Sometimes, having a “good vibes only” approach to life can lead to depression. Being constantly positive can be detrimental to your mental health. Here is why
In May last year, 24-year-old professional tennis champion Naomi Osaka caused waves of reactions within the tennis fraternity, including a $15,000 fine, and made global headlines by taking to social media that she would not participate in the mandatory media interviews at Roland-Garros 2021. Two months later, she broke her silence through an essay she penned for Time on her desire to skip the news conference to safeguard her mental health, adding she did not anticipated the controversy that followed. In the essay, she reiterates and reminds many the essence of being a human being: ‘It’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it.’ “I communicated that I wanted to skip press conferences at Roland Garros to exercise self-care and preservation of my mental health. I stand by that. Athletes are humans. Tennis is our privileged profession, and of course there are commitments off the court that coincide. But I can’t imagine another profession where a consistent attendance record (I have missed one press conference in my seven years on tour) would be so harshly scrutinised.”
This is but one case of a celebrity who has a platform to reach out to people around the world; however, during the height of the pandemic and the current looting and burning of property in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Johannesburg it can be easy for many to sink into despondence and depression. And there is a dangerous trend that tends to mask how people are truly feeling: toxic positivity. Quintero and Long define toxic positivity as “The excessive and ineffective overgeneralisation of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimisation, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.” Cherry also adds, “Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It’s a “good vibes only” approach to life.”
While there is power in having a positive mindset, overdoing it, especially to repress and deny feelings of hurt, anger and sadness can become too toxic for your mental well-being.
Here are three signs of toxic positivity and what you can do about it:
You feel guilty for not feeling happy or positive: as human beings, we are flawed. Life is not always positive. Some hurtful experiences, like failing, losing loved ones, or a job or a business can happy be traumatic to everyone. Not allowing yourself to grieve and go through certain emotions will not allow you to heal and move on to other blessings.
Avoiding being there for others going through tough situations: Sometimes, our obsession with avoiding difficult situations and living in a bed of roses can make us prone to brush off other people’s feelings or not want to hear or deal with their problems because it makes us uncomfortable. This is probably a sign of toxic positivity.
Hiding how you truly feel: when you often force a positive outlook on life, no matter the challenges, others can take it for granted that you are strong and okay, and that can make you quiet about needing help, making you sink further to feelings of hopelessness. Suppressing or denying your feelings can lead to more stress, which can result in anxiety, depression and even physical illness.
One of the best ways to deal with toxic positivity is to admit when you are not feeling okay and try not to attach shame to what you are going through. Instead of avoiding certain feelings, permit yourself to embrace them instead of suppressing them as they can help you identify areas of your life you need to work on. And remember, help, whether from family, friends, NGOs, writing a journal or professional, is always available, you just need to reach out. Also, when your loved ones go through hardships, a simple hug and being there for them is more helpful than forcing them to overcome situations through your point of view.
Toxic positive phrases you need to drop from your vocabulary:
· Everything happens for a reason
· Look on the bright side
· It was the will of God
· It could have been worse
· Failure is not an option
· Don’t worry, be happy
Additional source: Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes