In a social media filled world we are constantly bombarded with people living their best lives and quotes of positivity.
It becomes hard to remember that not “everything is awesome” all the time. In fact, the writer of this positive Lego Movie theme song was actually going through a divorce at the time of writing it.
This culture/ belief that no matter how difficult things are, you must always maintain a positive mindset is what’s known as Toxic Positivity.
While positivity can, in the right amounts be beneficial, it can be harmful to completely deny our negative emotions. Not acknowledging these natural complex reactions can potentially prolong the healing process and cause more hardship.
Being someone who suffers with PTSD, I learnt this the hard way. Shortly after the traumatic event I tried to bury my negative emotions and continue as if nothing had happened to me. This resulted in outbursts of anger and sadness which only eased off after working through my negative emotions with a therapist.
I have also encountered many a well-intended phrase such as, ‘look for the positives’ and ‘you’re lucky’, which would make me feel angry because there was no positives to what I had experienced and it made me feel guilty for not being grateful for surviving.
Although these people just didn’t know what to say, it felt invalidating and a simple ‘I’m sorry you went through that’ would have been much more comforting.
So what can we do to stop toxic positivity trending?
- If someone is expressing a negative emotion to you, don’t just shut them down with an optimistic quote. Support them by really listening and letting them know that what they are feeling is normal and you are there for them.
- If you are going through a tough situation, be kind to yourself and make self care a priority to help you cope with any negative emotions that arise. To help lower the intensity of negative feelings you can give them a voice by writing them down or talking to a friend / professional.
- Notice how you feel when viewing uplifting social media posts. If you are left with a sense of anger, shame or guilt, it might be worth limiting your social media consumption. Also try not to compare yourself to others, everyone deals with tough situations differently and on social media you may not be seeing the full story.
By learning to recognise toxic positivity and giving yourself permission to feel both positive and negative emotions, you can help provide/ receive authentic support.
when everything is not awesome, everything is cool, even if you’re not okay.
By Ellie Luckett for Alive!