Updated: Jan 26
Positive vibes don’t always lead to happy places. I will give you the top 5 reasons why toxic positivity can kill you. And you'll realize how staying positive when you do not feel like it, can ruin your emotional and mental health.
We all have that one person in our life who, no matter whatever the disaster, tells us to be positive and that everything will turn out just fine. Seriously! Take, for example, you lost your job during this pandemic and you are the only earning member in the family. Would you worry about the future of your family, fighting the stress of being rejected due to lack of jobs, going through a financial crunch for a start-up or you would think, okay let me be positive and everything will work out itself!
Being positive is healthy in moderation. But how long do you think you can shun your negative emotions without going crazy? I mean, we are human, right! We are born with a range of feelings. We feel sad, angry, jealous, happy, frustrated, disappointed from time to time. And there is no ‘snap your finger magic’ to switch our mood from negativity to positivity.
What is Toxic Positivity?
Not all positivity is bad. So let’s first understand the term toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the denial mode to negative feelings. When we self-impose or tell others to find solutions for all our problems in positive thinking only, by silencing our negative emotions and suppressing our pain, the positivity we dwell on becomes consuming. It not only demeans our problem at hand but also pressurizes us to keep a happy, brave face in our adversity.
Toxic positivity usually stems from a place of concern. But it does more damage than help you heal.
Top 5 Reasons Why Toxic Positivity Can Kill You?
We usually underestimate the process of healing. It begins with accepting your problem, feeling the pain, crying/yelling/talking whatever makes you feel better, and finally emerge healed. Healing from any kind of loss can take from a few days to a few months. But it should flow naturally and not be diverted through positivity as an instant solution.
Personally, I have felt suffocated when the people I thought would lend me an ear to listen and empathize. I was rather bombarded with ‘stay positive’ messages on my WhatsApp. Believe me, it's frustrating and it even makes you feel miserable, thinking everyone has mastered the art of living, while you still suck at it.
Let’s read the top 5 reasons why toxic positivity can kill you:
Self-Doubt: Ever had a feeling that your life has turned upside down. You want to cry your heart out and yearn for a listening ear. But all you hear is advice to stay positive and be grateful for what you have left. At that very moment, you start doubting your sanity. It is as if you are the only one who sees the ugly and the pain in your world, while everyone else finds you fortunate to be alive.
Well, if not for the wisdom I have learned over the years, I would have totally screwed myself hanging around with such positivity suckers. So, when someone tries to cross your line of control, immediately get your guards up. You will not like to swim in the sea of self-doubt at the vulnerable time of your life. It will definitely kill your self-esteem if nothing else.
Social Pressure: Growing up we fall into the trap of peer pressure. And growing old we become a victim of social pressure. When we lose someone dear, we are often told to move on because the one who has left the world isn’t coming back. It’s true they are not coming back. But we loved them so much to just move on in the blink of an eye. We feel the void that’s created by their absence.
Our own family members, our friends, sometimes unknowingly, push us towards toxic positivity. They mean no harm. But negating our pain and jumping to positivity can prove fatal to our emotional health and mental well-being. Think about how you would feel in a situation like such!
Unhealthy Communications: We all love to talk. And when it's about sharing what is bothering us or what matters to us, it becomes all the more important that we have healthy communication with our communication partner. Imagine, you worked hard to get that promotion. But, someone else with less experience than you is promoted just because that ass had a jack. The natural emotion here is to feel anger.
When you share this with a friend he/she says ‘don’t worry. Everything happens for a reason.’ Reason my foot! Nepotism or favoritism is a reason to be angry, especially when you know you deserved that promotion. This is where communication becomes one-sided and unhealthy. Because the positive person sees no reason for your pain, and when they suggest you the ‘stay positive’ gyaan, know that it's toxic positivity. They just do not want to be around ‘sulking’ you. Read that again!
Be angry, sulk, and when you acknowledge your pain, you slowly begin to heal. Then start over for whatever you wish to accomplish.
Isolating Oneself: People who love us and care for us always want to see us happy. But our state of mind cannot be flipped from negativity to positivity with a magic wand. I feel the worst after-effect of being surrounded by toxic positivity is that we start isolating ourselves from the people we need the most. Not because they do not love us. But because they have stopped understanding our pain.
We find, staying silent and not sharing our emotions and feelings with our family and friends is the key to not getting into fights or arguments. They want us to stay positive while we are still struggling to heal.
Demeaning Grief: Miscarriage, losing a pet or a loved one, bankruptcy, forced to change city/country to reestablish, are all forms of grief. When people we love tell us to suppress our negative emotions by staying positive it demeans our grief. It seems like, our loss, our sadness is not important to them.
Are You The One Spreading Toxic Positivity?
How to recognize if you are being intoxicated with positivity or are you the one spreading it? Let’s find out. When your friend or a family member is going through an emotional breakdown and needs you, you tell them:
to suppress their negative feelings by not talking about them.
It’s part of life. You should move on.
Everything happens for a reason.
Death is inevitable but now you should think about the ones alive.
Let’s not talk about it any further.
I thought you had moved on.
Stay positive. Don’t let negative thoughts enter your mind.
You are so positive. Don’t give in to your sadness.
It’s not worth it.
Happiness is a choice.
Positive vibes only.
If you are the one at the receiving end of such statements, recognize the signs and stop being a victim of toxic positivity. It could be coming from the people closest to you. Yes, they do not mean to hurt you but their ignorance is sure to damage you, both emotionally and mentally.
And if you think you are the one who is intoxicating people around you with your overflowing gyaan of positivity. Please stop and think. You are not helping anyone. You are damaging them in more ways than you can imagine.
Is Toxic Positivity Killing You? Tips On How To Protect Yourself
Good or bad, learn to acknowledge all your emotions. Putting your negative feelings under the carpet, can bottle-up emotions that is sure to burst like a volcano someday. It may adversely affect your health and your relationships.
When you do not feel okay, it’s okay. Remember it's okay to feel sad sometimes. We all go through a lot of emotions at different phases of our life. It is not possible to stay positive when dealing with loss, disasters, accidents, or the death of our loved ones. We have to let our negative emotions flow in order to heal.
Take small steps to rebuild yourself. Start with a hobby you used to love doing as a kid, paint, play an instrument, play any sport of your choice. Fall into a routine to relax your mind. Having a routine will help you deal with your pain in a healthy positive way.
If possible, stay away from social media. People usually post happy-go-lucky pictures on social media, giving us a false impression of how successful or positive their life is. No one glorifies their messed-up life. And we fall for the lies thinking how incompetent we are to fight our battles. Pictures don’t always tell the true stories you know.
People who love you will try to shield you from pain. But when they do not want to listen to your grief and tell you to think ‘positive thoughts only’, ‘stay positive’, ‘everything happens for a reason’ know that it's time to maintain a healthy distance from them. The reason many people are emotional wrecks today is that they have learned to hide their negative feelings behind a happy face. Believe me, it doesn’t help.
Remember, however hard you try to hush up your negative feelings. You’ll have to deal with them one day. So let that be today! Acknowledge, accept and let your emotions take their own course to heal you.
“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it,” aptly says, J.K. Rowling.