OPINION: When positivity turns toxic

Derek GoforthMidwest Times
When positivity is used to cover up or silence genuine suffering and pain, it becomes toxic.
Camera IconWhen positivity is used to cover up or silence genuine suffering and pain, it becomes toxic. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Have you ever been told to “stay positive” despite being faced with real and genuine issues?

Have you had to deal with someone who, despite the world collapsing around them and everyone else, remains mind-blowingly optimistic and expects you to do and be the same?

If the answer is yes, then you have likely experienced toxic positivity.

This is the attitude that everything requires a positive spin and all negative issues should be at best ignored or just washed over altogether. It’s all about denial, minimisation and dismissal of issues.

Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself a positive person and am an advocate of positive mindsets.

But I am also a realist and expect problems to be handled rather than ignored in order to “keep up the positive vibes”.

When positivity is used to cover up or silence genuine suffering and pain, it becomes toxic. It becomes destructive. It can lead to all sorts of negative experiences that in themselves can snowball out of control.

We get told to just “get on with it” or mask what we are really feeling.

We can feel guilty because we feel bad or rundown. We are told “could be worse” rather than having our actual feelings validated. We might even be shamed to display what people see as negative emotions.

The reasons people might resort to toxic positivity may be many. I know why the people I know do it, or I can have a good guess — to hide their own insecurities and to hide their failings, or at least what they may see as failings.

Maybe they are trying to impress and insist on people only seeing their positive actions?

Or perhaps they are trying to hide their real intentions or expectations?

Regardless of motive, there is nothing to be gained by toxic positivity.

Yes, we can stay positive or have a positive attitude, but not at the expense of growth, of honesty and healing.

It’s far healthier to approach situations with honesty and openness, a willingness to accept difficulties and failures, to understand we are not perfect and be willing to work with each other to move forward.

Be positive, lead your life in a positive manner, but be real, be sincere with yourself and those around you.

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