Written By – Tham Rou Win
How can positivity ever be toxic?
Have you ever experienced the worst day of your life? You know, the one where you would have to pinch yourself on the arm to make sure you were not dreaming. The one where you didn’t think it would get worse but eventually did get worse by every second. I’m sure everyone has had that day before, including me, and for some people, days can turn into weeks or even months! Whether it be the day you lost a game, the day you broke an arm, a family member had passed away or maybe you were just feeling down for no reason at all! And when you finally gathered up the courage to open up to someone about it, and halfway through your complaints, the person said,
“Hey! Look at the bright side! It could be much worse! Don’t be so negative”
Obviously these are words that are meant to make us feel better, and sometimes they do, but not all the time. To “not be so negative” and to “stay positive” would force us to only look at a situation in one perspective. This is termed as toxic positivity. To be over optimistic meant that we would never evaluate and analyse the mistakes that we might have made, hence never able to learn from them. For example, you have gotten a really bad grade for the test that you’ve been studying for centuries and you think to yourself “hey, at least I didn’t fail!”, this may seem like very comforting words at the moment in time but at the same time this mindset can be detrimental in a way that you would not try to find out the mistakes that you have made in that test which can then lead to not adopting new ways to improve yourself which then leads to getting bad grades in future tests because you have not identify your mistakes and properly correct them. So, instead of thinking “it could have been worse”, maybe try finding out why it went the way it did, and find ways to prevent it from happening again.
From a different perspective, to tell someone “it could have been worse” can indirectly invalidate someone’s emotions and feelings. Experiences and emotions are incomparable, ever. Everyone has different coping mechanisms and capabilities to deal with a situation emotionally because everyone grew up with different mindsets and are taught different things growing up. For example, two people that are experiencing the exact same situation can give two completely different emotions. And to tell someone that they didn’t have it “as bad” can cause them to dismiss their emotions and possibly never address them as they would think that the emotion that they are currently experiencing are wrong and that they should be “grateful” because it “could have been worse”. This can be very harmful to their mental health especially when the person starts to bottle up their feelings which can ultimately reach a breaking point.
Of course, positivity also brings a lot to the table. Positivity motivates us to strive for the best and achieve our goals to the best of our abilities. As K.M.Golland once said, “Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, love and loss. And life would not be worth experiencing if it weren’t just that. You can’t have the good without the bad, you need to somehow learn to accept the bad and adjust it in a way that you can endure and overcome”. Life is perfectly balanced with positivity and negativity. Negativity helps us evaluate our mistakes and positivity helps us get through a bad day! It is okay to feel down sometimes, just make sure to pick yourself back up again and conquer whatever challenges come your way.
Right on ! Every cloud has a silver lining.
Keep up the good work, RW.
Nice write Rou Win!
It causes guilt : It sends a message that if you aren t finding a way to feel positive, even in the face of tragedy, that you are doing something wrong. It avoids authentic human emotion: Toxic positivity functions as an avoidance mechanism. When other people engage in this type of behavior, it allows them to avoid emotional situations that might make them feel uncomfortable. But sometimes we turn these same ideas on ourselves, internalizing these toxic ideas. When we feel difficult emotions, we then discount, dismiss, and deny them.