Toxic positivity: 7 signs that you are dismissing negative emotions

Written by Leah Sinclair

Toxic positivity involves dismissing negative emotions and responding to distress with false reassurances rather than empathy and compassion  and here are seven ways to identify it.

On the face of it, trying to remain optimistic during difficult times seems to make sense.

Whether it’s finances, friends or relationships, finding ways to look on the bright side when things aren’t going right is often used as a way to lift ourselves out of the darkness we may be feeling – and while this may be done with good intentions, its effect can sometimes be damaging.

The term often used to explain this is toxic positivity, which is something that counsellor Bobbi Banks has explored in a recent Instagram post.

“Toxic positivity involves dismissing negative emotions and responding to distress with false reassurances rather than empathy and compassion,” she wrote. “It comes from feeling uncomfortable with negative emotions.⁣”

The counsellor adds that using toxic positivity often results in the “denial, minimisation and invalidation of our emotional experience”, and in some ways, if this positivity is used to cover up or silence difficult feelings, “it can become toxic”.

But how exactly can we know when to see the good side of something and when to realise that we’re using this form of toxic positivity to avoid how we really feel?

Well, in her infographic shared on the social media platform, Banks highlighted seven key signs of toxic positivity.

Banks says one sign that we may be exhibiting toxic positivity traits is when we constantly feel we have to be the strong one and embrace a “getting on with it” mentality in addition to “deflecting and hiding how you really feel.”.

She adds that other signs include quickly dismissing negative feelings or situations and using feel-good quotes to soothe difficult feelings.⁣

The remaining three signs of toxic positivity included in the post refer to people who want everyone around them to be positive, brushing things off that bother you and feeling guilty about feeling sad, angry or upset.

In the post, which has received over 22,000 likes, many shared how toxic positivity has been something they’ve dealt with at times in their life.

“I’m guilty of this,” commented one user. “I sometimes get to the stage where I can’t be bothered and end up saying something positive to keep the peace and to stop things tipping over. I hate it. Absolutely hate it. I realise it’s time to start living and being my truth.”

Another wrote: “This used to be me until I realised that it wasn’t helping me to feel any better, if anything I was denying the parts of myself that just wanted to be acknowledged. I give myself the space to feel all that I need to feel with full validation until the authentic positivity surfaces naturally on its own which it always does.”

Meanwhile, some commentators debated the concept of toxic positivity, with one writing: “I do not really know why positivity is toxic. I prefer to feel ok even if I have to force it than to experience the deep sad feeling.”

The difference between toxic positivity and acknowledging your emotions but choosing to embrace the positives is a thin line, but by checking in with ourselves and recognising whether we are sweeping our emotions under the rug or merely not letting that be a driving force in our day-to-day lives can be a key way of identifying that difference and ensuring that we are tapping into how we feel for the benefit of our own wellbeing.

Image: Getty

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