There is a concept that I keep hearing that piqued my curiosity. It is the concept of toxic positivity. I have heard it discussed on Clubhouse. It has been the subject of posts as I scroll on Facebook and Instagram. What exactly is toxic positivity? Do I have it?
According to choosingtherapy.com, toxic positivity is the belief that everyone should be positive all the time, regardless of difficulties, tragedy, or hardship. Those who practice toxic positivity are often obsessed with positivity and “good vibes” and can come across as being dismissive of the expression of any other authentic emotions besides happiness.
Is it possible to be too positive? As I read the definition of toxic positivity, it does not sit well with me. Not everyone knows “the right” thing to say. We, humans, get it wrong sometimes. Our attempt to lift someone may do the opposite. I have received comfort and advice that did not comfort me at all. Here is a short sample of a few:
- God only gives you what you can handle.
- At least your child can: (almost anything added here is going to rub me wrong).
- You are so lucky you will never be an empty nester.
- Calm down.
- It takes a special person to care for a special child.
I can believe the person(s) meant to invalidate my feelings, or I can also choose to believe the intention was good, even if I did not receive it that way. We are always at choice.
Someone recently commented that my Instagram feed was too positive. The person did not accuse me of suffering from toxic positivity, but the comment got me curious about my positive outlook. Part of my outlook is nature, and part of it is nurture. My Mom used to say, “90% of people are well-meaning and good, but you will only hear about the 10% that are not.”
I was raised to look for the silver lining AND that my feelings were valid. I am not obsessed with positivity at the expense of authentic emotion. I believe emotions should be honored. Grief, anger, sadness are just as valuable and needed as happiness, joy, and peace. Life is a beautiful mix of emotions. Both positive and negative.
When I was sixteen, my Dad died suddenly of a heart attack. There was grief and sadness in my loss. Over 30 years later, I still grieve the loss. I am sad that he did not get to walk me down the aisle when I got married. I get angry that he was there when my oldest nephews were born but never got to hold my kids. Those are the negative and horrible things about my dad dying. I still feel pain over the loss. However, the hurt and pain are only part of the story.
After my Dad passed, my Mom married a wonderful man that loved and supported her. My Dad was a great father, but he was not a good husband. He did not love and cherish my Mom the way my Stepdad did. Todd was there for me when my Dad passed. He listened to me and comforted me in the months that followed. We may not have ended up together if my circumstances were different. Good things come out of bad experiences and bad out of good. Nothing is all black and white.
I have encountered people that can never see the positive in any situation. The energy it takes to be negative seems daunting to me. In a recent interview I saw with Dolly Parton she said, “It takes just as much work to be negative as it does to be positive, so I choose to be positive.” Amen Dolly!
I think defining someone as having toxic positivity may be up to a therapist or psychiatrist. This coach certainly is not going to label herself with toxic positivity. Others may give me the title. What others think about my outlook on life is none of my business. I will keep believing most people have good intentions and that there is usually a silver lining in any situation if you look for it.