July 2, 2022 7 Min Read
Why Being Positive All the Time Isn’t a Good Thing
Have you ever felt ‘personally victimized’ when someone says to you… “no bad days,” or “just be positive,” when you’re going through a particularly devastating experience? Whatever you answered, chances are, you can relate in some capacity. Say hello to toxic positivity. You’ve seen it plenty of times before—when someone stays positive all the time—even when the situation warrants a different response. And let’s be honest…you likely know at least one person who is so positive that you almost can’t stand to be around them.
But you also know that working toward finding empathy and optimism can help you overcome difficulties, decrease depression, and help you live a longer & more fulfilled life.
On the other hand, falling into the trap of listening to those incessant negative thoughts all the time isn’t helpful either. Unfortunately, a common response for quieting the inner critic, is resorting to false reassurances (also known as—yep, you guessed it—toxic positivity). The solution sounds simple: find a middle-ground between acting perfectly happy & bubbly all the time (yes…it is annoying), and sinking into never-ending negative thought loops.
Easier said than done.
So, how do you strike the right balance between true positivity and being purely honest with yourself (are you suppressing emotions & leaning into toxic positivity)?
Here are three simple ideas for how to stay grounded and optimistic:
1. Stay Pragmatic
The purpose of cultivating a positive mindset is to help you handle stress and pursue your goals. It can help you stay disciplined and focused. But it’s not there to be a cure-all for your life. As humans, we can expect things to go wrong. We’ll miss the promotion, lose a loved-one, or get a life-changing diagnosis.
Pushing yourself to be positive during negative situations is more than hard. It’s also counter-productive, according to Coach Taiwo Olajide.
Learning to look for lessons in difficult situations is different from forcing yourself to be happy about those same situations. Lessons can lead to personal growth and insight. Forced positivity can lead to minimizing your human experiences.
2. Be Human
Being open and honest with yourself about your emotions is more helpful than forcing positivity on yourself. When you recognize and validate your emotions, you can become a better communicator. And when you allow yourself to experience the full range of emotions, you are often more able to work through your negative emotions.
It’s important to recognize that being human means having both positive and negative emotions, says Coach Haley Smith.
Focusing on gratitude instead of happiness allows you to stay grounded regardless of your immediate mental state. When you practice gratitude while you’re having negative emotions, it allows you to shift your perspective. In turn, that perspective change can help you see your way out of the negative emotion, without “faking” it.
For example, if you lose out on an opportunity for a career advancement, you may feel negative emotions like frustration or resentment. Acknowledging—but not judging—your possible negative emotions enables you to also practice gratitude for the time you now have to discover where you can develop your skill set prior to a future promotion. This can help you frame the missed opportunity in a more neutral way. It shows you a way through strong emotions by letting you feel the negative emotions, while also experiencing positive emotions.
3. Accept Yourself
Working to cultivate a positive mindset while not falling into false positivity means understanding your own areas of weakness. Instead of telling others you’re always doing well, be honest (both with yourself, and with others). Accept the truth, even when it’s challenging, and be brave enough to admit you have room for improvement.
Recognizing your own humanity is a key part of accepting yourself, says Coach Andrew Ettenhofer.
Remember to use your mistakes, faults, and weaknesses as opportunities to grow. And know that positivity is generally a helpful emotion, especially when you are able to remain grounded in the reality of experiencing all other human emotions.
Practicing positivity without falling into toxic positivity takes practice. A key tool is to remember that we’re all humans and negative emotions are part of the human experience. Knowing you’re going to feel negative emotions can help you accept them more easily. Take the time to check in with yourself to determine if you’re spending too much time in toxic positivity or negativity.