Sisterhood Agenda

Toxic Positivity and its Effects on Mental Health

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Have you ever went through a rough break up? Or lost someone you love?

And you get pieces of advice such as “think of the bright side,” “find the silver lining,” “everything will be alright”?

In some situations, not everything will be alright instantly.

Sometimes you have to go through a painful period in your life and that’s okay; it’s normal.

The “stay positive mantra” that’s popular now,  you have to take it with a grain of salt.

Before we go any further, I want to set something straight… 

Photo Credit: Bekka Mongeau, Pexels

It’s actually awesome to read motivational quotes and positive affirmations. It can pump you up and help you to keep going.

However, if it invalidates your feelings, that’s not good.

You are allowed to feel pain, you are allowed to feel sadness, you are allowed to go through tough times.

Now, don’t get me wrong:  I’m not a pessimist. I’m actually one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet. I’m also an inspirational/spiritual writer but I don’t advocate hiding what you truly feel.

What I’m saying is: when optimism is too much it can get toxic and it can cause your mental health to suffer.

Remember the saying, “Everything in excess is bad”? It can be applied here, like with anything.

Let’s go into more detail about the effects of toxic positivity on mental health.

First of all, what is toxic positivity?

Photo Credit: Oladimeji Ajegbile, Pexels

 According to experts in the Psychology Group.Com

Toxic Positivity is the excessive and overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations which results in denial and invalidation of authentic human emotional experience.

Toxic positivity results in bottled up emotions because it hushes authentic human experiences, resulting in a state of denial.

That’s what happens when you don’t allow yourself to feel.  You will have repressed emotions.

If you bottle up your emotions, you’re like a ticking time bomb that can explode anytime, anywhere. It’s better to acknowledge your feelings than hate yourself later for not acknowledging them early enough.

You’re human, which means you can feel regret, jealousy, anger, and resentment. Not all of us are lucky and born with a silver spoon.  Life just sucks for some of us and you can be angry.

I’m not saying you should stay in your room, cry for three weeks, or stay bitter for years.

Remember, anything in excess is bad. Allow yourself to feel, but don’t dwell. I hope this doesn’t confuse you.

Here are the signs of toxic positivity

  1. Getting on with your day wearing a mask concealing beneath what you truly feel.
  2. Invalidating other people’s tough life situations by telling them cliches of feel-good quotes.
  3. Feeling guilty of feeling bad deep inside.
  4. Choosing to overlook the negative side of life or people ranting about the government, politics, and socio-economic issues.
  5. Trying to be a happy-go-lucky by dismissing your feelings, saying phrases such as “That’s life, it is what it is, everything happens for a reason.”
  6. Invalidating your emotional experiences, as well as others.

Why toxic positivity is dangerous for your mental health

1. It will cause you to feel shame

When you are going through something and people constantly encourage you or subtly forcing you to “just go with it” it’s like telling you to keep silent on your struggles.

And you don’t want to be the buzzkill, so you pretend you’re okay.

You will feel embarrassed to share your problems.

Shame is a terrible feeling.  It’s immobilizing.  It shuts down your self-esteem and sense of pride.

And shame comes from secrecy.

You are afraid to be judged, so you hide things. Living with shame is not a good way to live your life.

2. It results in bottled up emotions

As mentioned above, hiding your feelings will result in bottled-up emotions and later on, regret.

This also takes a massive toll on your physical health.

When you hide what you truly feel, it will later on manifest in anxiety, heart problems, depression, and other cardiovascular illnesses.

When you’re angry and you don’t acknowledge it, it seeps within your body.  It lives there and it will eventually come out by damaging your health or by exploding, maybe even resulting in a nervous breakdown.

Once you accept your feelings, you embrace every inch of yourself, the good parts, and the flawed ones. Accepting who you are is a step towards living a healthy authentic life.

3. It can lead to isolation

When you live a double life, you forget who you really are.

When I say living a double life  it’s when you wear an invisible mask around other people by showing only your cheerful side and not the real you.

You will be living a life that is not yours and you lose connection with your true self, which in turn, will make others difficult to connect with you.

Here’s a scenario: you’re at this gathering with your friends and you have this one friend that’s all about positive thoughts all the way, “don’t kill my vibe.”

How will you be able to share your real emotions or your struggles if that person gives off that impression?

You don’t want to kill her vibe by keeping it real, which means not sharing some of the not-so-good things that have happened to you.

In fact, you may need someone to listen to you.  But you hide your feelings and just keep it to yourself.

Since you can’t be yourself in front of them, you either spend time with yourself in isolation or you continue to share the space of fakery with them.

Living a healthy and peaceful life needs balance. It also means recognizing your true feelings.

If you are a source of toxic positivity, consider its effects on the people around you and yourself, as well.

Embrace the mindset that life is not a ray of sunshine at all times.

You need balance and acceptance. Recognize your emotions and those of others and set healthy boundaries from those people who are positively toxic.

Speak your truth, keep it real! Your flaws, your experiences, your authenticity is what makes you, you.

Photo Credit: Cristian Jako, Pexels

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