Okay, let’s talk about toxic positivity for a second. Yes I used those words together and yes I meant to. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I am living in a society that’s gone so far past wanting to be positive all the time that it’s become toxic. Yet we are always hit with messaging that it’s okay to ‘feel your feelings’, just don’t dwell on it for too long.
Ever been in a bad mood and someone told you to ‘cheer up’ and you were instantly cured of your sadness? Yeah me neither.
Last year I came off contraception so my body started having all these feelings on a monthly basis that I hadn’t had before and I’ve become a big believer in riding the emotional wave. I’m not someone who has ever been able to swallow my feelings, so I just have to let my mind and body feel how it needs to, and then I move on.
As a society, I feel being ‘positive’ and a ‘boss bitch’ is held in such high esteem that anything below that is a failure. If you are feeling low for whatever reason, some of the worst words you can hear is ‘cheer up’ or ‘stay positive’, it’s an empty sentence said by someone who doesn’t understand what you’re dealing with. Or my absolute favourite… ‘it could be worse’. Yes Karen, it probably could be, my leg could be falling off, but that hypothetical situation doesn’t make my current situation any better does it?
We are expected to have a stiff upper lip no matter what, but why? Being sad for a day or two doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you human. I’m not saying people are trying to hurt you with these comments typical of toxic positivity, they probably come from a place of love, but they’ve come for someone who has been conditioned by society to think you must remain positive at all times.
Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with positivity, I would call myself a pretty positive person on a day-to-day basis and I try and spread that positivity when and where I can. However, I will be the first to admit I have bad days, and sometimes really bad days.
It’s important that you let your brain process those feelings, or you won’t get over it. You will bottle it up and then it will release itself at the most inopportune time, like in the middle of the supermarket while you’re looking at beans.
Want to know how to spot it? Toxic positivity can take on many forms which include but are not limited to when someone chastises you for your upset and instead of listening to you, has a comment like ‘look on the bright side’. This isn’t helpful to you and only acts to undermine your reason for upset.
It can be memes you see on Instagram telling you to ‘just be happy’ or following someone who is always being productive, making you feel like you are a failure because you’re not. But the sneaky one you really need to look out for is yourself. Punishing yourself for feeling sad, or telling yourself you shouldn’t dwell on your sadness is also very toxic.
With toxic positivity, any negative emotions are perceived as inherently bad, therefore positivity and happiness are compulsively pushed down our throats and your human emotions are invalidated.
If you have negative emotions towards having negative emotions, that will only lead to having more negative emotions such as shame… See what I’m saying?
So to sum up, feel your feelings, whether they are happy or sad. Be aware of toxic positivity in your life and don’t let yourself be influenced by it.