I am naturally drawn to positivity—sign me up for all the positive energy! I am the person who seeks to see the good in any situation, and I believe it makes my life more fulfilling. However, there are times in life that bring ourselves and those we love experiences that are in no way wanted or positive. This is exacerbated by social media, where the trend is to always be positive.
“Here’s a beautiful photo of me and my perfect life!”
We feel pressured to put a positive spin on everything. And when things go wrong, we should suck it up, deal with it, and be happy and grateful. I’m not talking about trying our best or being thankful for what we have. I’m talking about completely ignoring the bad stuff and pretending that everything is fine when everything is not fine.
This way of living is not sustainable.
This is not real living.
Simply put, toxic positivity is the belief that no matter what the problem or how difficult a situation is, we should always maintain a positive mindset.
Facing All Our Truth
Most of us have experienced real, traumatic hurt—myself included. As a young girl, I was sexually abused by my own father. My “dirty secret” destroyed my self-esteem as a child and caused me to feel like I was “less than.” When I finally told my mother, she chose not to believe me, which caused additional trauma.
I tried to fight through the pain and the anger for so many years. Nothing good came from the abuse I endured. Yet, to this day I encounter toxic positivity remarks as a suggestion on how to deal with my abuse. Imagine being told the following:
• “You were strong enough to take the abuse.”
• “You are a stronger person for going through it.”
• “You are not the only one in this world who has been abused. Just get over it.”
This is toxic positivity. I am not stronger or better from being sexually abused. There is absolutely nothing positive from going through such trauma. We must be very careful and try not to make every experience in our life “positive.” Bad things happen, and it is vital that we allow ourselves to grieve and process the hard and seek help when needed.
Feeling It All
We do not always have to be strong. Mere words cannot take away the feelings we experience after going through something hard, and it’s vital to validate them. We cannot cover up, disallow, or deny the feelings of our human experience.
When my husband died of cancer, I stayed in bed for almost two weeks, and I was constantly being told how I should do this and do that. I did not welcome nor want advice at this delicate time.
I was told, “Don’t worry! You’re beautiful and will certainly remarry!”
I was also told that my husband was in a “better place.”
As a new widow, I assure you that this was not the best thing to say. I felt the “better place” was with me and our children. Dying from cancer and leaving this earth and our family was sad, and we were mourning his loss.
I called a grief counselor soon after my husband passed away, realizing that I needed help. No amount of pep talks, friends visiting, or condolence cards made me happy. I had to go through the hard times in my own way and really experience the pain.
We must give ourselves the time, space, and grace to grieve and to work through our personal problems without feeling that we have to be happy.
No More Pretending
It is more than okay to have a bad day, have negative thoughts, and to be angry. It is okay to give yourself time and space to process how you feel. We don’t have to pretend that everything is okay when it isn’t.
Now, I devote time to meditate and allow myself to process my thoughts and feelings. I have found that by doing so, I allow the feelings and disappointments of daily life to be addressed. I take social media “timeouts” as needed. These practices shift my perspective inward to help me face situations and transform my life.
My experiences have taught me to accept whatever genuine feelings come up and to be mindful of not ignoring or stuffing my emotions. Toxic positivity is an unrealistic expectation of not honoring our feelings. It’s time we acknowledge the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Follow Teresa Collins on Instagram at @teresacollinsstudio.