There was a phase in my life when I had just gained knowledge about the law of attraction and the power of positive thinking and the power of visualization etc. I had watched the movie “The Secret” and I will be honest, that movie did move me a lot and shifted a lot within me. I try and put this movie to use in my life even now. And on some of the darkest days of my life, the teachings from this movie are what have helped me to climb out of holes of misery.
I am a very strong believer in gratitude, visualization and the power of a positive thinking. I agree wholeheartedly that an overall positive mindset about adversities, leads to better outcomes and brings about the better in our lives.
But there is a thin line between positivity and toxic positivity. In the recent times, with the rise of social media, and due to the ability of many people having a platform to reach out to the masses, there came an influx of information both genuine and also in many cases incorrect and bogus. And one such false type of content out there is fakeness / false positivity or toxic positivity.
Toxic positivity is an obsession with positive thinking. It is the belief that people should take a positive approach towards all experiences, even those that are deeply traumatic. But this approach is not just impractical, it can be dangerous of various levels, because it encourages one to suppress all their negative emotions and focus on just the positive. But emotions don’t just go away, and a healthy approach to life is to deal with these emotions (both positive and negative) in a balanced manner.
Our world functions in very weird ways. There are people who have experienced severe levels of adversities in their life, adversities quite tragic and terrible in nature such as poverty, grief from loss of loved ones and in some cases assault. The trauma from these events in their lives are not easy to deal with. On the other hand, there are also people who have lived in their privileged bubbles all their life. Fortune was handed over to them on a silver platter and most probably, they would never be able to relate to the struggles of someone from a socio-economic structure different from theirs.
So, when a member of a marginalized community comes across someone from a privileged community on social media advocating that ‘smiling and dancing’ is the answer to all your woes, it becomes clear that this trend of toxic positivity is belittling, obnoxious and it trivializes the intensity of hardships the less privileged ones go through.
Again, there is no doubt that a positive approach to life’s situations does help in immense ways. But toxic positivity also compels people to suppress their negative emotions, which very often leads to serious repercussions.
Examples of what toxic positivity can sound like
- Brushing off the grief of someone who has lost a loved one by saying “Everything happens for a reason”
- Telling someone to just get over their devastating heartbreak and start looking at new flings.
- Belittling somebody who is suffering by telling them to just stop worrying.
Not only are these statements unrealistic, they are also extremely inconsiderate. The next time you realize yourself giving this kind of unsolicited advice to someone going through something awful, please hold yourself back just for a moment and pause to empathize with them.
Or if you are at the receiving end of toxic advice such as this, please do not take it. Please know that your grief is very valid and you don’t have to be told to suppress your emotions. You are allowed to feel your emotions and take your own time to heal.
In conclusion, what I’d like to say is – it’s okay not to be okay. Life does throw challenges at us from time to time. Some of these challenges can be traumatic and it is definitely not possible to be embrace positivity while the world under your feet is crumbling down.
While positivity and happiness will eventually come back in your life and you must strive towards it by all means, it is also okay to take the current moment to grieve, deal with your negative emotions and work your way back into life one step at a time.
We’re humans. We’re allowed to feel – feel wholeheartedly both the good and the bad 🙂