A Glimmer A Day

What is Toxic Positivity and why it is harmful?

Every day we are bombarded with all kinds of messages from so many different sources, telling us what we should think, how we should live, what we should aspire to, the products to buy and attitude we need to succeed. Social media platforms, chat forums, television, radio, billboards, magazines, newspapers, and even our acquaintances, work colleagues, family and friends are constantly consciously or subconciously influencing our decisions. Advertisers want us to choose their brand, businesses want us to buy their products while influencers desire to gain followers who will buy whatever they are selling.

‘Be Positive’ messaging in advertising

We are constantly encouraged to ‘think positive’, manifest ‘good vibes’ and all will be well in our lives. We are encouraged to believe that material things will make us happy and if it doesn’t, it not the product that’s faulty, it must be us. Buy this ridiculously expensive face cream and very soon your forty-five year old skin will only look twenty. Drive this brand new state of the art family people mover and car journeys with kids will no longer be torturous endurance stress tests for parents but delightful road trips full of larking and choral singing. Sign up to this fabulous online weightloss and fitness course and in six months we guarantee you will be as skinny and happy as this person (insert picture of a model who has always been fit and had no weight issues) It didn’t work? You mustn’t have tried hard enough, been positive enough, maybe you didn’t deserve the nice things in life.

What is Toxic Positivity?

That’s the problem with toxic positivity, it creates an avenue for shame and guilt to make people feel worse about themselves. We hear so many messages everyday to make us feel less than, we do not need toxic positivity pretending to encourage us when in reality it’s doing exactly the opposite. So what is it?

According to the Psychology Group toxic positivity is “the excessive and ineffective over-generalisation of a happy, optimistic state across all situations”.

The ‘good vibes only’ platitudes that we are constantly subjected to denies the existence of full our spectrum of emotions. If we are only permitted to feel happy, positive, grateful, loving life then we then have to hide and mask our perfectly valid and authentic emotions such as anger, sadness, grief, irritation, and frustration. The idea of showing and sharing these ‘negative’ emotions in front of others becomes guilt inducing and shameful. If we do succumb to these emotions for example crying, we can feel shame, embarrassment, guilt and end up apologising for them and our apparent weakness.

Often we are subjected to toxic positivity in our hardest times, loosing our job, become ill, grieving a loved one, or have negative emotions about anything. We get told things from apparently well-meaning people like “Everything happens for a reason”, “Look on the bright side”, “It could be worse” and other such gems. Perhaps the advice giver just wants to make their friend feel better or due to their own poor mental health doesn’t want to entertain any negativity in their ‘positive vibes only world’ that might cause them to acknowledge their own issues. Toxic positivity is inauthentic, it stops people from feeling like they can be themselves around you and removes any chance of a positive authentic connection that sharing both the good and the hard times can bring.

When we subscribe to Toxic Positivity

When we subscribe to toxic positivity within ourselves we often don’t allow even want to acknowledge that we are struggling. Perhaps we deflect our problems with a joke, or become experts maskers or the life and soul of the party while posting ‘Failure isn’t an option’ memes on our socials.

By holding in negative emotions we are actually causing our bodies more stress. We may look cool and collected on the outside but inwardly those suppressed emotions are still there causing inner turmoil. By acknowledging that all our emotions are valid and allowing them to be healthily released will enable your body to let go of stress, learn to regulate and ultimately help you feel in a less negative mindset.

How to be positive without being toxic

  • Be open to and validate all emotions.
  • Focus on listening and showing support.
  • Never dismiss or minimise other people’s experiences or feelings even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Realise it’s not a competition, what may seem minor to you may feel really big to them.
  • Don’t encourage people to hide or get over big feelings, encourage them to sit with and work through them.

Avoid Toxic Positivity
Don't Say Instead Say
Good vibes only All emotions are welcome
Don't be so negative It sounds tough, how can I help?
It could be worse This is hard and I'm here for you
I did it, so can you We all deal with things differently

Glimmer A Day

At A Glimmer a Day, we encourage everyone to acknowledge that all their emotions and feelings are legitimate and should be accepted and safe to be expressed. Problems won’t be solved by positive mantras or by ignoring them, however, it is important to also allow yourself regular moments where you can put them aside. Glimmers are micro-moments of calm, peace and joy where your body is in a place of regulation and our nervous system feels calm. They are anything that gives you that relaxed feeling from stroking a pet to enjoying a cuppa in the sunshine. By finding your glimmers you are giving yourself and body the best chance to be emotionally fit to face your struggles head on.

Look for your glimmers and beware of toxic positivity.