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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at C Mich chapter.


Throughout our lives, we all go through some pretty tough spots. During at least one of these tough times, I can almost guarantee that someone has told you to simply “look on the bright side.” While the phrase has good intentions, sometimes looking on the bright side doesn’t help. In fact, if you constantly try to focus only on positive things and avoid all the negative, you are probably exhibiting toxic positivity.

The idea is a little counterintuitive since the world tends to tell us that positivity is good and negativity is bad. So how could you have too much positivity?

Positivity becomes a problem when it leads to avoidance of difficult thoughts, feelings, or experiences. If you only focus on positive things, you then avoid anything that brings any sort of negative sensation. While this may be fine in the short-term, it does not do so well in the long-term. Avoiding negative events or cognitions may seem great, but it only ends up making them bigger later. Eventually, you’ll have to face the problem, and it will be worse than it would have been had you faced it at the beginning.

In short, toxic positivity can lead to avoidant coping, which is a way to deal with stress that ends up leading to more stress.

Toxic positivity can be harmful when used toward other people as well. When you continually tell someone that everything is good and all sunshine and rainbows, you are invalidating their negative feelings. Insisting on only spreading “good vibes” can make them feel bad for feeling bad. This can then lead to that person not telling you their true feelings. They think they have to be a certain kind of person around you, creating an inauthentic friendship.

Denying your negative experiences can make you inauthentic as well. Uncomfortable or unpleasant experiences are part of the grand human experience, so denying them is denying the complete human experience. 

In the end, acceptance of your experience will do a lot more than forcing positivity, both for your mental health and your relationships with others.


Stay true, friends.

Abigail Shepard is a junior at Central Michigan University studying music and psychology. She is the alto saxophone player in Kefi Quartet and the lead alto of CMU's Jazz Lab. She is also treasurer of To Write Love On Her Arms, a mental health advocacy group on campus, and an undergraduate researcher in the Psychology Department. Outside of school, Abigail loves drinking tea, petting cats, and exploring nature.