress emotions. Is it due to past experiences or cultural conditioning? Understanding your motivations can help you address and overcome them.
- Validate your emotions: It’s important to acknowledge and validate your own emotions, both positive and negative. This means accepting your feelings as they are, without judgment or suppression.
- Embrace a growth mindset: Recognise that negative emotions and experiences can be opportunities for growth and self-improvement. Instead of trying to suppress them, look for ways to learn and grow from them.
- Practice empathy: When someone close to you is experiencing negative emotions, try to put yourself in their shoes and understand their perspective. Validate their feelings and offer support instead of dismissiveness or disapproval.
- Seek therapy: If you’re struggling to change your pattern of dismissiveness or disapproval, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Therapy can provide a safe space to work through your emotions and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
By making a conscious effort to embrace and validate emotions, you can become more self-aware, empathetic, and understanding of yourself and others.