Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of “Good Vibes Only”
The 21st century has seen the rise of social media and a shift in the way people view positivity. Positivity, like many other things, has become a commodity. A quick google search reveals ten positive Instagram blogs you can follow, which claim to boost your positivity.
But how beneficial is this flood of positive content really? Is positive reframing as helpful as people say it is? Is it possible that the good vibes-only approach is causing more harm than good?
Positivity is a good thing, but toxic positivity is not. If you’re wondering how to tell the difference between the two, you’ve come to the right place. This article will act as your helpful guide.
When Does Positivity Turn Toxic?
It’s hard to tell when looking at the world through an optimistic lens does more harm than good. Often, you don’t realize that your optimism is misguided until it’s far too late.
Generally, positivity goes toxic when pushed as the one state of mind that should triumph above all others. Human beings have a whole spectrum of emotions, thoughts, and experiences, and to only validate the positive ones is to severely limit the way you look at the world. When you restrict the way you look at the world, you’re more likely to suffer from delusions.
Toxic positivity becomes worse when it’s linked to a toxic positivity culture. It is prevalent on the internet.
It’s incredibly easy for someone to stumble upon the social media page of a person who uses a good vibes-only approach. The person doesn’t see the whole side of the poster’s life, instead, only seeing the constant positivity. This overwhelming positivity causes our protagonist to doubt themself — if this person can feel positive all the time, why can’t I?
But it gets worse than that. The person, wanting to emulate this style of positivity, only posts about the good things that happen in their life and enforces the “good vibes only” mindset. Soon enough, another person stumbles upon their social media page.
Positivity is extremely important in living everyday life, but it becomes toxic when people develop a cult-like devotion to it. If you adopt a mentality that “good things happen to good people”, you’re not readying yourself for the random pains that life can throw.
Bad things happen in life, and they happen to good people too. At its very worst, toxic positivity tells people that bad things happen to them because they don’t have the right mindset. If a positive mentality is making you doubt your own experiences, it’s toxic.
Why Forcing Positivity Is Bad
Forcing positivity causes guilt. When something bad happens to someone, and their loved ones respond with quotes like “happiness is a choice,” “turn this into a positive,” “there’s a silver lining in every cloud,” and “look on the bright side,” they’re automatically putting a level of blame on the person affected. This is why it’s imperative to know how to get help for your loved ones.
Forcing positivity might also just be downright ineffective. If someone is going through mental health struggles, financial struggles, or the death of a loved one, often there isn’t any way to spin it positively. It could cause someone to look to positivity for answers that only medical professionals can provide.
When you force positivity, you vastly restrict your tools for looking at the world. Though not every emotion is pleasurable, they all have their place. If you’re trying to force yourself only to be excited about a big test you have coming off, you’re getting rid of the drive that nervousness can cause.
Fear is an extreme emotion that can help you get out of tough situations. It can make you realize when something important needs to change. When someone forces positivity on you, they’re often forcing you to accept the status quo and not improve your life.
Forcing positivity can also lead to suppressed emotions. Often, you can’t cause your negative emotions to disappear, and they’ll come back even stronger when you least expect it. It’s better to deal with every emotion that you experience, rather than powering through it.
Positivity is a Drug
Motivational videos, positivity Instagrams posts, and self-help books are designed to make you feel happier. However, they’re also designed to sell you something.
You might feel your mood lift after reading an inspiring quote, but pay attention to the way you feel after. You may very well feel a comedown — like a positivity hangover. After the hit of inspiration, you might not be inspired to change your life. But you may be inspired to seek more inspiration and buy whatever product is being sold.
Positivity can isolate you when it’s not used correctly. If you’re so positive that you refuse to believe that bad things can happen to you, you’re effectively living in a different world. Like someone on drugs experiencing hallucinations, you respond to impulses and events that just aren’t real.
Stay Away From Toxic Positivity
Positivity is a good thing — it helps you constructively live your life. However, it can be overused. Someone so focused on the positivity that they start to ignore reality is engaged in toxic positivity, not rational positivity.
The internet is a good thing, but it undoubtedly leads to the growth of toxic positivity. Always make sure you’re checking your beliefs and the emotions you’re feeling, and examine where they came from.
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