In general, I like being around positive people as much as anyone else. They are enthusiastic, uplifting, optimistic, and seem excited about life. But there are negatives to positivity, maybe you’ve encountered some of them before. It could even be recognized in some of these six types of toxic positivity.
1. Happier Than You
Some people seem to use positivity to fuel their egos with smug complacency. They have an air of being above all else, oblivious to the troubles and heartaches that plague the rest of us. And yet it has a falsehood: a positive appearance that covers a deeper layer of negativity and insecurity. True satisfaction doesn’t need to brag.
2. Rigid Arming
I had a friend in college who was very happy. He never had problems to talk about; If I ever described one of my own, I would smile and say something encouraging and optimistic. I really liked him and I enjoyed watching him, but he wondered why our relationship never seemed to go anywhere. We never set out to meet and only saw each other in class or in passing.
Years later I knew that I had had a lot more things than I had realized. What seemed like constant positivity was his need to show a strong facade, to prevent anyone from seeing the struggles he was having.
In hindsight, I was disappointed that I couldn’t get to know him more deeply, although it was hard to blame him; I recognize a similar response in myself at times when I am in a difficult place and do not love others. to know. A quick, smiling response of “Well, how are you?”
At the same time, this form of positivity can get in the way of forming genuine connections with people. We don’t always have to complain about how tired, stressed, or busy we are, but we can let people know that we are real people with a full range of human emotions.
3. Dull Tone
There is a time for everything, as reflected in the well-known verses of Ecclesiastes: “a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to cry and a time to dance.” Positivity is only positive when it adapts to the situation; Lighthearted laughter is great for a party, but not so great for a funeral. Deaf positivity is self-centered, inappropriate, or denies the feelings of others.
For example, a friend of mine described trying to talk to her friend about how upset she was in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But her friend was not accepting of any of that: “I’m working on something positive,” she said, letting my friend classify the emotions on her own. To be honest, I have been deaf on several occasions myself, especially when I have been uncomfortable with the seriousness of the situation. In hindsight, it was easy to see how insensitive he had been.
4. Look On the Bright Side
This form of toxic positivity does not completely deny your negative feelings but puts them aside. No matter what the disappointment is, the person always manages to find a silver lining. For example, years ago when my wife and I described our sadness about losing a pregnancy, one person responded, “Hey, at least you know you can get pregnant!”
It’s uncomfortable to sit with someone else’s unpleasant emotions, and the normal human response is to try to make things better. But the true path to the “best” often runs through difficult feelings, rather than surrounding them. The best we can offer to those who are hurting is a genuine human connection and a warm hug.
One of the most destructive forms of positivity turns you into a weapon in some way, like being nice to one person in order to hit another. This behavior is easy to find on social media when a person flaunts the good in her life to feel better about herself, like posting super happy selfies to make her ex feel bad. These unhealthy expressions of positivity are also toxic to the person using them, reinforcing underlying feelings of inadequacy or spite.
6. Emotional Self-Censorship
The last type of toxic positivity is an inside job. Instead of denying someone else’s difficult emotions, you deny your own. You don’t let yourself feel what you feel; Perhaps you have been taught not to allow yourself to have strong negative feelings, or you fear them, or you worry about getting caught up in them if you get carried away.
Denying the reality of what you feel can prevent you from experiencing the full range of emotions, as cutting the lows makes it harder to have true ups and downs. You also tend to create distance between you and the people you love, because intimacy requires emotional honesty. It is also extremely difficult to overcome painful emotions if we never acknowledge that they are there.
Paradoxically, positivity can be one of the most difficult toxic behaviors to tackle. Negative toxic behaviors like angry outbursts or emotional abuse are clearly bad, while positivity is supposed to be a good thing. Saying it in another person can make it seem like you’re not being reasonable or that you don’t want people to be happy. If it’s happening in a relationship that matters to you, bring it up softly and directly, frankly and sensitively, in the way you’d like someone to bring it up.
Keep Safe Self from Toxic Positivity
As with other forms of toxic behavior, be careful trying to get the person to change. Some people may not even be able to see their behavior for what it is, let alone recognize the harm it causes. If they are unwilling to change, minimizing the time around them may be your best option.
What if you identify toxic positivity in yourself? First, give yourself a little compassion. There is probably a good reason for their behavior, such as having learned it at a young age or unconsciously trying to protect themselves. From this place of self-acceptance, be curious to find out what is behind your unhealthy positivity. Journaling can be a helpful way to explore your thoughts and feelings. Also, consider talking to a friend, loved one, or therapist as you seek greater self-awareness. Let it be a growth experience as you move toward greater emotional integrity.