I spread positivity or tried to, it was my intention because I believed that it’s always better to look on the bright side of things. I did not realise that this positivity could be toxic to some. I am therefore sorry if my positive attitude made you feel somewhat down because you just could not feel as positive.

Toxic Positivity has been around for a while but I think it’s an important topic to discuss during the time of COVID-19. I’m going to use myself as an example and how I’ve contradicted myself, unintentionally so, on social media posts. Right now, more than ever, people are worried about their health, the health of their loved ones, job security, finances and survival of their businesses, etc. By saying things like “this too shall pass,’ “think happy thoughts”, or similar, is actually de-legitimizing their concerns.

How I’ve contradicted myself – and I am sorry

If you’ve been following me on Instagram and Facebook, you may have noticed that I often use the phrase and hashtag “keepingitreal”. My front page of this blog, also says “keeping it real”. I also have on numerous occasions used the hashtag “positivevibes”or “positivevibesonly” or something to that effect.

That alone is a contradiction and let me spell it out if you didn’t already get it; as human beings, we have emotions and yes, I still agree that we must keep it real. But as human beings, we have down days, where we are not feeling our best, so how can we keep it real, if I’m saying “positive vibes only”? How can you keep it real when you are experiencing a phase in your life that is not positive?

Toxic Positivity – Let’s have a closer look

I want you to know, now more than ever, that is it OKAY, to NOT feel okay all the time. It’s okay to acknowledge that everything is not going the way you would like it to. It’s okay to acknowledge the not-so-nice feelings.

“Think happy thoughts”, “No negativity”, “Focus on the good” – these and similar other positive phrases which we have known as positive self-talk or encouragement, can actually do more harm which is why it can be considered toxic. Mental health experts have termed this “Toxic Positivity”. When these words of encouragement are overused, it can also seem more meaningless – as if it’s something you’re supposed to say but not actually dealing with the reality.

You are not alone

The reality being that a person may be hurting. A person may be going through a tough time. Failing to acknowledge it may not be the solution. You can demonstrate genuine caring for a person or a situation, even if it’s not something positive. People want hope, support and encouragement. They don’t want to feel unsafe to express themselves around people who are always positive, overly so.

What we are going through now, is not something any of us prepared for. It is therefore normal if we are not feeling normal. If we are feeling afraid, lonely, out of control or anxious in any way, this is alright given the circumstances. To put it bluntly, if you don’t feel like you have your shit together, you should not beat yourself up about it or anyone else who expresses honestly that they’re feeling this way.

It takes a lot of courage for people, especially on social media, to admit such or post about such. But we should! You will be surprised by how many others are feeling this way too and that you’re not alone. You could be helping someone else in the same situation and this is how you connect – you connect with real people with real pain and challenges. Through connecting, you then find ways to help each other and form a support/coping mechanism through social media.

Positivity has a dark side

The reality is that there is a dark side to positive vibes. It results in denial and invalidation of specific situations and feelings. Our emotions become repressed. I’ve never seen myself as a Negative Nancy and I still don’t, I’ve always looked at the positive and when I looked back at the negatives, which I still do, it’s to see and appreciate how far I’ve progressed since then.

Do I get angry? Do I get frustrated? Do I get jealous? Do I feel insecure? Yes, of course I do and I’ve expressed such feelings on my Facebook page more than I have on any other platform. That’s me being real. That’s me letting you know that not every day is perfect and that I as an individual am not perfect, nor do I want to be. It’s me reaching out to you, to know that you’re not alone and that no matter how positive I’d like to be, that I can’t always be that way all the time.

Keeping it real

A quote by Carl Jung has always inspired me to keep it real:

I’d rather be whole than good

I recall many situations, especially during my career, when there was something that had to be discussed and by that, I mean, put on the table – I was often the one to speak up – very often to represent those in fear to speak up for themselves and 9 out of 10 times, I’d look like the fool from trying to play the good Samaritan. Why? I am that person who believes in standing up for what I believe in – even if it means I am the odd one out. I’d rather take that chance to be brave and honest than to pretend that everything is okay, when it’s not.

I can tell you, from those experiences, I always felt better to voice my opinion, even if it didn’t make me popular. Yes, there were times I was asked not to be so vocal and I tried, I did. But that did not feel good. It felt like I was suppressing my feelings because I was. This caused more stress and it takes more time, energy and effort to avoid a situation. I rather confront a situation or a person to have peace of mind.

All vibes welcome here

You may have heard people use the term, “don’t bottle your feelings” – there is so much of truth in this and I do believe it should be applied on social media as well. When we feel embarrassed or ashamed in some way, we may hide this to make our grid on Instagram look picture perfect or Instagram worthy. We become someone else – the image that we think needs to be on social media.

But the more we hide these real feelings, the more we ignore the reality of the situation. We avoid the truth and we deny ourselves the opportunity to deal with it. As a result, they build up over time and the more it builds up, the more prone we are to suffer from anxiety and depression which could lead to other illnesses.

TOXIC POSITIVITY

Good vibes only

VALIDATION & HOPE

All vibes welcome here

If you’re reading this, I want you to know that I would love to connect with you – the real you – the good, the bad and the ugly. Each of us have traits we may not be proud of but that does not make us awful people. I want you to know and to feel that if you follow/read my blog or social media posts, that if you’re having a down day, you can feel safe and welcome to say so. You can be YOU. I personally want to be connected to more people who are true to themselves. People who don’t put on an act and are or learn to be comfortable to express themselves when they’re not so positive. That’s what I call keeping it real. I don’t want followers – I want a community where we all engage and inspire each other to keep it real.

If I had to go on saying “positive vibes only” – I will be insinuating that if you’re feeling anything less, that’s not welcome. That’s not true. That’s not me, that’s not what I want. That would be superficial. I’d love if the people I connected with online, via my blog or social media, were like my marriage. With my husband, I can be anything I want around him. He experiences the good, the bad and the ugly. Life would be much more stressful if I could not be myself around him.

If you believe that are or have been somewhat guilty of Toxic Positivity, try to change that. Having such a rigid mindset won’t help you or those around you. It’s time to get real. It’s time to acknowledge the flip side of things. Aim for balance because in life, there will always be good and bad. Ignoring the bad doesn’t make it go away, it just makes it manifest into something more awful over time.

In a follow up post, I will share with you ways on how to change your mindset to work toward that balance I mentioned – on how to move away from Toxic Positivity to being supportive and validating the reality.


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2 Replies to “Recognise Toxic Positivity – Now more than ever”

  1. The last 3 weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster for me. Like many othets globally this unprecedented time has presented us with much anxiety, distress and concern. Like you I also try to positive, add value and live a life of good intent but the reality is we humans and now more than before are facing a deadly virus in its face, homeschooling, working and more.
    We play multiple roles like a wife, mum, daughter, friend, aunt, sister etc and when your family or you are troubled “it’s not ok”
    Recently I’ve heard, “dont stress” or “it will be fine” after nearly my entire family tested positive. Whilst these words was continuously chanted, my heart and head felt otherwise. Its overwhelming. Just be true yo yourself. One day at a time. If you need a cry, cry! If you think a good long walk helps, do that. Do what’s best for you.

    1. I am very sorry to hear that your family has been affected by this. I wish them all a speedy recovery and I can imagine how you must be feeling. You are so right, if we need to cry, we must. I think that the majority of us were taught to believe that things will get better – and to always be positive and there is nothing wrong with being positive but the problem is when we ignore the negatives and the things that are pressing us down. We need to be able to talk more about those things, we need to be able to acknowledge and accept it and then work toward eliminating it. A healthy mind and a healthy body go hand in hand.

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