Good Vibes Only: The Danger of Toxic Positivity
I was riding in my cousin's car frustrated and feeling emotionally suppressed. Tears were right there at the surface. Feeling guilty because I felt that if I were to share myself I would ruin our time together, caught somewhere between feeling embarrassed by my negativity and longing to be seen.
I had spent that week surrounded by motivational quotes, "keep your head up" "stay strong" "smile through the tears".
Exhausted from suppressing my feeling, and feeling ashamed for not being satisfied with my life. I didn't understand that what I was experiencing was my own projection of toxic positivity.
What is Toxic Positivity?
Portraying yourself to be happy/positive when you are not and/or encouraging others to only see the positive/happy in their lives and ignore the negative/unhappy.
It seemed I was living in my own toxic positive world for quite some time. Telling everyone, including myself, that everything was okay, that I was doing great, feeling great. Posting pictures of myself smiling just so when people asked I could tell them "but don't you see I am happy?"
Toxic Postivitivy is everywhere and with social media, we are encouraged to see good vibes only. But, here's the truth, when we aren't really feeling that way that is okay!
The Dangers of #GoodVibesOnly
Doesn't allow for emotional authenticity
Though some may see it as being motivational pushing yourself or others to "have good vibes only" wipes away your ability to process your authentic feelings. It creates a limited spectrum of self-expression, leaving us feeling guilty, confused, and numb. In order to heal from our pain, we must process through it and allow ourselves space and validation to express ourselves in a healthy manner.
There's a difference between support and toxic positivity
Providing a safe space for someone else's feelings and vulnerability is an essential part of allowing them to be the most authentic version of themselves. In order to do this, we have to take an active listening role while validating their emotional expressions, whatever that may be. By simply expressing that they change their way of thinking or offering tips and solutions to become "more positive" doesn't allow us to do this. It can actually damage the other person's emotional expression.
There is a difference between wanting to see the positive in a situation or re-framing your thoughts to reduce your negative self-talk and suppressing your emotions. The difference is validating those feelings-processing them and allowing yourself to move forward without self-judgment or guilt.
I was sitting in my cousin's car and I could feel the tears on the surface, but I took the chance that day and I was vulnerable. I broke through my own toxic positivity and reached out to tell her I was in fact not okay. Telling her I needed someone anyone to see me and that I needed help seeing myself. I was met with validation and support and I am so grateful to have the people in my life that I do who honor my space and I will continue to honor others in the same way.
Here is a reminder that your feelings, no matter how they arise, are valid and though they may not always be positive they are yours to process, work through, and let go of. You are understood and it's okay to feel however you are feeling.