How Toxic Positivity Can Actually Make You Feel Worse

Our generation is known for glorifying the importance of staying positive and optimistic all the time, no matter how dire or painful the situation is. We started overhyping the idea that it’s wrong to have negative emotions or express our more pessimistic views and expectations because it may make matters worse. While we’re always asked to expect the best and it will come to us, that’s not always the case, and lying to ourselves won’t help. 

Sometimes we’re sad, we’re scared, we’re hurt, and we’re angry. Sometimes we’re triggered by past traumas and incidents that make us feel anxious and sometimes we just don’t feel good, and suppressing these emotions just so we could ‘stay positive’ or avoid feeling those heavy or negative emotions may have a contrary effect. It makes us feel guilty for having these emotions because we think that we’re not allowed to feel this way, that we’re going against the law of attraction, that we will bring more misery and pain to us if we actually give in to some emotional states. It puts pressure on us to avoid saying how we really feel if it doesn’t sound light and hopeful. 

The truth is sometimes we feel better when we vent, when we allow ourselves to have these moments, when we prepare for the worst so that we don’t live in a state of denial or can’t handle the truth of the situation when it happens. It’s okay to feel down sometimes, it’s okay to feel sad, it’s okay to feel like giving up, and it’s okay to have negative emotions, but what’s not okay is allowing others to make us feel like we’re falling short because we’re not positive or strong all the time. 

We hear these all the time—‘stay positive, don’t give up, look on the bright side, be happy, keep going, failure is not an option, everything happens for a reason…’ etc. While these are all meaningful statements, they don’t work for all circumstances. They don’t always make sense when we’re in the thick of it, when we’re on the verge of losing someone, when we’re heartbroken over something and when we don’t get something we worked so hard for. These are all hard circumstances, and trying to put on a happy face when our hearts are shattered only makes things harder. It makes us more intolerant; it makes us feel even more hopeless because we’re not as happy or as positive as we should be, but we also can’t talk about it. 

If you want to end the toxic positivity cycle, start changing the narrative. Acknowledge when something is hard and allow yourself to truly let that feeling out. Don’t listen to people who have not been in your shoes but are telling you to stay strong and positive, and don’t allow anyone to discredit your feelings just because they’re not promising. Facing difficult and challenging emotions instead of ignoring them can actually lead to deeper insight and healing. It can help you overcome your problems instead of just repressing these feelings and falsely pretending that you’re fine and that you have it all under control. 

Toxic positivity is only toxic if you let it take over your emotions and your relationships. You have the power to put yourself in a good state of mind and empower yourself when things get hard but you don’t have to lie to yourself or to anyone. Recognizing your emotions and dealing with them in a way that makes you feel comfortable and gives you solutions is more effective than just trying to be positive and ignoring your mental health and emotional well-being.