What is Toxic Positivity?

What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity is were someone believes that you have to be positive all of the time. It’s where someone believes that to feel “negative” emotions like sadness and anger is to give into ego, or makes you non-spiritual. These hard emotions then get suppressed (“bottling up emotions”) which creates bigger problems later on.

When we apply toxic positivity to others, it is just as damaging. It creates disconnection. I do believe most people mean well when they respond from a place of toxic positivity. They want to make the person feel better or try to fix what that person is feeling. Or maybe they just don’t know what else to say.

Examples of Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity forces a silver lining.

  • Stay positive!
  • It could be worse!
  • It’s not that bad! At least…

Helpful Positivity

This is a practice in empathy. It is hard to be present with someone’s tough emotions, especially if you have a hard time being present with your own difficult emotions. Helpful positivity is being vulnerable with someone who is in a place of vulnerability. Letting that person know that they aren’t alone. This helps them feel seen, heard, and validated; not judged or shamed.

Examples of Helpful Positivity

  • I see you
  • That sounds hard
  • I’m here if you want to talk about it more

Connecting with your Emotions

Allow yourself to feel and experience your emotions. It’s helpful to verbally label an emotion when it surfaces (“I feel angry right now”). Emotions are not good or bad, positive or negative. Check in with your body and notice what you feel physically when experiencing an emotion. 

Connecting with your own emotions will help you connect with others. It will allow you to be vulnerable and empathetic. This idea of empathy is illustrated perfectly in this animated clip from one of Brené Brown’s talks.

Inside Out is a great movie that demonstrates emotions and why being joyful all the time is not viable.

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