What is toxic positivity?

Toxic positivity is an obsession with positivity. This is when we attempt to put a positive spin on negative events (no matter how terrible they may be). Examples of toxic positivity include, hiding your emotions, downplaying the emotions of others, and finding a silver lining. For instance, if someone lost their job, one might try to put a positive spin on it by saying, “Look on the bright side, you hated that job anyway,” even though that was the person’s only source of income and they didn’t have another job lined up. Essentially, toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how bad things are, we always maintain a positive outlook.

How does toxic positivity affect me?  

Toxic positivity can be very harmful in many different ways. For one, it invalidates and shames people for experiencing genuine human emotions that may be distressing or difficult to manage. It may make people feel that they are doing something wrong if they cannot “look on the brighter side” during the face of adversity. Toxic positivity can serve as an avoidant coping mechanism for managing stressful events. In turn, this inhibits someone from experiencing genuine human emotions, making it impossible to appropriately process said emotions. Toxic positivity can also impact others if we invalidate their distress, it prevents connections from forming. Finally, it can prevent our personal growth. We grow from our experiences and when we prohibit ourselves from processing our emotions, we are prohibiting ourselves from growing.

How can I challenge toxic positivity?

Learning to challenge toxic positivity can be difficult as it is something so societally ingrained. One of the first things to do is to understand when we may partake in toxic positivity. Pay attention to things like hiding or downplaying your emotions or the emotions of others. You can begin to challenge these thoughts by learning to manage your emotions rather than disguising them; listening to others when they are feeling distressed; understanding that it is possible to experience more than one emotion at a time, and validating the emotions you’re experiencing. Talking to your therapist is another way to learn to both process emotions and challenge toxic positivity. 

This page is part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.


If you are interested in connecting with one of our therapists, you can submit an inquiry through our insurance verification form. While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.



   
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