What is toxic positivity?

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Using positive mantras can be beneficial, but living by them is easier said than done. In fact, too much positivity used in the wrong way can even affect your mental health. Here’s how to prevent toxic positivity.

Do you remember a time when you told someone that you were feeling down and they responded by encouraging you to ‘stay positive’? Do you remember how that made you feel? 

Sometimes positivity is presented in a way that makes you feel like you need to cover up how you are really feeling, or the language could invalidate your emotions, which in turn could lead to your mental health being harmed.

Toxic positivity is an assumption or expectation that you should stay positive and ignore difficult emotions. It pressures you to pretend you are fine when you aren’t, and some of the following phrases are instrumental in creating this cycle: 

When you share emotions such as sadness, loneliness or grief, well-meaning friends and family often encourage you to ‘cheer up’. They may respond like this because they don’t want you to be upset, but as a result, you might start thinking that you need to change how you’re feeling.

Why does this negatively affect your mental health?

When you force positivity onto yourself or others, you suppress your feelings or problems because that feels more comfortable.

Toxic positivity also perpetuates the idea that negative emotions are wrong or shameful. This means you’re less likely to acknowledge and work through your feelings in a healthy way and pretending that you’re fine when you aren’t becomes the norm.

How can you avoid toxic positivity?

  • Don’t ignore or suppress your emotions.
  • Listen to and validate other people, even when they are sad, frustrated or angry.
  • Remember that you’re not limited to one emotion.
  • Don’t force ‘positive vibes’ on anyone.
  • Take regular breaks from social media.
  • Talk to someone you trust if you are feeling down.
  • Tell yourself that it’s not shameful to see a mental health expert if needed.

For more information about prioritising your mental health, read these helpful articles:

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.


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