What is toxic positivity?

Toxic positivity is defined as the ineffective and excessive overgeneralization of one’s feelings, experiences, or neglecting them completely. It is the assumption either led by the person themselves or by others that one should ignore their negative emotions and always look at the brighter side of the picture! In other words, despite the hardship, struggles, and difficulties one should have a “Positive vibes always!”. So covering up one’s emotions and invalidating them is TOXIC!.

Example of positive toxicity:

For example, teenagers when expressing their frustration their parents say them “ To look at the bright side” or straight away saying “You are just over-reacting, it isn’t too much to react for” this IS TOXIC! It’s not putting people into ease, its not validating or giving them hopes to come out of something. IT’S TOXIC, ITS INVALIDITY.

Above all, ignoring one’s feelings often results in denial, frustration, aggression, and depression. A person constantly doubts their thoughts. Followed by increased anxiety and low self-appraisal levels.

Staying positive all time, a myth, or is possible?

Being positive no doubt has its benefits. But it’s against human nature to stay positive all the time. When a person keeps looking at the positive side they usually fall into delusions of everything being great. With happiness, there’s always a link attached to sadness. The fake concept of being “Okay” with hardship isn’t really true. Everyone has their displacing mechanisms where they outcast their negative emotions. Some people are seen eating excessively, some are seen overworking in order to avoid negative emotions. In addition to it, people confuse being negative with being real. They both are two different things Being real means to say it out loud whatever is bothering you and not feeling guilty over it. Therefore it is impossible for human nature to stay positive always.

How to identify toxic positivity in daily life:

Below are some common experiences of toxic positivity to help you recognize in what ways it shows up in our daily lives:

  1. Hiding your true feelings.
  2. Trying to “just get on with it” by stuffing/dismissing an emotion.
  3. Feeling guilty for feeling what you feel.
  4. Minimizing other people’s experiences with “feel good” statements.
  5. Trying to give someone perspective (e.g., “it could be worse”) instead of validating their emotional experience.
  6. Shaming others for expressing frustration or anything other than positivity.
  7. Brushing off things that are bothering you with an “It is what it is”.


“Avoidance or suppression of emotional discomfort leads to increased anxiety, depression, and overall worsening of mental health,”

Zuckerman says.

Difference between toxic and non-toxic validations:

Here’s a quick list of toxic and non-toxic validations that people are generally not aware off.

Toxic Positive ValidationNon-Toxic Positive Validation
“Don’t think too much about it, stay positive!”“Elaborate on how you are feeling, I’m listening”
“Don’t worry, be happy!”“I can see you are stressed out, is there anything I can do?”
“Failure isn’t a choice”“It’s okay to fail, it’s a part of growth and success”
“In the end everything works out as it has to be”“This is really hard! You are in my thoughts often these days”
“Positive vibes only!”“Here for you in both good and bad times”
“If others can do it, so can you”“Everyone has different potential, capabilities, and strengths.
Yours define you well!
It’s okay if you are not able to be good in one, you are good in the other”
“Stop with being negative always”“It’s alright to be negative. Happiness and sadness go along!
“Everything happens for a reason”“Sometimes we restrict ourselves at one point, how can I help you in this time?”
“You are in a better place”“I know you find yourself stuck at this place, I’m here for you!”
“It could be worse”“I know it sucks, I’m sorry you have to go through all this”

Toxic Positivity and its effects

Negative emotions “A shame”:

By saying to stay positive without listening to the person out is like telling them to keep their struggles to themselves. In simpler words giving them an idea of their struggle being not too important or necessary to be talked about. Usually, when people are constantly shamed about expressing their feelings they adopt the attitude of telling “Everything is going great in their lives”. Rather than telling out their struggles. They feel under-confident while expressing out. Hence prefer staying all by themselves. Sentences like “what if they get to know this about me?” or “What if they know this, and they leave me” are constant companions of toxic positivity victims. The person starts to feel shame about expressing because of the constant idea inculcated in their minds to not feel the way they do. In addition to it, they think that their thoughts are overly possessive.

Effect on mental and physical health:

when a person keeps hiding their feelings/ experiences there’s constant stress and self-doubts about themselves. The feeling of being insufficient affects their efficacy and self-esteem levels. For example when someone suppresses their anger usually after some time they suffer from headaches, anxiety, and burnouts. Suppressing one’s feelings or telling yourself “ It is what it is” usually results in feeling low by the end of the day. Frequently relapsing into depression is then common. In terms of physical health, it results in muscle spasm, pyrosis, heart attacks, digestive problems.

Society and its pressures:

The pressure from society to be okay or to not feel much gives the sense to a person of being “weak” to face the challenge or their emotions to be unsuitable for the situation. Above all, this results in being isolated from the society and frequent blank outs.

Negative emotions as a matter of fear:

The idea of staying positive always or telling people to choose happiness is telling them that the negative emotions are a thing to fear about and If a person is feeling low, sad, or stressed out the person starts to even stress about why is he feeling that way. Imagine how exhausting it would be for that person?. In conclusion, people have categorized their negative emotions as a matter of their weaknesses and fear of being not sufficient for the society.

Dealing with Toxic Positivity:

Acknowledging your emotions:

Acknowledge how you feel, why you feel and what the outcome of your feeling before others validate it to you. Once you validate your feelings yourself, no other person can make you think otherwise. Own your feelings like your own your name. If you are feeling sad for some reason accept it and let it out. Don’t wait for others to approve if its right to feel that way. Ask yourself first. You matter the most!

Being realistic:

Realisticity is the key to deal with toxicity, if you feel like being productive, a startup with the smallest thing. Once you are done with it reward yourself with something, this will boost your happy hormone and you’ll feel a lot better about yourself. Likewise, if you want to stay in bed all day, be realistic stay up there, get up for necessary work only. Don’t push yourself beyond your capacity. Set up realistic expectations from yourself. Obviously one cannot think of completing 20 tasks in an hour and expect others to do the same. Don’t go harsh on yourself. Set up realistic goals, be realistic!

Give Advice only when asked

The rule to deal with toxic positivity is to give advice only when asked otherwise just sympathize with people. Don’t give unwanted advice in situations where a person barely feels anything. This automatically turns on the irritability button of that person. Lookup for a suitable scenario and then only advice!

Social Media a ground of Toxicity:

People post their happy moments, their achievements but hardly ever speak about their struggles, hardships. The happiness and level of self-worth depend on the likes one gets on their posts, pictures. In times when one needs to hear something comforting there’s no one to hear them out! Don’t fall into the trap of someone being always positive. This life isn’t fair anyway. There are struggles for everyone. The best way to get out of this toxicity is to limit your social media usage. Have days where you take off without giving explanations to anyone.

Journalize your toxic positivity:

This will give your negative emotions a way out, you’ll get to the core of its outcome and feelings you are going through. It will pave a way out for you. It will help you to empathize better with others too!.


In conclusion, If positivity asks for overlooking your negative emotions, it’s toxic. Negative emotions are a part of life. One should acknowledge them and own them as they own their positive emotions.

1 Comment

Amna Hammad · September 7, 2020 at 16:28


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