Fake positivity is TOXIC.
Here’s a guide on how
to feel your feelings.
Definition and Examples
Fake positivity, more commonly known as toxic positivity, involves adopting an unhealthy ‘positive’ mindset to shield yourself from facing the harsh reality of a difficult situation. To make it simple, it’s an easier way to cope and not think of the effed-up situation you’re in—the “goOd viBEs onLy” mindset.
Don’t you find it annoying when you’re in a really depressing situation, only for someone to try and “comfort” you with phrases like “there are people who have gone through worse than this, cheer up and don’t think about it,” or even as simple as “stay positive, look on the brighter side” even though there’s literally no brighter side with the situation you’re in? These well-intentioned yet misguided attempts at consolation can actually be bothersome rather than helpful! Especially when there’s no silver lining to your predicament.
What’s particularly irksome is when people respond to someone’s loss with trite phrases like “everything happens for a reason” or “just pray.” Like…hello? Allow people to feel that pain, to grieve fully, and never take that chance away from them.
You might encounter receiving these supposed “comforting” words from a friend, colleague, or, in many cases, parent, who might shower you with cliché positivity quotes in GIFs and images. However, it’s important to recognize that this approach isn’t just mentally and emotionally unhealthy; it can also take a toll on one’s physical well-being. So read on to learn why it is crucial to feel your feelings.
Other Toxic Positivity Examples
- Dismissing your feelings under the guise of “staying strong” to maintain a positive façade.
- Shaming people when they genuinely complain about something, making them feel stupid, invalidated, and question themselves.
- Telling people to shut off their feelings and stop complaining about something just because negativity irritates you.
Why Do People Engage In Toxic Positivity?
At times, it’s easier to numb yourself and grow accustomed to negative emotions. It’s way easier to just unplug and disconnect from reality—this is especially prevalent among individuals who have gone through traumatic experiences.
You want to be strong, or at least look strong in other people’s eyes, not to be a nuisance in any way and burden others with your baggage. This behavior often serves as a coping mechanism.
Why Is It Problematic Not To Feel Your Feelings?
While many things remain out of our control, just like our feelings, we do retain power over our reactions.
When people enforce these fake positivity lines, it’s problematic for several reasons. Firstly, it encourages others to suppress their feelings, despite well-intentioned wishes. Second of all, it’s the opposite of being sympathetic. Though well-meaning, these fake positivity lines invalidate others’ feelings, inadvertently causing guilt and shame.
And for those who often practice this toxic positivity mindset, I want you to know that this is a form of self-sabotage. You’re just tossing away these negative feelings you should go through—letting them build up inside you, which can go wrong if not properly addressed.
In a bullet-point list, here’s why it’s problematic not to feel your feelings:
- It hinders personal growth.
- It fosters feelings of shame and guilt.
- It negatively impacts mental, emotional, and physical well-being. (Yes, you might feel “okay” for the mean time when you keep ghosting your emotions, but these repressed emotions often resurface in the long run, and they could haunt you until you really deal with them.)
Toxic positivity can be likened to gaslighting. It makes someone question what they truly feel and think.
The best way to deal with difficult situation is… well, to deal with them. Feel your feelings. Now, the question is, how do you actually feel your feelings?
How To Feel Your Feelings
The right way to actually feel your feelings.
1. Name the feeling.
Whether you’re seething with anger, overwhelmed by sadness, or experiencing a complex mix of contrasting feelings—A.K.A. bittersweet or any kinds of emotion that exists, it’s important to identify whatever it is you’re feeling and pinpoint the dominant emotion.
- What am I feeling? What led me to feel like this?
- I’m feeling a rollercoaster of emotions, but which one stands out?
2. Manage your negative emotions, but don’t ever deny them.
Surely, everyone’s heard of the cliche line, “It’s okay to not be okay.” That’s the approach we want to take in this step. Now is the time to genuinely acknowledge your distressing emotions.
For instance, upon receiving troubling news that triggers feelings of grief or anger, the best thing to do is let the information sink in. Find a comfortable, safe space, whether alone or with someone you trust, and once again absorb the bad news (or information) and let your real emotions flow. Let it out.
- “I feel betrayed and I hate it. This day just couldn’t get any worse.”
- “I lost the competition, I feel like I didn’t deserve to get the last place not gonna lie.”
It’s alright. You are entitled to what you feel. It’s never invalid.
After acknowledging and expressing these negative emotions, take a deep breath.
3. Give yourself some time to listen to your feeling and process your thoughts.
Facing unpleasant news often triggers intense initial reactions. It’s not impossible for someone to react poorly when they receive bad news. And so taking a step back and allowing yourself some time to process your thoughts and feelings is a better way to respond. Make sure that you’re thinking logically before you give yourself a chance to say or do unpleasant things to others.
- Once you’ve acknowledged and given some time to process your thoughts and feelings, consider the appropriate, rational steps.
- What is it that you feel like you need or need to do at the moment? Is it physical (you need a rest, a hug, a change of scenery, or whatever it is)? Is it emotional (you want to feel validated, loved, and cared for by someone)? Take the time you need to search for the best solution to your problems.
4. Let go.
Now that you’ve taken the time to feel your feelings, you’re already one step ahead by doing a good job of not robbing yourself of the opportunity to deeply feel your emotions. But these yucky feelings can’t stay with you forever; you’ll have to let them go.
It’s unhealthy to stay mad about something for a really long time; this affects not only you but also those people around you by bringing negative energy around them.
As Harvard-trained brain scientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor explains, feelings are meant to deliver their message and then leave within about 90 seconds. When you find yourself holding onto an emotion beyond that point, it might be a result of your thoughts rekindling it.
Honestly, following all of these steps may prove more challenging than it sounds, especially for overthinkers. Successfully doing these steps takes practice, but it’s hella worth it for your mental health.
Is Being Stoic A Form of Toxic Positivity?
While there can be some surface-level similarities between stoicism and toxic positivity, the core principles and intentions of these concepts are quite distinct. Stoicism promotes emotional resilience and self-mastery while recognizing and accepting the full range of human emotions.
Toxic positivity, on the other hand, involves suppressing negativity and glossing over real issues. It’s important to understand the nuances of each concept and avoid misinterpreting stoicism as a form of toxic positivity when discussing emotional well-being and personal growth.
Toxic Positivity vs. Optimism
Toxic positivity represents an unhealthy approach to shutting down your feelings when faced with a difficult situation, keeping your emotions someplace else, and leaving them there to build up. In contrast, optimism involves accepting harsh reality while believing that it’s not the end of the world just because something adverse has happened.
Optimists truly acknowledge the difficulty of their situation but also maintain faith that things will get better with time. Being optimistic means being resilient and hopeful while dealing with a difficult situation, whereas toxic positivity amounts to outright denial of what’s really happening.
What To Say Instead
- (☓) Everything happens for a reason. — (✓) Well, that sucks. But I’m here for you no matter what.
- (☓) Happiness is a choice. — (✓) Your feelings are valid.
- (☓) There are people that are dying. (Plus point to you if you get the reference on this one) — (✓) That is indeed frustrating.
- (☓) This is positive vibe zone only! — (✓) You’re very welcome to share your thoughts in this space.
- (☓) Look on the bright side. — (✓) Failure and pain are sometimes part of life. What happened was unfortunate, but you’ll get there. I believe in you!
Or, you know what? Sometimes, the best thing to do is not say anything at all. Simply listening to their rant is more than enough. Fake positivity sucks. No one deserves to hear any of these lines.
Toxic positivity comes in a lot of subtle ways. Everyone needs to know how to avoid this behavior and instead encourage the genuine expression of emotions. Additionally, we should focus on using supportive and empathetic statements rather than resorting to clichéd, unhelpful, and toxic lines.
Letting go is a skill that we learn as we grow up. Letting go of worries and negativity is entirely different from toxic positivity. It’s important to remember that most (but not all) things in life, including emotions, pain, and suffering, are temporary.
Life isn’t always about sunshine and rainbows; it’s totally okay to not be okay.
If you have some thoughts to share, feel free to drop a comment below.
The information provided in this article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment in any way. You acknowledge and agree that King Kat shall not be liable for any claim, loss, or damage resulting from the use of, or reliance on, any information in the article.
Katarina Rachel is the founder of King Kat and also one of its content writers and editors. A multipassionate who is a fashion stylist and blogger, musician-producer, solopreneur, social commentator, and former social media manager-marketer, with a huge enthusiasm for lifestyle, wellness, online careers, entrepreneurship, controversies, philosophy, and social media.
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