Toxic positivity: why being overly optimistic can have its downsides
All problems cannot be solved with a simple attitude adjustment. So here are some ways to find out when it's time to let go of extreme positivity and face the facts.
Being optimistic in life has many benefits. It can improve health, relationships, and job performance. It makes people more willing to accept new opportunities and be open to new ideas.
But there is a point where optimism can backfire. Toxic positivity occurs when you have a permanent excess of positivity.
Why is it toxic? Because all problems cannot be solved with a simple attitude adjustment. So here are some ways to find out when it's time to let go of extreme positivity and face the facts.
We are not talking about eliminating the tendency to have a positive vision, because undoubtedly this aspect helps us to maintain enthusiasm, faith and hope. What it is about is to stop sustaining at all costs a magical thought about the world and the events whose focus is, permanently, almost an obligation to feel good.
Neither end is good
Contrasts with the starkest reality can help us to take perspective, observe and learn about other coping tools, which go beyond “be positive”. This posture is somewhat naive, because it takes more than that attitude to cope with difficulties.
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Two researchers on the subject, American psychologists Samara Quintero and Jamie Long, comment that there is a "toxic positivity" that arises from the overgeneralization of a state of permanent happiness, regardless of what happens.
In this case, the toxicity occurs in that possibly people are denying, minimizing or invalidating what they might feel, such as frustration, sadness, anger or any other form of non-contributory emotions, product of the distortion between how they would like things to be , and the harsh reality.
By not properly processing what a person feels, a snowball of unexpressed or experienced emotions is snowballed with their forcefulness, which can become untenable.
How to know if you have fallen into toxic positivism
Some ways to detect if you are holding toxic positivity are:
- You pretend that everything is fine permanently.
- You hide or disguise true feelings.
- You repeat like a mantra: "I have to be a positive person whatever happens."
- You show a lack of empathy by not perceiving the pain of other people.
- You use phrases that can sometimes be interpreted as trying to minimize what they feel around you: "everything will be fine", "you have to be positive", "What if this is learning for you?"
- You say "it could be worse" in the face of what they tell you, instead of listening to the emotions and experiences of others, and letting them express them openly.
- You use set phrases like "what happens is convenient."
The cost you pay
The so-called “toxic positivity” can cause embarrassment, because if you always show yourself in this way, it is possible that others feel that they do not have the space to express what happens to you, and tend to pretend that everything is fine, when it is not.
In addition, a suppression of emotions is generated, which leads to stress, because by not processing them properly, it generates an inner loop that repeats the pattern, inside. In the long run, it is a pressure cooker.
A certain isolation can also appear, since the excessively positive person all the time tends to avoid being “contaminated” by the reality of the world.
The ideal is to maintain a posture of intelligent optimism, where you balance your emotions without losing contact with reality.
5 resources to be positive without being toxic
- Accept that emotions bring information: Every time they are expressed in a contributory way, or not, they come to express something we need to know. It's okay to feel bad at certain times.
- Recognize the emotion: It helps to deactivate it faster, and to be able to consciously choose another course of action.
- Avoid using set phrases: Towards other people, or with yourself, as comfort for what you feel.
- Encourage you to express the emotions that appear, in real time and in the right tone. For example: “Excuse me, today I am having a very bad day and I need to be alone. I feel frustrated by such a situation, and I want to resolve it in the best possible way. "
- Stop wanting everyone to be positive: Although it is a noble wish, other people can choose not to be positive. It is your process at this point in your life, and it is respectable, as well as your optimistic vision in the face of any circumstance.