When Positivity Becomes Toxic

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

Have you heard the term Toxic Positivity?

'Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It's a "good vibes only" approach to life.'

I wrote about this recently on my social media and it really caused a reaction.

Let me tell you more about what Toxic Positivity is.

When a family member, or a friend, or your children bring a problem to you and share something with you that is bothering them. It may seem something pretty insignificant to you but to them they felt they needed to share it with you.

It's easy, especially when you're busy to respond quickly with.....


"Look on the bright side" "Positive vibes only" "It could be worse"

"You have so much to be grateful for"

These quick and dismissive responses aren't helpful are they? What is the message that you are sending to them? You are just rejecting their feelings about their experience with a quick unhelpful response.

Yes of course you want them to feel better about whatever it is they're going through but you also want them to know that how they are feeling is okay.

We can all have a bad day and have a moan about lfe in general .... and still be grateful for all of the other amazing things in our life.

I have heard a lot of similar conversations during this pandemic we have found ourselves in. People have had a really difficult time. For some they have lost their jobs, family members and faced some of te most difficult times ever. For other they have been able to keep working from home but have found the isolation and lack of connection and freedom really hard. Just because taht person hasn't lost their job or a family member it doesn't mean they can't feel rubbish. It doesn't mean they can only say they've struggled through this time if they're suffered a great loss.

Their feelings and frustrations are still felt by them and telling them that "at least you're still got a job" isn't going to make them feel any better.

I can relate most to this when I'm talking to our children. Their conversation about something that has happened with a friend during their lunch break doesn't seem like a big deal. But to them it is huge. It is upsetting and they deserve to have my full attention rather than just dismiss it

So instead, I do my best to open a conversation about how they feel.

*I tell them it's normal to feel that way

*It's okay to feel that way

*I remind them that it will pass.

*We talk through why they feel the way they do

*I ask them how they'd like to feel & what they can do about it

Most of the time Toxic Positivity shows up when we're busy and don't want to give more time to the conversation.This is about taking the time to really listen to what somebody is telling you. Give care and thought to what they are telling you and why they are telling you. They have trust in you to bring this to you in the first place. Build on that trust by taking time to really talk to them and not dismiss what they're conveying to you.

Any time we invalidate how a person is feeling we teach them their feelings aren't important and they'll eventually stop sharing what is going on with them.

Suppressed emotions will show up again at some point!

Our emotions and feelings are what makes us human, and they are all part of our human experience.

Melissa xx

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