Toxic Positivity: When Being Positive Is a Problem

How often have you heard the phrase “Just be positive!” Or perhaps “Good vibes only!” These phrases, innocuous as they may seem, are a part of a larger issue in today’s society called toxic positivity.

Today we’re bombarded by thousands of opinions on how a ‘human’ person should be, what they should do and how they should act. The fact is, that if we are human beings then everything we do is valid. Humanity is natural to us, and humanity is spirituality. (In fact, toxic positivity and the law of attraction can feed off one another in some negative ways.)

Despite the fact that there are no requirements for humanity or spirituality, we’ve become really good at making up laws for ourselves and others about what humanity is and one of the biggest ones is positive thinking. It has become toxic to the point of being dangerous in many ways. 

The bottom line is that wellness includes feeling all your emotions, even the bad ones. It’s okay to feel grief. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be angry, or frustrated, or terrified, or disappointed. Feeling our emotions is important, because they teach us things about ourselves and about life.

Let’s examine more about toxic positivity.

Contents:

  1. What is Toxic Positivity?
  2. Why is it harmful?
  3. Signs of Toxic Positivity
  4. Social Media and Shame
  5. Examples of Toxic Positivity
  6. How to Reframe Your Toxic Positivity

What is Toxic Positivity?

The short answer is this: It’s being positive despite how you really feel. Positivity become toxic when we push all other emotions aside and force ourselves to be happy or optimistic.

This ties directly into the Law of Attraction because you are attempting to protect your chosen manifestation, or your dreams and goals. But it creates a disingenuous personality and encourages mental and emotional illness through imbalances that are not natural for a human being.

Positivity is a healthy thing when there’s no reason to be negative about a situation.

What does that look like? If you are looking for your dream job and have the skills and the ability then being negative about it may be unhealthy and unnecessary.  An emotionally healthy person will feel confident in their skills and ability and see no real reason to engage in negative self-talk or scenarios, but it’s a fact that we’re human and many of us are not balanced to that degree. There’s nothing wrong with that! It’s normal. 

Why is Toxic Positivity Harmful?

It exposes you to self-shame for no good reason

Toxic positivity can result in heavy inner feelings, disappointment, frustration, and even despair.

The problem is, that there are factions of society—spiritual and religious communities in particular—that will have you convinced that you are broken or abnormal or weak if you have negative feelings about your situation.

It could be a religion that wants you to shame yourself for your “sins”.

But this is also seen in spiritual communities when people aren’t ‘manifesting’ what they want so they will shame themselves and or others for sabotaging their thoughts.  

RELATED: Why Am I Not Good Enough?

It can, in extreme cases, cause physical harm:

Yeah, it gets pretty horrible sometimes and if a person has anxiety, depression, or is really mentally or emotionally challenged it can cause harm and even death.

It’s also harmful for you personally, when you shove down your emotions into your body creating a bath of cortisol, which is a stress hormone that makes you gain weight and does a number of other negative things to your physiology. It creates panic and anxiety disorders because you are always guarding yourself, worried about whether or not you’ve been thinking negative thoughts.

RELATED: We Become What We Think About

A Small Experiment:

Here’s an experiment you can do right now: Tell yourself that today, you won’t think of Pink Elephants. Then, keep track of how many times a Pink Elephant crossed your mind, even when you were focused on something else. Most people will think of that which you told yourself not to think at least once or twice and probably more. 

That’s because the human brain is trained to scan for things that it sees as a threat to its physical existence or pain. So, if you tell yourself not to think of something, it will want to scan for that thing in order to protect you. It seeks pleasure and avoids pain; that’s its job, to keep you alive and as happy as possible by relieving you of as many threats as possible.

When you turn that exercise around, and tell yourself to only think of brown horses, you will start thinking of the opposite instead, because there must be a reason you are so adamant about that. The emotion of anxiety around only thinking of whatever you’ve instructed yourself to think of will trigger the brain to think there is a threat. 

You can’t beat your physiology… Period. Don’t try, it protects you. 

RELATED: How to Practice Non-Judgmental Mindfulness

Toxic Positivity and The Law of Attraction:

This is the best partnered marriage in all the Universe. They are a complete recipe for disaster and it’s proven a detriment time and again.  The harm comes, when people begin to berate others for not being positive enough and therefore this is why they are ‘failures’ at their manifestations. They will defend their position by spewing the mishandled ‘evidence’ through quantum physics and I can’t tell you how much this enrages the quantum physicists that devote their lives to the science. 

Signs of Toxic Positivity:

Spotting this in people early on is a good thing. The quicker you can keep yourself shielded from this, the better. People in spiritual communities used to be the only people that have this social challenge.  At this point, toxic positivity has spilled out into the mainstream. So, here’s some examples of how to spot it in people. 

1. Someone controls where a conversation is going

A person might control the conversation the moment they think you’ll complain about something normal, but unpleasant that happened that day.

A short example that happened to me: There was a woman that I worked with doing Tarot readings in a small metaphysical shop. She was spewed out of the alcohol rehab system which was not working and found spirituality.  (This is common, by the way. I’m not defending any 12 step program and I’m not assuming anything bad about it either. I do know that spirituality is not a saviour for those who refuse professional help.)

She and I were having a conversation about the spiritual community and groups. Once I gave her the rundown of the positive, I was then ready to go to the next logical step and stated that there are some things about that group and South Florida that she should know as she is new. 

This woman slammed on her breaks that I could hear on the phone and began to scream at me that I nearly caused her an accident with my attempt at telling her a negative thing.

One strong suggestion: If your gut goes off about someone, heed it. I was trying to make friends of ‘like mind’ and after so many failures to heed my gut, I started to investigate what is called ‘spiritual’ community. Don’t give up on finding people of like mind. Use this guide to recognize some of the extreme and unhealthy.

2. A person shuts down, or tries to shut you down

If you maintain your sovereign personality, you’ll watch them disappear, yes ghost you like magic in a puff of smoke. Don’t feel bad for you, feel bad for them because they’ll never know the true authenticity that you bring to the world. The ghosting is not because there’s something wrong with you, it’s because they’re only good with people that can relate to them and who they can control so that their ‘Universe’ remains untainted by your unperfect life.

Can ya feel the eye roll? Good. You’re perfect as you are and on the right track.

3. You guard your tongue (and feel as if you’re walking on eggshells)

You notice that you, yourself are starting to guard your tongue. If someone has convinced you that you need to be positive in a toxic way, you may catch yourself being abusive to friends and family members. Have you shamed someone for being “negative”? Of course, I’ll make a disclaimer. If someone is abusing you, or belittles you or any other physical or mental abuse then this is not what I am talking about. You have the right to defend yourself. What I’m talking about is reacting differently to those around you or in a harsher way than you ordinarily would in response to how they act or what they say.

I’m writing this as a qualified person that allowed people early on to infect me with toxic positivity. My mother and I were never best buddies but one mistake I made: I refused to let my mother grieve the death of her husband. I told her she was doing it too long, she’d become a bummer to be around and she would only attract more grief. Soon after that, something snapped in my mind, and I did a complete turn around. I understood my own toxic positivity and I’m glad to write about it. 

What are Examples of Social Media Shaming & Toxic Positivity?

Social media pressure contributes greatly to our collective and individual toxic positivity.

All of these are examples of things you’ll find on social media.

Posts targeted at women can be particularly toxic. A few you might have seen include:

“Good vibes only!”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“Look on the bright side.”
“Other people have it worse.”

Spiritual and Religious Social Media

For religious and spiritual posts, it’s normally the groups that are focused on Law of Attraction. Groupthink, is how toxic positivity manifests itself in these groups. They won’t always mention it directly, but look in the group About section and rules. You’ll glean a lot of truth from that. They are only open to those who think like they do and they’ll put intolerance for people who do not think as they do, in so many words. This is to keep what they deem to be undesirable out. 

That’s social media like Facebook and Instagram and others. Let’s look at YouTube for a moment. This is where you’ll get most of the videos that will also be subtle about shaming. I want you to recognize when you’re being shamed in a way that’s not completely in your face.

The types of videos to beware of are the ones titled like so or similar:

  1. Why the Law of Attraction Doesn’t Work– For you!
  2. Why you aren’t manifesting and what to do about it.
  3. Why you’re failing at manifestation.

These will always go back to it being your fault. You aren’t positive enough or have enough positive emotion toward what they call scripting the Universe. I would urge you to watch a few if you haven’t and see for yourself.

How to Reframe Your Toxic Positivity

Finding inner peace and letting go of toxic positivity is possible.

There’s good news and bad news in this, so we’ll get the bad news over like ripping a Bandaid off all at once. The bad news is, you can’t control another person’s behavior and it goes a bit deeper than just that simple statement.

Whether it’s us that are doing the toxic positivity or someone else, we can’t control the other person. We can’t convince them to change and we can’t demand change of any type of outside circumstance that makes us feel bad.

Do a little shadow work and understand that you are powerful in and of yourself and if you want to be positive all the time, it’s gonna take some serious isolation and a lot of personal discipline.

You are in control at all times. Of yourself, that is.

If you see toxic positivity in you then you can dig deep and control it which I’m going to show you one method of doing here. If you see it in someone else, you can reframe it in your own mind and be able to either deal with them or walk away less stressed and more wise. I’ll take you through that too.

6 Steps to Work with Others’ Toxic Positivity:

So, if you’re at work or at home, in a place that you have to deal with a person that’s presenting constantly with toxic positivity you need to save your sanity and grow from it. The process takes a change in perception about someone that’s annoying at the very least or worse. It can be done. 

Finding someone who will support you to express your true feelings can help fight toxic positivity.
  1. First, understand that they are dealing with life in any way they can to make it better, even if what they’re doing is unhealthy.
  2. Understand that if their life was good and they were already truly happy, they wouldn’t have to resort to complete control over every thought and feeling they and others have. 
  3. Don’t try and save or convince them from who they are presently.
  4. If it’s at work, unfortunately if you need your job, and it’s a superior, then you can rout yourself in such a way that you spend only the time you need to with them. 
  5. If it’s another situation outside of a job or home, then you can choose to release them altogether. You don’t have to have a fight or be cold or hateful. That only attacks your wellbeing. It won’t change them. Simply speak to them less and less. Spend no time with them personally and they’ll get the picture
  6. If that seems disingenuous, then you could always just tell them how you feel. You feel invalidated and that you can’t be your true self. 

READ MORE: How to Meet a Person Where They Are

4 Steps to Reframe your Own Toxic Positivity

You know yourself better than anyone else. You should at least. Toxic positivity comes largely from the need to control. You want to control your surroundings and never be hurt by anything. Some people use toxic positivity to manifest a lot of materialistic things. Then, they find themselves to be empty and unsatisfied with what they have and are always wanting more. 

  1. Do the shadow work. Go get a clean journal or notebook and devote it to digging deeply to find out why you need to control your surroundings.
  2. Ask yourself the hard questions with resolute honesty and don’t fear the answers. Don’t feel shamed. No one else will see your private journal. You’re doing this because you were hurt as a child somewhere.
  3. Don’t blame yourself, but practice not blaming others for wanting to be vulnerable and open with their feelings.
  4. Look for people who will allow you to be vulnerable with your feelings without judgement.

Conclusion

Toxic positivity is a widespread issue and the sooner we understand what it is and how to combat it, the better.  Though those who practice it may not be bad people, it’s a disease that spreads through the workplace, the home and your social arena in the spiritual community. 

There is hope though. As I said before, don’t give up on meeting other spiritual people. Use what I’ve given you in this article and you can screen people out quickly and peacefully so your true tribe and come in. 

Toxic Positivity

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *