Toxic Positivity

At what point does positivity become toxic?

Try using more productive words to console a friend.

Matter Inc.

Try using more productive words to console a friend.

Sripriya Srinivas, Columnist

Many people try to help those who are struggling by saying things like “look on the bright side,” or “everything happens for a reason.” Although these can seem like they are the right thing to say, they are actually examples of toxic positivity. Statements like these invalidate people’s feelings. It supports the thought that people must stay “strong” and shouldn’t show negative emotions.

Toxic positivity can cause repressed emotions, guilt, and burnout. According to Happier Human, after constantly being told to be more positive, people may feel like they are not a good person if they aren’t happy. Along these lines, people can feel guilty for not being happy all the time as a result of toxic positivity. They may feel like they shouldn’t share their negative emotions because their feelings are being invalidated by overly positive statements. This can lead to the repression of their feelings. If they don’t feel safe enough to express their negative emotions, people may start to push them down and ignore them. This can lead to an increased amount of stress or aggression, as well as possibly being a cause for anxiety and depression.

There are many healthier alternatives to toxically positive messages. Asking what someone needs in a moment of struggle is much more helpful. According to Very Well Mind, a helpful statement might be, “that must be very hard,” or “your feelings are valid.” These statements show support and let people know that their feelings are normal. As we try to help our friends, it’s important to watch our words to make sure we aren’t causing more harm than good. Avoiding statements that are positive to an extreme is a good way to achieve this.