With all the heaviness going on in the world, I know I’m not the only one feeling it. I’ve spoken with so many people who are being tested this season, and while it’s important to stay positive and optimistic, there is such thing as too much. It actually has a name: toxic positivity. I wanted to take the time and break this concept down further as it’s come up often in the past couple weeks.
What is toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is the concept that living with a happy and positive mindset is the best way to live. It is the idea that any negative emotion or situation doesn’t deserve space to live and breathe. I’m here to tell you, this is bullshit.
The concept of toxic positivity first came up in my life a few weeks ago while I was venting to a friend. They countered everything I was saying with an optimistic view. While I can understand and appreciate that there is always good in any situation, sometimes the ‘good’ in a situation isn’t meant to be recognized until after the situation has passed.
Let me back up
It is human nature to want to help and fix problems for others. When someone reaches out and confides in us, it is easy to mistake this as an invitation to help. Most of the time, what people are really looking for in the moment is to be heard. This can be satisfied with a simple statement such as “I’m sorry you’re dealing with this right now, I can understand your pain.” No solving problems, no discounting anyone’s feelings, just coming out and saying “yes, this does suck.”
Now, I can already feel the backlash coming. Why would you agree and tell someone that they are in a shitty situation? Because. That’s how they feel. It’s not about whether or not the situation is actually shitty. You are validating their feelings.
The thing about life is that it’s not perfect. It’s not rainbows and butterflies all the time. We need to teach ourselves and others that hard times deserve to hold space. In fact they need to hold space. Hard times build resilience and strength. Pretending everything is always okay does not.
Okay, so now what?
This isn’t to say that people who are negative all the time should continue to be negative all the time. The purpose of this post is to explain that we need a healthy relationship with our emotions. ALL of our emotions-happy, sad, angry, etc.
People vent because they are trying to release. There is an uneasiness inside of them that they are trying to push out and get rid of. We all do it. Recognizing that it is OKAY to feel uneasy allows us to dig deeper into WHY it is there. Figuring out the why then turns into finding solutions.
I truly could go on about this topic, and I understand I’m just brushing the surface. I’m hoping this will give some of you a different perspective on how to approach your loved ones about their struggles. We are all going through hard times right now, some more than others. It’s okay for us to say “this is a hard time” and let it be.