Toxic Positivity: Definition, Problems, and How to Avoid Them

Ilma Haider

18 August 2023

6 Mins

Toxic positivity is the belief that everyone should have an approach of positivity at all times towards everything, no matter how difficult the problems are or how many hardships there are. Toxic positivity has primarily seen a trending rise with the ever growing obsession and mantra of gaining so called ‘good vibes’. Most of the time, the expression and feeling of having any other emotion is asked to be dismissed.

What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity is a trait of remaining happy and expressing happiness to others at all times. In many cases, toxic positive people can push others to do the same. Even though forcing positivity is toxic, people do it and therefore making it difficult for many people to express their real emotions.

For many people, the expectation of staying positive in all situations can many times harm a person’s health. Therefore causing people to feel like a failure.

toxic positivity

Why is Toxic Positivity Unhealthy?

Being a positive person can generally have a good and healthy impact on your life. A positive attitude always looks mindful. But when someone is pressured into remaining positive with a disregard towards the situation, such as the extent of loss, grief, or other issues, it can become a toxic trait.

Toxic positivity can have many forms. For example, cheerfulness, comparison, dismissiveness, or enforced guilt for feeling non-positive.

There are many expressions one can look out for that depict when a person is repeatedly enforcing toxic positivity. Some of these include:

  • Positive vibes only.
  • Everything has a reason behind it.
  • It could have been worse.
  • Failing is not an option for anyone.
  • Many people have it much worse.
  • Stop being negative.
  • Stay positive in all sorts of life.
  • Just be positive.
  • Always look on the bright side.
  • Only have happy thoughts.
  • Time will make you get over it.

Types of Toxic Positivity

So many times people portray toxic positivity so skilfully, that it can go completely unnoticed. People can easily heighten somebody else’s anxiety levels or panic attacks and be unaware of the fact. Why? Because even today we fail to recognize the impact of toxic positivity psychology on someone's health.

There are mainly two types of experiences:

1. Intentionally Forced On Self

This kind of toxic positivity is from ourselves. It is when someone constantly tries to force positive energy and ignores all the bad impact it has on our health. Most cases can be seen as self-comparison, therefore leading to negative emotions.

*2. Forced On Others Or Having Received It From Someone Else

We all know forcing positivity is toxic. This kind of toxic positivity is when people go through rough patches in their lives and the only form of help they receive from others is a positive statement. Toxic positive statements can be received from family members, friends, social media channels, etc.

The Unrealized Consequences of Toxic Positivity

Staying positive all the time can become exhausting for many people. It can drain out all your energy, and can have a major impact on one’s mental health. Some of these consequences also include:

1. Feeling of Guilt

Happiness is a person's choice, but sadness and grief can not be. A person can not choose to be unhappy. Unhappiness comes from a series of traumatic and undesirable experiences. The same is with happiness; a person has to go through desirable happy moments to feel happy truly. The most important thing for our mental health is to thoroughly understand and recognize our emotions, rather than staying positive at all times. Enforcing too many positive vibes can be harmful, and with too much positivity, with time, we start to feel shameful and guilty for not feeling negative emotions at all.

2. Feeling Isolated

Many times we can feel a loss of connection with others because we are scared of their judgemental thoughts. When people force us to be happy all the time, we can slowly start to suppress our true emotions. With time we fail to accept our entire self.

Then the question arises of ‘how can someone else be expected to connect with you if you are not yourself entirely?’

We can see the power of toxic positivity on social media. Social media is a big part of this. The continued bombardment of staying positive has hugely affected so many people's mental health. We forget that social media is a filtered version of everyone's life. Toxic positivity can also arise because of feelings of anxiety and guilt of not being productive with our day. But sometimes it is okay to realize that not being positive and productive is also healthy.

3. Suppressed Emotions

This is the most common thing. It is when we avoid our negative emotions by covering them with ‘feel-good’ statements. We need to constantly remind ourselves of how suppressing our emotions can slowly destroy us from within. Building our stems of emotions can also lead to anxiety issues, stress, depression, etc.

**How to Avoid Toxic Positivity from Getting to You

journaling toxic positivity

1. Start Journaling

One of the best ways to let our emotions out is by writing a journal. You can let out your stressors from life without any judgment. A blank page can carry your anxious, depressive, and stressful moments of life. Journaling will also allow you to keep records of your positive and negative emotions, and teach you opportunities for emotional growth. Journaling also provides you with psychological distance from problems.

2. Yoga

Yoga gives you the ability to showcase your emotions through your body. It not only heals you physically but also builds your strength from the inside. Yoga finds your emotional balance, and processes your stressful emotions, therefore giving you a balanced state of mind.

3. Self-Care Routines

Self-care can have a different definition for everyone. If you are still in the process of finding yours, exercising, sleeping, and connecting more with your friends and loved ones can help deal with inbuilt pain in the meantime..

**4. Therapist or Support Groups

Therapists are specially equipped to help us truly understand our emotions from within and help fight them. You can also find help by joining a support group. Support groups will give you more confidence in dealing with your emotions as you will be surrounded by a community of people who have gone through similar things in life, a space to let your feelings out when you feel like you have no one to talk to.

Repeated blasts of toxic positivity quotes can also push people to only focus on our positive emotions, even if we face any kinds of negative feelings or have any levels of stress. Toxic positivity can make us believe only positive thinking is healthy and non-positivity is bad.

But the main thing to remember is to know struggling is okay, and Now&Me allows you to realize that. Sign up with us to join a platform that helps you process your emotions openly with like minded people online.


1. How to Stop Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity can be stopped by generating awareness in the minds of the young and old generations. The need to educate people about the importance of discussing unhappy or stressful thoughts is just as important as discussing happy thoughts. Also, change will come when we stop pretending that anxiety, depression, stress, etc do not exist or can be overcome with a “good vibe attitude”. It is a denial of trauma and can cause much bigger problems with time.

2. What is Toxic Positivity In The Workplace?

Toxic positivity is defined as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations in a human. Toxic positivity can cause problems with productivity in the workplace. Instead, an employee's problem should be taken into serious consideration. Listen to the feedback, always be compassionate, and try to provide solutions.

3. What Causes Toxic Positivity?

There are several reasons behind the cause of toxic positivity, the biggest being societal norms. Putting a lot of pressure on yourself to be happy all the time will eventually lead to being unhappy. This happens because when we are constantly trying to be happy, irrespective of the situation, we are bound to feel sad when we experience negative emotions. Normal human behavior is to accept the emotions as they come and go, so when you hold onto positivity and refuse to acknowledge anything remotely negative by driving it away with more positive thoughts, you are ultimately paving the way for unhappiness.

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