Emotions are the very foundation of human life and yet they are quite possibly the hardest things to process. They’re cyclical, coming in waves of both positive and negative, which, while natural to feel, can be overwhelming at times. An issue arises when a person forces themselves to stay on the positive end of the emotional spectrum and undervalues negative emotions.
Not to be misconstrued, a positive mindset is a powerful coping mechanism- “coping” meaning accepting a situation and realizing its weight and how it affects an individual and proceeding to process or manage the emotions that follow. The type of language that is being used, whether helping someone in a negative situation or internalizing your own words, is what has the potential to turn positivity toxic. Statements like, “don’t think about it,” “you just have to get over it,” or “it could be worse,” while not appearing outwardly over-positive, can cause the very harm and suffering the statement was intended to prevent.
Toxic positivity can cause a person to not engage with certain feelings and make them feel shameful or guilty for feeling any negative emotion at all. Invalidation is also a major result of this, leading to denial or minimization of the current situation. A person may feel like they must be happy and positive all the time to make themselves better and to not make the people around them uncomfortable. However, this can have the opposite effect and create distance in relationships- by denying yourself the ability to feel your true emotions, you begin to live inauthentically and lose connections with your true self. Like the Law of Attraction, faking happiness can attract more fakeness, resulting in superficial friendships and relationships. The suppression of emotion will only allow the negative emotions to build up and cause an individual to actively try harder to avoid them eventually leading to the negative emotions seeping into your life and presenting as possibly a physical toll, anger towards others or self or insensitivity.
To overcome toxic positivity, listen to yourself and others. Instead of offering advice immediately to a friend by stating, “it’ll be fine, don’t worry,” try to say, “I know this is tough and I’m here for you.” Label your emotions and validate your struggle. There’s a difference between, “I’m feeling…” and “I am…”. You have a right to feel disappointed, overwhelmed, anxious, hurt, and any other emotion. You have the emotion; it doesn’t have you.