Toxic Positivity and Psychology Behind it Today

Last Updated: July 06, 2023

Toxic Positivity and Psychology Behind it Today

Toxic positivity is a dysfunctional approach to emotional management that happens when people do not fully acknowledge negative emotions, particularly anger and sadness. It's basically the attitude of “positive vibes only” or  “no time for negativity”. Humans experience various emotions ranging from happy, sad, angry, guilt etc. and all of the emotions are equally valid. As the excess of everything is bad, the excessive positivity can do us a lot more harm than the negativity. Humans are flawed so it's natural to feel greddy, hateful, angry etc. Denying those emotions and dwelling in an optimistic state in all situations means that you are excluding genuine human experience.

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What are the signs that your positivity is turning toxic?

While positive thoughts are said to reduce suicidal thoughts and uplift self esteem, like anything done in excess, it becomes toxic. Toxic positivity is never intentional, it happens over a long time of trying to stay positive or simply trying to get away from negative thoughts. Masking your true emotions can be a sign of toxic positivity.

Some signs of toxic positivity in our daily life are:

  • Dismissing all negative thoughts
  • Feeling guilty about your true emotions
  • Keeping the “it could be worse” type of attitude
  • Saying “look at the bright side” to people and minimizing their emotions
  • “Everything happens for a reason” is a way of dismissing other people’s experience
  • “It will all workout at the end” can be a reason why a lot of people are stuck in toxic environments.

Effects on personal life

Living your life with the “positive vibes only” attitude all the time might sound tempting but it affects our life in a lot of ways and not everyone of them is good. From masking your true feelings to slowly becoming ashamed of the way you feel is a sign of toxic positivity. Hiding behind the motivating quotes might be a quick fix to our problems but if we don't process our emotions or validate them then they can come back to haunt you. Unprocessed emotions cause mental as well as physical stress on our body and when that stress accumulates to something much bigger than what we expect, it can cause some irreversible damages.

How it affects the people around us?

Not accepting our true emotions means that we can’t understand or even acknowledge the emotions of the people around us and you wouldn't want to trust a person with whom you can't be your true self. It can slowly affect your relationship with your friends or even your family.People usually seek emotional validation from others and want to surround themselves with people that provide that for them. You might be a fun person to have a conversation with and people might hangout with you but at the end of the day, friendships and relations are more than just spending time with each other.

Toxic positivity in the workplace

The concept of “You have to be positive if you want to be successful” might be true to some extent but it puts a lot of pressure on the employees. Being positive all the time might keep you motivated but positivity alone doesn't solve anything. If you aren't happy with the company you work for or the people you work with, no matter how positive you try to stay, it will eventually affect your work. The pressure to maintain a positive environment in the workplace makes employees less happy, affects their creativity and hence affects the business all together. 

How it is related to other issues?

Toxic positivity results in denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience. It's natural to feel greed, anger, hate, jealousy etc. Everyone of those emotions are equally valid. When we start hiding those emotions it might seem like we are doing fine but it causes stress on our mind and body.
Toxic positivity not only causes stress but  a long time of unprocessed emotions might lead to not being comfortable with our emotions and feeling guilty. It can later even cause depression and other issues as we start hating ourselves for feeling the way we feel. 

Ways of avoiding

Excessive positivity should be avoided before they turn toxic. Some of the ways of avoiding toxic positivity are:

  • Validating negative emotions as they are normal
  • Seeking support from  your trusted ones
  • Identifying your emotions rather than avoiding them
  • Know that it's ok to feel overwhelmed by your emotions
  •  Listening to other people's problem rather than dismissing them
  • Showing your support rather than feeding them with some mindless quotes
  • Voicing out your feelings and helping people understand you better

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are examples of toxic positivity?

Most of the overstatements of the positive thinking such as sky is the limit, everything is possible, pain is gain, good vibes only are the examples of the toxic positivity.

What are signs of toxic positivity?

A person delusional with toxic positivity shows followings signs:

  • Overlooks the negative experiences and realities of life
  • Praises the positive thinking beyond normal level
  • Avoids the conflicting ideas and discussions
  • Starts accepting the losses and failures

Is toxic positivity gaslighting?

When someone uses the overstatements of positivity with the intension of questioning your own sense of reality then toxic positivity can be a tool for gaslighting. For example, someone influencing you to do something you don’t want to do by stating 'come on you can do it, nothing is impossible for you' , here toxic positivity is used to gaslight you.

Conclusion: Toxic Positivity and Psychology Behind it

As humans we should maintain a positive outlook on life while also admitting to other emotions. Humans are flawed and every emotion we feel is completely normal and validated. If you feel like people around you wouldnt understand how you feel then you should find some other alternatives to shareyour feelings rather than hiding it completely.

Toxic positivity is something we face in our day to day life. It's important to identify it at an early stage and take actions to eradicate the consequences before it starts affecting our life.

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