“Think positive”, “Good vibes only”, “No excuses”, “Never quit”, “Failure is not an option”, “Just think happy thoughts”, are all some of the many words that we force feed into our brains every day. From self-help books to motivational speeches and even those posts we come across on social media, it is only fair to sometimes doubt ourselves believing we’re falling behind the race, that we are incapable to keep up with those who we believe are doing better. In a nutshell, this feeling of inadequacy is caused by what we call ‘Toxic Positivity.
What is toxic positivity?
First, let’s clear out that positivity, in general, is not bad. However, dismissing any negative emotion and forcing a false positivity on our distresses and miseries is what we call toxic and fake. It silences and belittles our sadness and struggles, forcing us to deal with our sufferings, and those of others, with a lack of empathy.
But how could this harm us?
You might underestimate it, but this enforced fake and toxic positivity can harm anyone going through a hard time, including ourselves. We begin to feel ashamed of our feelings, holding ourselves accountable for being unable to find ways to feel better. It has taught us to deny human emotions and nature.
Statements like “You should look at the bright side”, “It could be worse”, or “Don’t be a quitter”, though well-intentioned and coming out from people who mean no harm
but have nothing much to say, are reasons why we often feel guilty of how we feel.
Signs you’ve fallen for the toxic positivity trap:
• Masking your real emotions and carrying yourself with a ‘ feel good’ attitude all the time to feel more accepted socially.
• Sweeping your problems under the carpet instead of facing them.
• Judging and shaming others when they feel down.
• Feeling guilty about being sad, angry, stressed or disappointed.
Finding your way out of this trap
1. Embrace vulnerability and normalize negative emotions: You shouldn’t expect yourself to "think happy thoughts" when you just lost a job or to believe that "everything happens for a reason" when you’ve just someone close to your heart.
2. Feel those feelings. Sadness, grief, jealousy, worry, and despair are all normal feelings just as happiness, joy, contentment, confidence, and optimism are. To get over a negative feeling, you should acknowledge it, let them hit you with full force, then pull yourself together back again.
3. Don’t allow society to tell you how you should feel. Everyone has their different journey and battles and no one is in your shoes. Assess your situation, and give yourself the right to feel certain feelings but also don’t let them dwell on you.
It’s ok to want to quit at times. Sometimes quitting is the best option, because not every battle is worth fighting.
It’s ok to want to slow down for a while and reach out for some clarity.
It’s ok to feel lost as long as you work back again on finding the right path.
It’s ok to not to have energy and to keep up with your high spirit every day in face of calamities.
It’s ok to be the humans that we are, unapologetically.