Toxic positivity is a term I came across lately on a friends post. I am all for positivity kind of person. Positive vibes were the most important thing in my opinion to keep our balance and better our life. So somehow this term was like a jerk to me. My first reaction was ” how ever can positivity be toxic!”.
Now this post was from a very dear friend. Coming from her I would not question the authenticity of something like that but I more wanted to understand what it may mean.
On further conversation with her I came to know what really it meant and it made so much sense. My mom always said ” too much of everything (even if that may be good otherwise) is bad.” She couldnt have been more right.
“Even the most beautiful things can be toxic.”Jodi Picoult
Further research made me realise how true it is. In that moment when we are feeling hurt or anxious or confused or any other negative emotion, most of the time we only want the other person to hear us out. We do not seek any advice what is to be done. We just want to share how we are feeling.
And then looking back at my life I could remember so many moments when it happened to me. I am sure no matter how positive we are within us we have these moments where we feel down and not so good. As a positive person sometimes we ourselves push us to be positive leading toxicity from our own self. So we must remember to be kind to ourselves when faced with tough times. SOmetimes we need time to move through and feel better…. give yourself that grace.
Also as a mother you may often feel this push of positivi vibes from people around you. When you are feeling worn out caring for your young child and someone more experienced tries to remind you ” they wont be babies forever”. I know it makes you feel even more terrible of you as a mommy. At that moment you basically just want someone to hear you out but mostly people would tell you all is good or going to be good or that they are just kids.
I feel you mommy! we all have been there and the least we can do is to remember to not do it to others when time comes for us to support another mom.
But the truth is that when that happens to anyone, the listener always thinks they need to help and would go on advising. The problem here is that we listen to answer and not to really listen. Do read this post I wrote about improving listening skills. Being a good listener goes a long way in really helping someone. Sometimes all that another person needs is a good listener and a shoulder to rest on.
Toxic positivity can be self inflicted or it could be that someone else inflicts it on you. Many a times in a time of distress we keep pushing ourselves to feel positive, feel good, get out of the negative rut. And obviously when we do it to ourselves we do it to others too.
Being positive is good, it makes your life awesome and also of those around you. Positive vibes is what everyone seeks after all. But it must not be forced upon anyone. Not upon yourself or a dear friend in order to help them.
“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame .Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
The idea is to accept and acknowledge all your feelings – especially the dark ones here. Instead of trying to dust away what you are really feeling and spraying some positivity over that, it makes more sense to acknowledge the feelings and then decide how you would like to deal with them.
Why excess Positivity is Toxic?
It is shaming the true authentic human experience. We try to deviate ourselves from the negative feeling because “it is not right”. But the negative emotions are a part of the human experience as much as are the positive one! We grow and eveolve by exxperiencing the negatives.
It may make you guilty. And come on is it really something to feel guilty about? But yes when people keep forcing the idea of “be positive” on you, it may make you feel guilty of being too difficult, of not having the ability to maneuver through the difficulties in life.
May lead to build up.… constantly being diconnected with our true feelings or trying to bury them would lead to a build up. If an emotion is felt and supressed it does not go away. The negativity keeps getting accumlated in our sub conscious and it may show up in the most unlikely of places. Supressing what you feel is never the way out.
It actually makes you more sad. Trying to shift your feelings by a forced positive statement actually makes you feel worse. On the surface you may be trying to fake a smile, but the inside would not change. Facing the negative and sorting it out is what really would help in feeling better.
Suppressed Emotions: Not expressing what you are truly will lead to suppressed emotions. Negative emotions when suppressed can manifest as other physical ailments. It is therefore important to give a constructive and proper channel for your emotions to pass and for you to reach a place of more peace.
What can you do about it?
If you are at the receiving end, awareness will help. Know who is that person spreading toxicity into your life in their effort to infuse positivity. Once you know that in times of difficulty it is better to stay away from such people. Know the difference between someone supporting you and someone creating more overwhelm for you by toxic positivity.
Say the right thing!
Do not try to be in the positive mode. Reflect empathy in your language. Show that you feel for them instead of giving them solutions. Watch what you say to someone who comes to you in a moment of distress.
Sometime we ourselves could be stuck in the toxic positivity rut. In such a situtation you need to change your language to self.
When a friend turns to us to share their problem, they are not really looking for advice. They are looking for just an ear to pour their heart out. Good listening skills go a long way in being empathetic. And empathy is the only way you can support someone. Most of the times we are just listening to advice, to reply. Instead try just listening, with no response. Just showing empathy, giving the other person the feeling you are listening and feel for them.
Take a break from social media
It is very important to understand that what people project on social media is always an exaggeration. When we are suffering that exagerated portrayal of happiness and also the positive spark of others can be toxic for us. It can make us question the unhappiness in our life. It is important therefore to keep a check on social media usage.
Emotional health decides physical health. It is important to take care of your emotions. I have always beleived on depending on myself for the same. Nobody really can understand us like we do or we can. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and journaling are some tools that help me a lot.
My daily yogic practice actually keeps me be in a place of balance and makes it easy to deal with daily stressors. I always give myself time and grace over what and how much I can accomplish.
Acknowledge and accept nobody can be happy 24/7. Emotions do roller coaster on the extremes. Even if not extremes, ups and downs are a part of life. We must accept the lows and not push ourselves to remain positive all the while. We must accept and acknowledge all emotions and be with them. Likewise, when dealing with friends and family we must validate their tough feelings too and not try to push them over to positivity.
I hope this helps you bring a change in the life of your loved ones and your own too!