Avoiding Toxic Positivity
You choose how you feel! You’re creating your own reality! Change your focus, change your life! I embraced happiness and ignore my haters and look where it got me!
We all hear this kind of talk endlessly on social media. Some of our friends on a spiritual path say things like this too. It seems harmless on the surface, but a closer look reveals some subtle problems with over glorifying bliss.
These problems aren’t just something we’re nitpicking over, either. They can be insidious. If you’re surprised to hear that take, let’s get into what toxic positivity is and how it can harm instead of help.
What Is Toxic Positivity?
Toxic positivity boils down to a couple of things. First, it places heavy importance on your responsibility. It seems great, right? It’s potentially harmful because it’s a sort of spiritual victim-blaming. You’re responsible for everything that’s happening to you because you focused on the wrong thing, drew negative experiences to you, and even have a karmic debt to pay.
The second aspect of toxic positivity is the instance on or appearance of constantly being happy. You never focus on or mention any negative feelings or experiences. Everything is amazing and awesome and you’re a fully evolved human who has transcended sadness, anger, grief, and spite.
Why Is This Kind Of Thinking Problematic?
We WANT you to focus more on positive things. We encourage you constantly to realize that your patterns of thinking can have a huge impact on how you make your way through the world. All of that is helpful.
It becomes an issue, however, when we start truncating the human experience by invalidating any unpleasant emotions. Here’s why.
- Your ‘negative’ experiences are opportunities to learn about yourself and the world around you;
- It’s impossible to be happy and positive all the time and toxicity occurs when we feel we’ve failed because we don’t feel great; (diet analogy)
- A resistance on only positive emotions and experiences can actually harm our empathy for others who are experiencing difficult times;
- It’s unrealistic and unachievable;
- It encourages us to bury pain, trauma, and grief instead of moving through them in a healthy way.
We could go on, but we bet you’ve gotten the point now. Here’s another thing… do you take people who sound like this seriously? Do you feel connected to them and relate to them? We are all about living authentic lives and constant positivity isn’t authentic for most of us.
Your Emotions Are The Wind In Space
We try to cultivate a life that honors the concept that our feelings are something we experience and not a core facet of who we are. They’re transient and can change in an instant.
If you focus on ONLY being positive all the time, you’re attaching to an emotional state. That’s not ideal for growth and understanding.
Over time, this can lead to depression, feelings of inadequacy, and a sort of semi-detached state of being. That’s one of the reasons people who behave like this are grating. They want you to believe you’re just jealous. Instead, we suggest that the authentic part of you is sensing a disconnect in them.
How To Avoid Toxic Positivity
But, Skara Fam, I want to be positive!
We hear that. We try to live positivity as well. You can do that without being disconnected and unrealistic.
We have several posts about our tactics for reframing your thinking and avoiding the pitfalls of getting stuck in emotional ruts. We think it’s more about recognizing and accepting that bad things happen and then moving through that experience to the other side.
What’s that mean in real terms?
Non Toxic Positivity Mindsets
If you lose your job, you have some real problems that can’t be avoided, right? You have bills to pay and you’re scared and maybe even hurt. If you try to shove those feelings down, they’ll either distract you subconsciously or rear up later to sabotage your focus.
If you choose a mindset like, ok, this is bad, and it’s ok to feel terrible about this right now. But that won’t help me in the long run, so I need to feel that and move past it to find solutions. What can I do right now to really integrate these negative feelings, then find new, creative ways to think about this problem, then implement some goals to work toward to change my situation and how I’m feeling.
Another example is, ok, I feel terrible today. Tomorrow might be better so I’ll nurture hope. I’ll be kind to myself today and give myself space to feel these feelings. Then, I’ll try to do something to help myself feel better.
There’s power in positivity, but also in bouncing back. These are the kinds of experiences that build character.
You Aren’t Creating Your Reality
The things you focus on do take up a lot of space in what you experience as reality. It’s true. We also sometimes get stuck in patterns where our behavior draws undesirable things to us. In many ways, we do create our own reality, but we implore you to stay fluid around this concept because it can easily get problematic.
In a perfect world, you choose your reactions. You choose your emotions and your mindset. Choose joy, be positive, ignore the haters. Most of the time these are good things.
However, sometimes bad things happen. It’s what you do next that makes the real difference.
Keep Your Perspective
If it helps you to believe you’re attracting all of your experiences, we love that for you. We simply encourage you to give yourself a break when bad things happen that feel out of your control. It is healthy to ask yourself, could I do something different to avoid this in the future? Do I share some of this responsibility for what happened?
It’s not healthy to believe you contracted an illness or ended up in an abusive interaction because you’re working off karmic debt or weren’t positive enough.
Our Collective Space
The last thing we have to say about this, for now, comes down to the space we are co-creating in society. We’re talking about both online (where toxic positivity rules) and in real life.
Do we want a more inclusive society where we relate more to each other and empathize? Do we value all the emotions in our human experience and want to help others and ourselves? Or, do we want to live in a world where we only show the best parts of ourselves and others feel inadequate as often as they feel inspired?
Try Working Toward Harmony, Not Toxic Positivity
We hope you’ll walk through life with us in a kind and holistic way. That’s the balanced path. That’s true harmony.
But don’t listen to us, we aren’t your guru. Take this blog post and give it some thought. If parts of it help you, that’s amazing. If it doesn’t, discard it until and unless you need it.
Because you might not be completely responsible for everything that happens to you, but you are responsible for what you do next. Most of the time, anyway.