What is toxic positivity?

In follow up to my rant on Sunday about those people who demand positivity from others – I had someone mention Toxic Positivity to me in a discussion on Twitter – so I thought I would write a separate post for that.

Who knew. They have terms for everything these days whether it’s toxic or not.

In spiritual practices such as Wicca, we all know that what you send out to the universe comes back at you. Some call this karma. Others believe in the Law of Attraction and how sending out positive vibes to the universe will bring positive things your way.

While that can be true, it’s not always the case. Sometimes in life, things just happen whether you manifested them or not. And while having a positive outlook on life, can result in you being a happier and energetic person, there are downsides to it too.


What is toxic positivity?

Reciting positive quotes about hard situations – obsessively, as if you are trying to convince yourself and others everything is okay.

Experiencing guilt for being sad and angry or experiencing confusing feelings or situations.

Hiding or masking painful emotions, putting up a false front or a shield that makes it seem like you are happier than you are.

Ignoring your problems, dismissing others’ problems, instead of working on them or yourself to help make things better.


The image above was saved from Dr. Bryan Pearlman’s website. Reading it makes me cringe. I have heard so many of these phrases from people in my life. “Just smile and plug through the day!” Or “Just get out there and meet new people!” Or “Just stay positive! I need to be around positive people only!”

We all experience painful emotions from time to time. Some people are better at hiding or masking their emotions from friends or loved ones. For me, I’m a writer. It’s my main form of communication to my networks online. It’s how I share my learnings and experiences. It’s therapeutic for me. And I’m working on myself, doing shadow work, healing, and working hard so that I can be a better person for those people in my life who need me.

I’m also an emotional being. Someone recently said to me, “You’re a walking emotion, how did he not know that about you?” Which is true.

Anyone who has followed my writings for any amount of time, knows that I’m not afraid to share my emotions and put them out there. So, if you get in a relationship with me, you shouldn’t be surprised that yes, I’ll be writing about it from time to time. Especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed or confused. Though I’ll keep private details – private.

It’s like the guys that date Taylor Swift and then are surprised she mentions them in her songs. Duh. That’s what writers and artists do. I’ve even modelled fictional book characters around my ex boyfriends. It’s therapeutic.


“Good vibes only!”

When you tell people that you want “good vibes only”, it’s saying that you only want to hang around when it’s beneficial for you. It’s not being a good friend or partner.

What this tells me – is that you’re the type of person who will bail at the first sign of trouble.

We all face hardships in life. We may lose a job. Or get heartbroken when a relationship that meant a lot to us ends. Or we lose someone very dear to us to illness or an accident. Or just sometimes life gets to be to “too much” and emotions can become overwhelming.

We all handle our emotions differently too. Some people lack the ability to control their emotions. While others, are avoidant and will do whatever they can to shut others out. I’ve dated a few guys like this in my time. Relationships can be tough with those who avoid “serious feelings”.


How toxic positivity makes others feel

For me, I know I felt deep shame for sharing my emotions publicly which is ironic, since my journal writings were how I connected with many of them in the first place. People want to be seen and heard and have their emotions validated. Saying things like “happiness is a choice” – is a bit of a slap in the face to those who experience depression or other mental health issues.

The guilt we feel for not being the person they expect us to be is real. I know for me, during dark times, I tend to isolate and withdraw from friends. This is a trauma response or triggers. I need the time alone to sort through my feelings before I can my game back on. Sometimes it takes longer. The guilt is there for wanting the time alone.

This also prevents growth. If you are the type of person to avoid facing your emotions or learning from them, then you’ll never really grow. Life is about karmic lessons and learning from past experiences and mistakes. It shapes us into who we are meant to be. Toxic positivity is avoiding dealing with those feelings and emotions and situations that may seem difficult to face.

Facing those challenges head on, can be a daunting thing, but worth the work you put into it, in the end.

“Positive vibes only” can also be a sign of gaslighting. And as someone who broke free from a narcissistic abuser, I’m so done with this in my life.


It’s okay, to not be okay

Your feelings and emotions are yours to feel. Don’t let others judge you for that. If you’re feeling sad, angry, or whatever you happen to feel in that moment, your feelings are valid. You don’t need others to validate them, though it can help when you are seen and heard.

Something I’ve learned to do on really low days, is write in my private journal. Or here on this blog where few friends follow and I’m writing my thoughts out to mostly strangers.

You can manage your negative emotions, and keep some to yourself. But don’t feel guilty or shame for thinking them.

Focus instead, on others who have offered support. Read as much as you can and learn about developing healthier habits to incorporate into your daily routine – things like bullet journaling, meditation, making sure you get sleep, exercise and sunshine. These are all things you can do that helps to elevate your moods.

Learn to recognize toxic people and remove from your life. Even if it means cutting out people that you thought were your best friend at one point.


Do reach out for support when needed

I’m learning that friends shouldn’t be used as therapists. I’m learning that I’m not the type of friend who you want to chat with on a daily basis. I’m also the type of friend that won’t sugar coat things and will give honest and real advice.

While I have a few close friends I can turn to for advice, if you’re struggling with a current situation or problem – get support from a licensed therapist or coach. Find someone you can trust who isn’t connected to you personally.

Write daily. I often write here or my private journal. I’m getting back into fiction writing to help with trauma dumping and letting go of things.

Find creative outlets to pour your emotions or anger into.

Get out there. Meet new friends. Find people who are similar to you and understand what you’re going through.

And seriously, just forget those people who say things like “happiness is a choice!” or “failure isn’t an option!” or whatever. These are outdated terms and are now considered gaslighting or toxic.

Do you have people like this in your life? How have you responded to them? Let me know in the comments.


Related Posts


Subscribe for more content like this!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.