In today’s complex world, our relationship with the truth has become somewhat convoluted. We often find ourselves entangled in a web of lies. Particularly when it comes to presenting a façade of happiness. This phenomenon, known as toxic positivity, involves masking our true emotions and pretending to be happy. But what purpose does this serve, and how does it impact us?
Introducing toxic positivity
Psychology Today defines toxic positivity as the act of avoiding, suppressing, or rejecting negative emotions or experiences. It’s a form of denying our own emotions or insisting on positive thinking, which, if practiced long-term, can be harmful. By denying our negative emotions, we hinder our ability to process them. And overcome distress, hindering our healing and personal growth.
For as long as I can remember, I believed that the truth didn’t apply to me. I considered myself a fair person who always told the truth. Yet, the reality was that I often found myself pretending to be happier and more optimistic than I felt. This state of denial allowed me to evade confronting my struggles and emotions, invalidating my own human experience.
Toxic positivity stems from our innate desire for happiness and the release of dopamine in our brains. When someone is going through a difficult time, we often encourage them to ‘stay positive‘ or ‘look on the bright side.‘ While these intentions may originate from a good place, they fail to acknowledge the full range of human emotions. Instead of insisting on happiness, we should remind others that it’s okay to feel and experience a wide array of emotions.
Toxic Positivity on social media
The world of social media plays a significant role in perpetuating toxic positivity. Platforms like Instagram often showcase only the highlights of our lives, creating an image of constant positivity and unwavering confidence. Behind those curated posts, however, many of us struggle with our insecurities and authenticity. Recognizing this, I realized the need to step back from the pressure of projecting a certain image and focus on personal growth.
During my journey of self-improvement, I immersed myself in various learning opportunities. I took courses, read books, and surrounded myself with like-minded individuals who prioritized personal growth. This transformative process allowed me to identify and acknowledge my toxic traits, particularly my tendency towards toxic positivity. I aimed to shift towards a more helpful form of positivity, one that acknowledges and validates all emotions.
Toxic positivity is more detrimental than we may realize. As Dr. Susan David states, ‘Toxic positivity is forced, false positivity. It may sound innocuous, but when you share something difficult with someone and they insist that you turn it into a positive, what they’re saying is, “My comfort is more important than your reality”.’ By prioritizing the comfort of others over the authenticity of our experiences, we deny the validity of any emotions that aren’t happy or positive. This habit of suppressing genuine feelings, even unconsciously, ultimately harms us.
How to overcome toxic positivity?
In today’s society, where social media plays a significant role, it’s crucial to consider the impact of what we consume. Better Help suggests that social media’s effect on our mental health depends on how we choose to use it.
Here are some steps you can take to overcome toxic positivity:
- Journal: take time to reflect on your emotions by writing them down in a journal. This can provide an outlet for expressing difficult feelings when you don’t have someone to talk to
- Unfollow or mute accounts: if certain accounts on social media make you feel bad or trigger negative emotions, consider unfollowing or muting them. Focus on your mental health and be conscious of what you consume
- Seek help: while therapy may not be accessible for everyone, you can still find support. Look for someone who lives the life you aspire to have or whom you admire. This could be a mentor, a coach, or even a friend who can offer the support you need
Now, I find myself in a place where I can share my experiences, both the highs and lows. My intention is not to seek applause or validation, but to encourage others to embrace their authentic journey. It’s crucial to recognize that social media is a realm of illusions and constructed facades. It’s like a children’s playground, where people showcase only their most expensive toys. Seeking validation from others is not a genuine reflection of our worth.
No one is perfect, and the pursuit of perfection should not be our goal. Instead, let’s focus on being conscious of our thoughts and words. It’s essential to recognize the harm that toxic positivity can cause and strive for a more balanced perspective. Together, we can create a world where we honour our emotions. Also, support one another through life’s ups and downs.
Featured image: Michelangelo Buonarroti / Pexels