When Positivity Becomes Forced: Understanding Toxic Positivity
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When Positivity Becomes Forced: Understanding Toxic Positivity

When Positivity Becomes Forced: Understanding Toxic Positivity

In recovery and life, you are likely encouraged to stay optimistic, upbeat, and positive. While this might seem like good advice, and to an extent it is, taking it too far can become a toxic detriment to your life. Toxic positivity is the extreme and overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. You likely understand that different situations present different challenges and sometimes call for other emotions to help you cope because they are more complex than just minimizing it with happiness.

In recovery, you should be proactive and motivated to handle situations; however, toxic positivity can result in denial and invalidation of the range of human emotional experiences. Like anything done to excess, positivity becomes toxic if used to cover up or silence other feelings and emotions. A big proponent of recovery requires feeling the range of all your feelings to discover more about yourself and how you think and behave.

If you suspect that you have been defaulting to toxic positivity, it may be time to look for the signs to understand toxic positivity better. Doing so can help you acknowledge why it is detrimental to your life, recovery, and best success.

Signs of Toxic Positivity

If you have been using toxic positivity to mask your true feelings, you will want to reassess your approach. Trying to “get on with it” is dismissive of emotions and only further suppresses negative thoughts and feelings, only to unleash themselves at another time. You might also use toxic positivity because you feel guilty for how you truly feel about a situation. When you mask your true feelings, you minimize your and others' experiences, which simplifies what you or someone else is going through and doesn't validate the emotional experience. Toxic positivity can also come with a “high horse;” that is, you might begin judging or even shaming others for expressing sadness, anger, or frustration. You also might put up walls around you; when this happens, your go-to phrase might become “it is what it is.”

Feelings of Shame

When you force a positive outlook on pain, it keeps you silent about your struggles. You might think this is healthy, but you might also be protecting yourself because you don't want to be seen as struggling, so you pretend like everything is going great. However, some studies have shown that the energy source of shame is silence, secrecy, and judgment. In other words, where there are secrets, hiding, and denial, shame is too often in the driver's seat.

Shame is debilitating to the human experience and among one of the most uncomfortable feelings you can have. Sometimes you might not even realize that shame is affecting you. If you suspect that shame is causing you to default to toxic positivity, try to understand the source of it. You can start by asking yourself: “If I told others this one thing about me, what might they think?” If you can fill in the blanks with a feeling or experience, it is likely a source of shame. When you can locate the shame, you can work with a therapist, counselor, or friend from your support network to overcome it and cope.

Suppressing Emotions

Denying feelings creates stress on the body, including mental and physical wellbeing. Overtime, rejecting these feelings will only lead to more distressing thoughts and feelings. It is essential to acknowledge the reality of your emotions. Instead of ignoring or suppressing them, try to verbalize them. Verbalizing your feelings helps to transport the negative feelings and energy to a place out of yourself. Doing this helps relieve yourself of the tension caused by withholding your genuine emotions.

When you honor your feelings, you embrace all of yourself, including the good and the bad. Accepting yourself is an essential step in recovery; not only does it reveal who you are and where you're at, but it teaches you how to correct the behavior attached to negative feelings and emotions. However, you will need to correct the behavior in a healthy way – not by telling yourself and others you're doing great.

Experiencing Isolation

If you deny the truth, you start to live inauthentically with yourself and the world around you. You can begin to lose connection with yourself, which makes it difficult to connect to others and, likewise, for others to connect with you. Part of the reason you might become unapproachable to others is that you convey that you will only accept positive thoughts in your presence. Therefore, others might reserve opening up to you. Consequently, you and your company are not being themselves.

Ultimately, the relationship you have with yourself reflects the kinds of relationships you have with others. If you cannot be honest about your feelings, how can you reserve space for others to share their feelings with you? Not only do you risk creating inauthentic and superficial relationships, but you might begin to isolate yourself from others altogether because you feel that they don't support your “positive vibes.”

While being positive is encouraged and useful in life, being a fully realized healthy human means being conscious of yourself and how you show up in the world. Transmitting toxic positivity hurts yourself and others. At START UP RECOVERY, we work on all facets of your thoughts and emotions to help you find balance and acceptance of both good and bad feelings instead of an all-or-nothing frame of mind. Additionally, START UP RECOVERY believes in setting healthy boundaries with yourself and others who might pass judgment. We believe that your most tremendous potential occurs when you are true to yourself and can speak your truth. Our philosophy is to not think like a carpenter, but rather a gardener and that your best self does not just come from treating yourself; it comes from being able to transform yourself into the person you want to be. It all begins with taking the first step. To learn more, reach out to START UP RECOVERY today by calling us at (310) 773-3809.

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