The term ‘toxic positivity’ might be confusing because having a positive outlook on life is generally considered to be a good thing. And it is.
However, it can become toxic when people assume that you should be positive regardless of how difficult the circumstances or situation you’re going through.
There’s no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ emotions. All feelings are valid and anxiety, fear and stress are nature’s way of keeping us safe and well during tough times.
It’s important to give ourselves space to express these feelings when we need to in order to become emotionally healthy human beings.
Here are some examples of toxic positivity:
‘Get over it, there’s plenty more fish in the sea!’
If you’ve just broken up with someone, you have every right to be upset. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean that it wasn’t an important and meaningful relationship in your life and suggesting that the person can be easily replaced is not helpful.
A kinder response would be, ‘I’m sorry you’re hurting and I’m here if you want to talk.’
‘There are other people who are a lot worse off than you.’
Of course there are people in the world who are going through ordeals that are worse than what you’re dealing with. But that doesn’t mean what you’re experiencing isn’t awful and upsetting.
A better response would be, ‘This must be difficult, I’m sorry you have to go through it.’
‘Put it out of your mind and focus on the good things in your life.’
This might seem like good advice but it’s not very practical if you’re extremely worried about something and it’s all you can think about.
A more supportive response would be, ‘Do you want to talk about it? I can’t guarantee we’ll come to a solution but it helps to talk and two heads are better than one.’
‘Good vibes only!’
No one can be positive all the time and suggesting that you have to be is ridiculous. You don’t always have to be the life and soul of the party.
A better response would be, ‘It’s okay to feel down sometimes. My door is always open if you want to chat.’
‘Relax! You’ll be grand.’
It’s natural to be nervous or anxious about a test, an audition, an exam, a speech or whatever it is that you have coming up. Your feelings are valid and should not be dismissed.
A kinder response would be, ‘I understand you’re nervous. Is there anything you want to run through or discuss again?’
‘Everything happens for a reason.’
When something awful happens, this is often a well-meaning expression that’s given to soften the devastating blow. Unfortunately, it’s not what someone who has experienced a loss needs to hear in the moment.
A better response would be, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss. Life can be very unfair. Whenever you’re ready to talk, I’m here to listen.’