Signs of toxic positivity:

  • Problems are brushed off rather than dealt with

  • Real feelings are hidden behind a mask of being upbeat all the time

  • Other people’s negative feelings are minimised all the time

  • There is a sense of guilt that accompanies the expression of negative emotions

  • Other people may be unwittingly shamed when they are not being positive

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Having a positive, optimistic outlook on life is good for your mental well-being. The problem is that life isn't always easy and when we go through real struggles and we need to be able to express our unpleasant emotions. Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset, rejecting all negative emotions, resulting in a forced, often falsely cheerful façade. It can lead to denying people the authentic support they need to cope with a difficult situation. When people go through trauma they need to feel that they are not being judged or dismissed for not maintaining a sunny outlook all the time. Often people say things like “just stay positive” or “look on the bright side” or “no point complaining” with good intentions, but may end up invalidating the person’s feelings.

How to avoid toxic positivity:

  • Develop an attitude that "it's okay to not be okay" sometimes.
    When facing a difficult situation, it’s normal to feel stressed, worried, or upset. Don’t expect too much from yourself or your loved ones.

  • Manage your negative emotions, but don't deny them.
    Negative emotions can cause stress when unchecked, but they can also lead to beneficial changes in your life. If needed, find someone to be a safe sounding board.

  • Focus on listening to others and showing support.
    When someone expresses a difficult emotion, don’t shut them down with toxic positivity. Instead, just listen and be a safe place for them to share their feelings and be supportive, without trying to change them.