I am sure that all of us have somebody like that around. The person who seems to be always full of energy, smiling and cheered up. Somebody who always tries to stay positive whatever life brings. To be honest, it scares me a lot and I tend not to believe it. In my world, it is not possible to be always happy and to see everything in pinkish.
Actually, to be absolutely open with you, such people and attitudes make me often nervous and in some cases even angry. I remember one post on LinkedIn from a woman who has been looking for a job in Finland for more than a year. She reflected on how difficult times she has, but of course, we cannot just be with our true feelings, we have to be positive all the time, especially on social networks… Emotions in her post were true and it made me sad. But she ended up with something like: yes but this is a good thing in a way because it taught me to be patient and dedicated… Wait, what? Sorry, I am not buying this. If you are overlooked, if you cannot fulfil your ambition, if you are active, if you try and try and nothing comes back, when you don’t have your own income for months, what the hell? Forget about patience and dedication. What do you really feel?
I dug a little bit into it. We all know that the bubble of social media is enormous. We share only happy and successful stories and pictures. We want to be seen as those who “made it”. We are selective and we pretend. If we have problems, if we feel other feelings like sadness, loneliness, misunderstanding, aggression and so on, we most likely think, there is something wrong with us or we ignore how we feel, because we are supposed to be happy and to always find something positive in the difficult times we face.
Remember Covid? So many articles, posts and statements about what we can learn from such situations and how we should think positively… I am rolling my eyes now, just to describe what facial expression I have whenever I hear things like that. Yes, we should learn from such situations to overcome them better in the future. But why do we have to be positive about it? We have had fear, our social connections are being cut for months and years, many of us experience the death of our close ones and we don’t know what the future brings. Why are we supposed to be positive about all of these?
At some point I had written down the term “fake positivity” and later on I realised it is called “toxic positivity”. I read a few articles or interviews about toxic positivity and it can really be harmful to one’s mental health. We should be in connection with all our emotions and we should be capable of openly expressing them.
There are many reasons why someone operates in toxic positivity instead of realistic positivity. Maybe this is what the person had learnt in childhood, or she/he came through some trauma and doesn’t want to be seen as vulnerable. Some people might also think, this is what is expected and people would like them more.
But the price for being unrealistically positive is huge. Such a person often ends up in depression, has doubts and even can’t take any action when she/he has to deal with other emotions/situations, that cannot be re-framed as positive.
Personally, I think that by avoiding difficult emotions and unpleasant situations, you make them even bigger. To be in touch with your inner feelings, to recognize the whole portfolio of emotions and to manage them according to different situations is a much healthier way. If you focus solely on positive things and emotions, people will sooner or later stop believing you. It doesn’t seem true, when somebody seems to have no problems or difficulties.
Emotions are not “bad” nor “good”. You will better understand yourself when you allow yourself to feel exactly what you feel. And you will also better understand others. It’s nothing more annoying when e.g. I say to someone how devastated I am by being still unemployed and this person answers something like: it will be ok and I should be patient. It is not calming, it is the denial of how I feel.
It’s healthy to have different emotions and it’s NOT OK to be one happy sunshine 24/7. For yourself and for others is much better if you recognize your true emotions. So, please, no more toxic positivity! It gets me to feel sick…