If, back at a time when the world came to a sudden standstill, you were infuriated by social media posts telling you to bake banana bread and stay positive, then let me tell you: you were not alone. The widespread suffering and pain around the globe were evident. Meanwhile, social media was overflowing with unsolicited advice and ways to make this ‘downtime’ productive.
There are countless books being written on the subject of positivity, even as we speak, and while positive thinking has proven psychological and physiological benefits, it is the pressure to remain consistently joyful that creates a significant issue. The term ‘Toxic Positivity’ has been around for a long time, but it took off during the pandemic when we became privy to the idea of putting a happy spin on a clearly harrowing time.
Post the pandemic, psychologists have observed a surging wave of toxic positivity amid teenagers and active consumers of social media. Forceful negligence of negative emotions is taking a severe toll on their mental health, causing them to feel shame and guilt post a depressive episode or just a bad day.
While everyone knows that Instagram is the crème de la crème of people’s lives, on some days, it is difficult not to be disparaged by someone’s rose-tinted version of their life. On those days, to make matters worse, unwanted opinions always make their way to our feeds.
“Get over it.”
These are just some of the phrases you’ll hear from a toxic positivity offender. A toxic positivity offender may be well-meaning, but by offering overly generic advice, they essentially invalidate the emotional intensity of what you are going through. We have all been receivers and givers of such advice at some point in our lives, and that’s okay, as long as we recognize that and choose to evolve into better versions of ourselves.
In many ways, true optimism is a healthier, gentler way of living a positive life, and there are a few ways in which you can get started:
- Acceptance: Anger, jealousy, sadness, and grief are very real emotions. There is no escaping them. They are what make us human. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.
- Emotional Outlets: Sometimes talking to someone you trust will help. Other times, allowing yourself to cry will do it. Check-in with yourself. Your body knows how it needs to release any pent-up negative energy.
- Be realistic: No one is happy all the time. Don’t set unattainable goals for yourself. Give yourself the space to be okay with your emotions.
The truth is that joyful days cannot exist without days that feel like you simply won’t get through. A healthy coping mechanism is never to brush those feelings under the carpet but, instead, the ability to feel everything that comes up and allow it, gently, to pass.