What Is Toxic Positivity and Why Is It Potentially Detrimental?

Upon hearing the phrase “toxic positivity,” it sounds fairly harmless. After all, how could a phrase including positivity ever be related to something harmful? In short, toxic positivity is the forced expression of happiness in all applications, leaving no room to experience other, equally essential emotions. Toxic positivity has caused us to live in a utopia. It often leads to a state of denial for potentially detrimental events. As individuals are so focused on masking their true feelings, they often convince themselves that “everything will be okay”, even when things most certainly are not. 

While this is certainly not meant to induce a “doom and gloom” mindset, it is vital to live our lives realistically. Life has its ebb and flow of challenging and rewarding events. However, if we convince ourselves that there is only good to come, how can we be adequately prepared to tackle challenges that we will undoubtedly face? 

The ability to feel every emotion and express it is part and parcel of the human experience. This is the very quality that distinguishes human beings from other creatures. By veiling this key facet of the human experience, we are removing what makes us inherently human. 

One of the largest factors which exacerbates toxic positivity is social media. We view quirky infographics with slogans such as “good vibes” and “be happy always” almost daily. However, have we stopped to consider the deeper implications of these statements if they are disproportionately represented? Why should we be happy always? We’ve been bestowed an array of emotions which allow us to navigate life’s rolodex of experiences. 

Furthermore, statements such as these, which appear benign at first glance, may minimize the challenges faced by other people. If people are constantly being stifled with statements of positivity, how will they ever feel comfortable enough to share their personal challenges? If it appears that no one else is struggling, how could they ever express their own struggles?

Optimism certainly has its place. Without it, many people could not find the will to keep going. However, we must make ourselves aware of the fine line between optimism and a falsified reality. 

If emotions are constantly suppressed, one will undoubtedly reach a breaking point. This turbulent wave of emotions may cause individuals to speak or act in ways that they will later regret. However, if they had allowed themselves a healthy release of emotion from time to time, this could have been prevented. 

Optimism certainly has its place. Without it, many people could not find the will to keep going. However, we must make ourselves aware of the fine line between optimism and a falsified reality. 

Let us live as realists, not negative, depressing ones, but individuals who are prepared for what the future holds. Let us foster an environment that accepts all emotions, the good and the not-so-good, so we can use our unified strength to tackle life’s obstacles.