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Toxic Positivity: What Is It?

Photo by Jules D. on Unsplash

Toxic Positivity: What Is It?

Toxic positivity is, in a sense, pushing for someone to change their current mental state by telling them things like, “You’ll get over it,” or even, “Just be positive!” Little phrases like those two examples are usually meant to be encouraging, helpful, and to try to cheer someone up when they are feeling down or upset. Using toxic positivity can often do much more harm than good.

As stated by, toxic positivity should be renamed to toxic happiness. Happiness is a temporary emotion that can change in an instant while positivity is a mindset that you can work toward. And a little know concept is that you can still have negative emotions and feelings while still remaining positive or optimistic. There is not one single thing wrong with trying to be positive. Trying to force happiness on someone else, regardless of whether or not you are aware that you are even doing it, sounds good in theory; but it really isn’t.

Humans are complex beings and we come with a vast amount of different feelings and emotions, including negative ones. Everyone has, at some point, felt angry, upset, sad, overwhelmed, anxious, unsure, or even afraid before. There are too many emotions to list all the ones that people generally consider to be negative to be able to list them all right here, but you get the gist. These kinds of emotions will come and go throughout our entire lives. It is okay to feel those things. It’s okay to not be okay. We aren’t meant to be happy all the time. Sometimes some of life’s best lessons come from hardship.

Toxic positivity is like telling people that they should rid themselves or those unwanted negative emotions and basically fake-it-until-you-make-it. You can fake happiness all you want; all it does is give a false exterior. It doesn’t change how you feel on the inside. What would be better is to let a person feel exactly what they are feeling at the time. Emotions are temporary, and sometimes we have to remind ourselves and our loved ones of that.

Instead of giving off toxic positivity, we should be validating what the person is feeling and try to offer them some hope. Instead of saying something like, “Try to see the good in everything,” you could say something like, “It’s probably hard to see any good in this situation right now, but we’ll make sense of it all later.

@SitWithWhit posted an amazing chart on IG about validation and hope vs. toxic positivity, which you can check out below ⬇ for yourself!

Replacing Toxic Positivity With Validation & Hope

Just about everyone has used the toxic positivity phrases before. Most of us can’t help it since we have been taught that those are great things to say to someone who isn’t in the best mental state. These toxic phrases are also go-to sentences for many people when they honestly do not know what else to say to their friend or loved one who isn’t feeling the greatest.

By paying attention to the chart that @Sitwithwhit posted on IG, we can try to retrain our brains to start validating other’s emotions instead of telling them to feel a positive emotion which they really may not be capable of feeling in that very moment. Then, adding a little dash of hope for your validation of their emotions can have some real potential to help other’s so much more than telling them they’ll get over it.

Personally, I can’t recall one time that those toxic phrases have actually helped me to feel better and cheer up. I like to call those phrases “company lines.” What I mean by a “company line” is that it is just something someone tells another person that is a typical or general reply to whatever the situation at hand is. A good example would be if your friend gets dumped and you reply by saying, “You’ll get over it. There is plenty of fish in the sea!” Or if you were to break up with someone and then say, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Perhaps, if you are interested in getting away from using toxic positivity phrases you can start by writing down or printing out the chart above. Keep it as a reference or read over here and there to try to get your mind away from the unproductive phrases. It is never too late to pick up on a new way of doing things.


Samantha View All

Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog

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