What "Toxic Positivity" Is And How To Identify It

Toxic positivity is a term that refers to the belief that people should dismiss negative emotions and maintain an unwaveringly positive mindset, regardless of the circumstances. This is not to be confused with having a cheery disposition or optimistic outlook on life. According to experts at Verywell Mind, there is nothing inherently wrong with positive thinking. The problem is when positive thinking becomes so overgeneralized that all other emotions are denied or dismissed.

More negative emotions, like anger and sadness, may be uncomfortable, but they're all valid and necessary human emotions that ultimately need to be felt and dealt with accordingly. Some common examples of toxic positivity include phrases like "look on the bright side" and "everything happens for a reason." These phrases may be well-intentioned, but they prevent people from sharing and expressing their authentic emotions. This can be pretty harmful, especially when people are looking for genuine empathy and support during a difficult time.

How to avoid toxic positivity

If you're looking to steer clear of toxic positivity, the best thing you can do is allow yourself to feel your feelings and avoid buying into hollow platitudes, like "happiness is a choice." That's why Joanna Filidor, a licensed marriage and family therapist, recommends strengthening your resilience by acknowledging the problem and learning to manage your negative emotions. Filidor told Byrdie that she recommends building a support system and making time for self-reflection. This can help you process and talk through your negative emotions instead of avoiding them altogether. Engaging in self-care or small activities that can help you destress at the end of the day can have a similar effect.

She also recommends limiting your time on social media, or at least avoiding accounts that tend to spread toxic positivity. If you don't want to unfollow someone promoting toxic messaging, however, you can always mute them so their content doesn't show up in your feed.