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It’s easy to tell when you’re in the presence of toxic positivity.
Shame for feeling sad or negative starts trickling into your consciousness.
You’re told to “just snap out of it” or “be grateful for everything you have” because “things could be worse” and well, “that’s just how it is”.
The temptation to brush off any discomfort you’re feeling is overpowering simply because you know that sharing how you feel is just going to open the floodgates of sarcasm and invalidation.
Open debate or discussion is discouraged or swept under the rug to make more room for sugar-coated happy, overly optimistic vibes because hey, people who don’t feel and act as if life’s all rainbows and unicorns all the time just ruin the party (because that’s what life is) for everyone else.
Worse still, you might just be labeled as selfish and self-absorbed for trying to change the status quo.
If you’ve ever found yourself in situations like this, you’ll realize that yes, toxic positivity is very real.
Here’s what you need to know about it, and what you can do to keep your sanity intact when you can’t escape:
1. KNOW THAT YOUR PAIN IS VALID
It doesn’t matter if you have plenty to be grateful for or that a million other people have it worse — none of this makes your feelings any less real or valid.
If someone’s trying to minimize what you feel or insist that you cover it up with forced positivity, they’re hurting, not helping you.
2. BLIND OPTIMISM AND A POSITIVE MINDSET ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS
Having an open, forward-looking mindset that allows room for processing negative feelings without judgment helps you cope better with setbacks and get back on your feet.
Repeatedly avoiding, repressing or denying the emotions that come with being human, like anger, jealousy, greed and resentment, isn’t helpful at all.
One mindset sets you up for resilience, while the other is more likely to lead you down the path of misery (ironically) and turn you into a ticking timebomb.
Knowing the difference between the two will help you steer clear of toxic positivity-filled situations that are meant to groom you for a life of delusion.
3. SUPPRESSING YOUR FEELINGS WON’T HELP
Your feelings are short-lived physiological experiences that are meant to help you interpret what’s happening around you in the present moment so you can decide what to do about it, says Dr. Nicole LePera, a clinical psychologist and the author of How To Do The Work: Reognize Your Patterns, Heal From Your Past + Create Your Self.
Instead of avoiding your feelings, which keeps them trapped in your body and mind, she advocates learning how to be present in your body, identifying what you’re feeling, naming them, and then figuring out the best way to release them from your body, be it crying, shaking or heading out for a workout — a strategy I’ve found helpful for dealing with my own negative feelings whenever they crop up.
4. … BUT AN EMPATHETIC, UNBIASED PERSPECTIVE WILL
Acknowledging, accepting and processing your feelings can be an uphill battle when you’re constantly surrounded by toxic positivity at home or work.
When this happens to me, spending time with and talking to someone who’s not in that toxic bubble helps ground me back in reality and give me a healthier perspective on things.
The right people validate my feelings and help me see things as they are, not the rose-tinted version that someone else wants it to be no matter what.
5. DO SMALL THINGS EVERY DAY THAT MAKE YOU STRONGER
Toxic positivity can chip away at your mental health if you let it.
To protect your well-being, try spending some time every day to build habits that’ll help sharpen your self-awareness and resilience:
- Let yourself feel. Give yourself the space, time and permission to experience the plethora of emotions — both the good and bad — that come up every day. Consider sitting with discomfort, instead of pushing it away.
- Name your emotions. Just like how giving everything around us names lets us process the world around us, naming that thing you’re feeling will give it shape and form, and you, a better idea of what to do about it.
- Be kinder. You’re a flawed human being who’s prone to making mistakes and so is the person who’s asking you to “just get on with it”. Recognizing this simple reality will help you realize that everyone’s just coping with life the best way they know how, and ‘their way’ may be drastically different from yours.
You can’t stop other people from trying to minimize or invalidate your feelings, but you can choose how to react when it happens.
RESOURCES YOU MIGHT FIND HELPFUL
Online-Therapy.com Therapy has taught me to look at my life and the metaphorical mountains (mental, emotional, and physical) I’m climbing from a different perspective, and how to navigate them in better, healthier ways — skills that I feel everyone should have but aren’t taught in school, and rarely, at home. Online-Therapy offers you an affordable way to get the help (or mental health flossing as I like to call it) you need starting from $40 per week. Membership comes with a live, 45-minute session with your therapist plus unlimited messaging each week, and access to their online cognitive behavioral therapy program. Together, these tools equip you with the skills you need to navigate difficult emotions, as well as yoga and meditation videos for additional support. If this is your first time using Online-Therapy, you’ll receive 20% off your first month here.
Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How To Say No To Take Control Of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend Not having boundaries can end up wreaking havoc in your relationships and leave you feeling resentful, used, and disrespected. In this book, Cloud and Townsend show you how to get over the guilt of setting limits (this is particularly helpful if you’re a recovering people-pleaser like me) and equip you with the skills you need to build healthy relationships that will fulfill, not drain you dry.
Difficult Conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen and Roger Fisher Lousy, conflict-ridden conversations strain relationships, and don’t make difficult relationships any better. Here, the authors take you into the process of managing and expressing your feelings constructively rather than constantly muddling through who’s right, who meant what and who’s to blame — all of which keep us from handling difficult conversations well.
Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret To Recognizing And Coping With Narcissists by Dr. Craig Malkin I never realized narcissists existed until I became tangled up with one for several years. It was only after I discovered what a narcissist was that I understood the damage that had been done to me. Dr. Malkin, a therapist, explains the true nature of narcissism — the good and bad, how unhealthy levels of narcissism can wreak havoc on your life, how to spot red flags that you might be dealing with a narcissist, and how to not only cope, but thrive when dealing with the narcissists in your life.
Tribe Of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Timothy Ferriss Nothing beats having a mentor in your life who can personally guide you from day one. But not everyone does, and if (like me), you don’t, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the best virtually or through books. Take what you need from the likes of Ray Dalio, Ben Stiller, Bear Grylls and more in this varied but comprehensive compilation of bite-sized advice on life, work and purpose from some of the best minds in the world.
START FEELING CALMER, HAPPIER & HEALTHIER…NOW.
If you’re too busy surviving, chances are, you’re not thriving. You’re feeling tired, unhealthy, unmotivated and just plain worn-out from life. I created my FREE Daily Self-Care Ritual Workbook just for busy folks like you who want to take back their health, peace of mind and happiness. Get your very own copy of the workbook HERE. No spam. Just helpful, good-for-you stuff. Pinky swear.
Feature photo: James Lee on Unsplash