”It is okay not to be okay”…

While cultivating a positive mindset is a powerful coping mechanism. Toxic positivity takes positive thinking to an overgeneralized extreme.

Toxic positivity is maintaining that one should have a positive mindset and portray only positive emotions and thoughts at all times, even when things are difficult. This approach is damaging because it discounts and discredits emotions/ feelings that are not positive.

Common Toxic Positive Phrases

Toxic positivity can take a wide variety of forms. Here are some common phrases with examples:

Phrase 1: “Just think happy thoughts!”

For example, maybe a friend is telling you how scared and uncertain they are about the future. This is hard to hear, so instead of listening, you try to reassure them that everything will be OK. 

Phrase 2: ”It will be fine”

You’re stating that there isn’t a problem that needs to be addressed. You’re kind of shutting out the possibility for further contemplation.”

 Phrase 3: “Look on the bright side!”

When something bad happens, such as losing your job, people tell you to “just stay positive” or “look on the bright side.” While such comments are meant to be sympathetic, they can also be a way of shutting down anything you might want to say about what you are experiencing.

Phrase 4: “It could be worse!” 

Encouraging a person who suffered trauma to express gratitude devalues their experience/reality. This toxic positivity could cause even more danger for this individual, who may now view the trauma as inconsequential.

 Phrase 5: “Good vibes only!”

 Having a “good vibes only” mantra devalues people’s emotions and sends the message of rejection, etc.

But, as well-intentioned as those who lean on such phrases may be, experts are cautioning against going overboard with the “good vibes only” trend. Too much-forced positivity is not just unhelpful, it’s toxic.



Non-Toxic Phrases

Listed below are what non-toxic phrases sounds like:

  •  ”I am listening.”
  •  ”I’m here no matter what.”
  •  ”That must be really hard”.
  •  ”Sometimes bad things happen. How can I help?”
  •  ”Failure is sometimes part of life”.
  •  ”Your feelings are valid”.


Why Toxic Positivity is Harmful

  1. It causes guilt: It sends a message that if you aren’t finding a way to feel positive, even in the face of tragedy, that you are doing something wrong
  2. Ignoring feelings can cause anxiety, stress, low self-esteem and inhibits our ability to regulate emotions. Studies show us that hiding or denying feelings leads to more stress on the body and/or increased difficulty avoiding the distressing thoughts and feelings
  3.  Isolation – By denying our truth, we begin to live in authentically. We lose connection with ourselves, making it difficult for others to connect and relate to us


How To Avoid Toxic Positivity

  1. Embrace all emotions –

    All feelings are valuable and contribute to our human experience. Even ‘negative’ feelings such as anxiety, anger and fear are primitive responses that our brain releases to keep us safe from threats.

  2. Be authentic –

    Give yourself and others permission to experience all emotions. Including ‘negative’ ones so you can work through them and let them go in their own time. If we don’t act with authenticity, it affects the ability to make social bonds and destroys trust.

  3. Social media does not project a true reality –

    Avoid getting engrossed in social media when going through a tough season. Remember that more often than not it projects a false reality of eternal happiness and perfection.

  4. Don’t compare yourself to others –

    We all have had varying life experiences that have shaped us. Hence, we deal with things differently. There are people who are naturally inclined to be happier than others and people who have had terrible experiences that have conditioned them to notice the dreadful events more than the joyful events.

  5. If you are talking to others, listen –

    Take the time to understand what is wrong, rather than invalidating people’s feelings with toxic positivity. Listen carefully and try to put yourself in their shoes (Be Empathetic). Have conversations without judgment and show respect. Validate others feelings by offering sympathy, showing understanding and offering help rather than trying to shut down how they feel.

  6. Take healthy steps –

    Go on a walk to clear your head or have a chat with a friend. Plan something for you to look forward to but allow yourself to feel what you feel.

  7.  Don’t ignore an Emotional Pain –

    It is best to acknowledge our pain in order to work through it. Suffering allows us to learn and can give us perspective to build upon.

  8. Shift the focus on mental health –

    Too much emphasis is placed on ‘being positive’ in order to maintain good mental health. Rather than pushing negative feelings aside, give them space and attend to them accordingly.  Accepting and understanding our feelings can lead to powerful learning through life’s ups and downs.

In Conclusion, true happiness doesn’t come from suppressing negative emotions and touting feel-good statements. But leaning into what we’re authentically feeling in the moment and accepting all of your emotions, both positive and negative.