Toxic positivity: Too much of a good thing

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By Devon Rocke, Co-Managing Editor “Your attitude is the only thing standing in your way!”  “Good vibes only!”  “Let go of everything that weighs you down!”  These are just a few of the “inspirational” quotes I have seen on social media promoting toxic positivity. According to Psychology Today, toxic positivity “refers to the concept that...

By Devon Rocke, Co-Managing Editor

“Your attitude is the only thing standing in your way!” 

“Good vibes only!”

 “Let go of everything that weighs you down!” 

These are just a few of the “inspirational” quotes I have seen on social media promoting toxic positivity.

According to Psychology Today, toxic positivity “refers to the concept that keeping positive, and keeping positive only, is the right way to live your life.” However, having a positive mindset does not equate needing positivity in every single aspect in life. Negative emotions are often justified, but toxic positivity invalidates these feelings.

When I am going through a rough patch and open my phone to see what my friends have sent to me over social media, I am bombarded with these useless “positive affirmations” that often sour my mood even more. Seldom do I find a positive message online that actually improves my mood and inspires me to make a change in my life. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, toxic positivity has only increased. The pandemic spawned account after account online that all spewed the same message: “Everything will be okay! Good things are right around the corner!” Both of these phrases reference the future instead of focusing on the present. Instead of only focusing on the good that might come in the future, we need to embrace the idea that not feeling not okay is okay.The belief that good things are to come may be true, but in the midst of a time of uncertainty, reinforcing this idea makes it more of an empty promise than an uplifting phrase.

Medical News Today states, “Not acknowledging (negative) emotions means ignoring the action they can inspire. Moreover, failing to talk about them will not make them go away.” We are allowed to grieve, to be angry, to stress just as much as we are allowed to be happy and relaxed.

Instead of preaching only positivity and placing a stigma behind feelings that are labeled as “negative,” we should teach healthy coping mechanisms to help people when they inevitably find themselves in negative situations. For example, reaching out to others, giving themselves time to process what they are feeling, taking up self-care and other healthy coping mechanisms that are catered to them.

Although straying from toxic, constant positivity is necessary, this change shouldn’t mean switching to a solely negative mindset. Both positivity and negativity are destructive when one greatly outweighs the other. Striking a balance between the two is a crucial part of leading an emotionally healthy life.

Positivity shouldn’t simply be a default setting on our feelings. Yes, we need to allow ourselves to look on the bright side, but sometimes there is no silver lining to a situation. In those instances, we need to process how we feel and find a healthy way to cope rather than suppressing emotions that are just as valid.


Devon Rocke can be reached at [email protected]

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