Mental HealthSelf Help

Toxic Positivity – How much is too much?

“The more you suppress emotions, the more damaging it is for you”

Author Kapil Sharma

It is ok, not to be ok; in fact, it is normal. It is ok to have negative emotions but it is not ok to dwell on negativity all the time. It is ok to have positive emotions but it is not ok trying to remain positive all the time.

It is obvious that having a positive outlook on life is good for one’s mental health, but the truth is that life is not always positive. We all deal with painful emotions and experiences. Being optimistic is fine but struggling to remain optimistic may lead to a problematic state of toxic positivity.

Thus, paying attention and processing your emotions as they come and go may help you better understand yourself, and those around you.

Toxic positivity is the overgeneralization of a happy or optimistic state that results in denial, minimization and invalidation of authentic human emotional experience. Toxic positivity is the false self-belief of being positive, overbearing cheerfulness no matter how bad things are. 

Even though a positive mindset is generally more preferable than a negative one there is also, a dark side to the hope of positivity called the shadow of toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the refusal to see the negative even there is a chance of harming you.

Signs of Toxic Positivity

  • Hiding your true feelings
  • Feeling guilt for feeling negative emotion
  • Minimizing other people’s experience with ‘feel good’ quote or statement
  • Overgeneralization of happiness/optimism across all situations.

Toxic positivity comes in two forms

  • Toxic positivity you can experience from someone or give to someone
  • Toxic positivity you can impose on yourself

Believe it or not, when you avoid your emotion, actually causes more harm. When you fail to process emotion in a timely and honestly it can lead to psychological difficulties like disrupted sleep, increased substance abuse, prolonged grief, or even post-traumatic stress disorder. It also leads to feelings of guilt, shame, and isolation.

Managing toxic positivity

  1. Acknowledge emotion instead of ignoring it
  2. Listen and validate how you and another feel
  3. Connect with compassion and non-judgment
  4.  Remember that it is ok not to be ok
  5. Recognize and reframe toxic positive message by validating and supporting statements like below. Use validating and supporting statement instead of toxic positive statements:
Toxic PositivityValidation and Support
Just be positiveIt is never great to feel like that. Is there something we can do today that you would enjoy?
Positive vibes onlyI am here for you in both good and bad.
Don’t worry, be happyI see that you are really stressed, anything I can do?
Failure is not an optionFailure is part of growth and success.
Don’t think about it, stay positiveDescribe what you are feeling, I am listening.
Think happy thingsIt is alright if you are not positive and happy right now. Feel your emotions and let them pass naturally. How can I help you?
Stop being so negativeIt is pretty normal to be angry in this situation. It is ok to feel bad sometimes.
Get rid of negativityPain and suffering is part of life. It makes us stronger and helps us to learn and grow.

Best moments in life are full of mixed emotions. Suppressing your authentic human emotion like feeling pain, angry, sad, and jealousy leads to secondary emotion such as shame and guilt that is much more intense and maladaptive.

Thus, paying attention and processing your emotions as they come and go may help you better understand yourself, and those around you.

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Kapil Sharma

Kapil Sharma is a known writer and professional Trainer/ Influencer in the field of mental health, life skills, and public health from Nepal. He is one of the founding members of THE SUCCESS NEWS. He is working in the field of mental health & counseling psychology in Nepal.

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