Toxic Positivity and Why It’s Killing Your Mental Health

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Last Updated on March 2, 2023 by the thought method co.

There are a few things that truly piss me off. Toxic positivity is one of them.

Because not only is it annoying as fuck, someone who doesn’t know any better, someone who is looking for help and wants to feel mentally well may fall into the toxic positivity trap. A trap that will steer them down a dark path.

I know what it’s like to feeling lost and desperately trying to feel better. So when I think of someone who is looking for help to be steered wrong (no matter how well-intentioned) I take that shit personally.

Think of me like a mama bear and you ‘re my bear cub. I’m going to swat that toxic positivity bullshit like a cat swats a glass of water off a table.

Here you will learn what toxic positivity is, why it is negatively impactful, how to spot it and how to reject it. So you can reject the bullshit and focus on getting your mind right.

What is Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity is an extreme form of thinking. It is when you are encouraged to “be happy only” and to ignore or invalidate other emotions because some emotionally illiterate fuck labeled them as “bad”.

Well-intentioned people who don’t know any better, people who lack empathy, vapid “influencers” with nothing to contribute, and people with low emotional intelligence usually forward it.

It’s supported by people who don’t know any better and end up being shamed for being fallible human beings.

Examples of Toxic Positivity

The one that pisses me off the most is the idea that “someone would love to have your bad day.” Legit, if someone said that to my face my glance would burrow deep into their soul and have them questioning their entire life until that point.

Other examples are:

  • Smile
  • Be happy
  • Good vibes only
  • Someone has it worse
  • Failures not an option
  • Everything happens for a reason

Why Toxic Positivity Sucks

As a mindset coach, I talk about a lot of concepts that will help you increase your mental and emotional well-being.

I encourage you to find your confidence and get empowered by building emotional intelligence (EQ), having self-compassion, validating yourself, stopping unhelpful thinking habits and focusing on what you can control.

Toxic positivity counters all of that. If mental and emotional well-being were a destination, toxic positivity is a crater in your way—if you allow it to be.

Let’s dissect.

Building Emotional Intelligence

People who spread toxic positivity and those who accept it are operating with emotional illiteracy. If your friend is having a bad day, the empathetic and emotionally intelligent person would respond with something like, “I’m sorry to hear that, it sounds rough, is there anything I can do?”

But you would NEVER find an emotionally intelligent person suggesting someone who is hurting needs to ignore their feelings because someone else might want what they have.

Emotional intelligence involves being aware of and managing emotions. The emotion will still be there no matter how many times you tell yourself to smile or ignore your feelings because of a fictitious person.

So if you want to gain EQ (which I highly advise you do since it’s the #1 determinate of success), reject toxic positivity and manage the emotion by sitting with it, exploring why you feel it, and taking action.

Have Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is clutch. It is going to help you out when you make mistakes—because you are human and make mistakes. It is also going to help you when you aren’t feeling so well.

Our feelings are feedback. They show if something is not working right or if we need to change. Feelings are also a natural part of the human experience. We all have them.

If you reject your feelings, then you aren’t having compassion for yourself. And the only people who reject their feelings are operating from an emotionally weak place. See the section about EQ above (all of this ties in together).

Validating Yourself

To make everything pristine and utopian, culture has helped us create a dystopia in our minds. In this dystopia we have no room for feelings because they aren’t always shiny.

But emotions tell us things. They let us know when things are working right and when things are going wrong. They let us know what we need to work on and if we need to change.

Toxic positivity asks you to invalidate and ignore your emotional needs. This decreased mental and emotional well-being and will lead you towards depression and anxiety.

Stopping Unhelpful Thought Habits

If you follow my writing, you know I’m big on cognitive distortions. There are 15 of them and it is imperative to learn them, spot them and shift your mindset if you use them.

The distortions are unhelpful thought habits that can have you seeing the world in a negative and hostile way. They hinder your productivity and keep you anchored to the negative.

Common among people who have depression and anxiety, toxic positivity doesn’t work without them.

For example:

  • It’s fortune telling to assume someone would love your shitty job.
  • It’s extreme to think life can only be positive.
  • Labeling is involved when we label things as positive and negative.
  • It’s “should” thinking when we try to label how we “should” feel

Related article: How I Stopped Limiting Myself by Rejecting Should Statements. And How You Can Too

Focusing on What You Can Control

When we focus on what we can control, we focus on our power. Toxic positivity, however, encourages us to focus on things we can’t control.

So instead of focusing inward, and questioning, “why don’t I like my job?” You focus on things you can’t control externally and think, if someone would like it, why can’t I?

If you haven’t guessed, this limits your growth. Because while you’re focused on fictitious people who “might” like your job, you aren’t focused on why you don’t like your job.

People sometimes don’t like jobs. It’s OK. Use that energy to try and make the position work, or to look for a new job, not for invalidation.

And guess what Becky, everything doesn’t happen for a fucking reason. The Holocaust didn’t happen for a reason. Childhood cancer doesn’t happen for a fucking reason.

People try to give things a “reason” because they feel a lack of control and need to justify or rationalize. But when you put your big girl pants on and realize that good things happen to bad people just like bad things happen to good people, you stop lying to yourself and you build your resiliency.

You let go of trying to control what you can’t and you focus on what you can control. This will bring you tranquility.

Reject Toxic Positivity

You deserve to feel good, and toxic positivity is going to get you off track.

Because toxic positivity is happiness to an extreme. It is when people put preference on happiness and they ignore their full array of emotions. Ironically, if we just focused on accepting all of our emotions and not labeling them, then we would be happier more often—trust me, I’m living this shit.