Time to ditch ‘toxic positivity,’ experts say: ‘It’s okay not to be okay’
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"Look on the bright side." Amid a pandemic and widespread social unrest, experts caution us against phrases like these that are not only unhelpful but also toxic.
While cultivating a positive mindset is a good coping mechanism, putting a positive spin as the only way to cope is harmful. It's like forcing more ice cream than you can eat with the hope that you will feel even better.
Positivity makes people appear more well-adapted and popular with their peers.
The issue is not the people who are genuinely upbeat but when people are forced to appear positive in situations where it's not natural, like illness, homelessness, food insecurity, unemployment, or racial injustice.
Forcing positivity denies a very real sense of despair and hopelessness and alienates those who are struggling.
Internalizing these messages can also be damaging. We judge ourselves for feeling negative and then feel bad for feeling bad. It postpones any healing or move toward problem-solving.
Research shows that accepting negative emotions may be more beneficial. Recognize that how you feel is valid. It's okay not to feel okay. Don't feel pressured to attempt lofty tasks such as picking a new hobby.
Make the best of it by accepting the situation as it is and doing the best you can. If you want to support another person, ask them what kind of support they would like and ensure to validate their emotions.
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