As parents, we often get a lot of unsolicited advice. We are told that what we’re going through right now isn’t that bad, and oh but wait, it’s going to get worse when your child is such and such age. The thing is though, that is not usually comforting and it usually doesn’t help the situation. We used to hear the phrase “it takes a village” in reference to neighbors, friends and family helping to raise kids and teach them. It is not like that these days unfortunately for many people. People may think they are supporting you when they are actually doing more harm than good.
Toxic positivity is an obsession with positive thinking. It is the belief that people should put a positive spin on all experiences, even those that are profoundly tragic. Now, you might ask yourself, “self, what is wrong with trying to look on the bright side and see the good in any situation?” In theory, nothing, but in reality, there is not going to be good in every situation, and it can make your feelings and emotions feel unseen. You may feel as though you need to pretend to be happy even when you are struggling.
It is frustrating and demeaning to be told in the mist of a toddler tantrum that it will only get worse as they get older, or at least they are having the tantrum at home and not at school. Comments like that are toxic positivity. The comments make you feel like you shouldn’t be feeling what you do, and if you do, what’s wrong with you? In the midst of an experience when you need actual support, hearing comments like that can be so frustrating. It makes you not want to confide in someone any longer because all they do is invalidate you.
Some other examples of toxic positivity might include: telling someone who has suffered a miscarriage that at least she knows she can get pregnant, telling someone to not be sad over a death of a loved one but to instead cherish the time they had with them, telling someone that things could always be worse, just move on, etc. Toxic positivity even includes phrases like “you’re doing a great job”. That doesn’t seem like it would be toxic but if you’re explaining to someone that you feel overwhelmed and like you’re drowning and failing, hearing “you’re doing a great job” is glossing over everything you just said about how you feel and once again invalidating your feelings. It is putting the situation in a box and putting a bow on it and calling it a day. This action shows that it is easier to just tell someone they are doing a good job than actually listen or try to help.
I’m a mom of two. I have a 3 year old and an 8 month old. I also have postpartum depression and anxiety. Toxic positivity I have experienced has included being told that I have two beautiful and healthy sons, why am I depressed? It is comments like that, that make parents feel like what they are feeling isn’t valid, and may even need enough to discourage said parent from seeking help by way of therapy or medication. That’s not the case for me as I tell anyone and everyone I have PPD and PPA. You can read more about my experiences with PPD here.
Positive thinking is not a bad thing, I’m not saying that positive thinking is toxic positivity. It’s not. Positive thinking can go a long way and be very helpful. Having a positive mindset can help you reach goals by giving you motivation and understanding.
A lot of times, people may not even realize they are promoting a toxic positivity environment. They might believe they are just sharing positive thinking. For example, if you’ve heard the phrase, “good vibes only”, it is essentially discounting any other “vibes” and saying there’s no space for them. That isn’t realistic and by promoting that type of mindset, it’s discouraging to both parents and children alike; as well as people in general who are not parents.
The Daily Positive says that toxic positivity interferes with the progress in your life. Healthy Positivity inspires purpose in your life.
If you’ve experienced toxic Positive, which many of us have, did it affect your progress with whatever situation you were in? What type of response did you give when exposed to toxic positivity? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments or feel free to DM me on Instagram.
Much love, Stef
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