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Toxic positivity is the assumption or belief that people, including themselves, must maintain a positive mindset regardless of how they feel. In other words, it is an obsession with positive thinking.

Positivity is all good until it is forced (or fake). A positive outlook on life is essential for our mental well-being, and it is important that we remind ourselves to look for the big or small things in life that make us feel happy! However, in life, we all know that feeling this way is sometimes not so easy. This is normal. When we are struggling and hurting, these emotions need to be faced with, accepted, and gradually dealt with. 

Signs of toxic positivity include: 

  • Experiencing guilt for feeling sad or angry
  • Dismissing your own or others' negative experiences ignoring and hiding emotional pain
  •  Reciting 'positivity quotes' when facing a challenging situation

A specific situation where this kind of toxic positivity can be seen could look like this: A is troubled and very sad because they fought with their partner. A goes to their friend B and talks about it. B tells A, "Don't be sad, look on the bright side! Plus, you will get over it right away". B is forcing a positive mindset on a friend who faces a difficult situation and is feeling sad. A was seeking help from their friend, but they did not get it. 

In this kind of situation, the right thing a friend could tell A are things like: "This must be really hard for you" "Do you want to talk about it?" "I am here for you". This shows that the friend recognizes and accepts that A is sad, and it shows that they are available to lend a helping hand. 

It is just as common and harmful to do this to yourself. Once again, positivity is good, but it should never be forced onto anyone. It is normal that a person feels sad sometimes, no matter what the cause might be. At times like this, our mind deserves time to feel sad and cherish ourselves to slowly recover. 

Lastly, I just want to emphasize to anyone reading this that thinking or feeling a certain way should never be an obligation, and positive thinking is no exception. The best way to keep our minds healthy is to stay true to our reactions and emotions toward what we are going through. 

Utako Kawakami

ICU Japan '24

Hi, I'm Utako and I am a sophomore at International Christian University!
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