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The Dark Side of Positivity: How Toxic Positivity Harms Our Mental Health

Our thoughts are important

The quality of our thoughts determine the quality of our life.  What we continually think about creates our belief system which drives our behavior.  When we are focused on the positive, we tend to see the positive in all situations, even when challenges arise.  When we allow negative emotions to consume us, we see the negative in every situation.  Based on this information, it leads us to assume that the key to a happy, healthy, fulfilled life is to always be positive and avoid negativity.  Is this the best course of action to always be positive and never recognize and validate negative emotions?

Toxic Positivity

While positivity and optimism are generally beneficial, positivity can become harmful when it dismisses or invalidates genuine feelings of distress, sadness, grief, or anger.  Ignoring or dismissing negative feelings will not make them go away.  They will manifest and turn into dysfunctional behavior patterns that make communication and relationships difficult.  This false positivity, also known as toxic positivity, can be detrimental to health and well-being for the following reasons:


1.) Invalidating Emotions

When we are told to be positive all the time, genuine emotions are invalidated or dismissed, which leads to feelings of guilt, shame, and isolation, making it difficult to express and process emotions effectively.


2.) Suppression of Emotions

Constantly trying to maintain a positive façade can cause us to suppress our true emotions.  When these emotions are not acknowledged and processed, they can manifest in unhealthy ways, leading to increased stress and potential mental health issues.


3.) Denial of Reality

Denying or ignoring reality can prevent us from addressing problems and taking appropriate actions to resolve them.


4.) Unrealistic Expectations

Encouraging toxic positivity can create unrealistic expectations by making us feel as if we have to be happy all the time.  This pressure adds to stress and anxiety and manifests in feelings of failure.


5.) Avoidance of Support

When we feel the need to always be positive, we may hesitate reaching out for support during difficult times, fearing that we may be judged or seen as weak for not being positive.


6.) Masking Mental Health Issues

Toxic positivity can mask or trivialize mental health problems.  We may be reluctant to seek help for anxiety, depression, or other issues, telling ourselves we are simply not being positive enough.


7.) Interpersonal Relationships

Toxic positivity creates a lack of connection and empathy, making it difficult to foster deep, meaningful relationships with others.  When one person invalidates the other’s emotions with positive platitudes, it can strain the relationship and prevent effective communication.


8.) Preventing Personal Growth

Negative experiences and emotions can be valuable opportunities for personal growth and learning.  Being curious and reflecting on our emotions can lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves and promote resilience.  With that said, when reflection turns into self-pity and a victim mindset, it’s time to shift to a positive mindset.  Personal growth only occurs when we are reflecting on our emotions with a deep curiosity that is lacking judgement.


In conclusion, it’s essential to acknowledge that being positive all the time is not realistic and healthy.  Emotions, both positive and negative, are a natural part of the human experience.  Encouraging healthy emotional expression, empathy, and support for each other and ourselves, allows for genuine connection and contributes to improved mental health and well-being.  It’s imperative to create an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their emotions and seeking help when needed without fear of judgement or dismissal.

#toxicpositivity #stressmanagement #burnoutprevention

For additional details or questions on minimizing toxic positivity for you or your team, or to schedule a complimentary coaching session on how to lead a more balanced, happier and fulfilled life, with more impact, freedom and control, email me at


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