Toxic Positivity

By Yvette Wade

Life will give you lemons, yes. And sometimes, you won’t be able to make lemonade because guess what? You don’t have any sugar.

In the age of #positivevibes and similar upbeat notions in our society, toxic positivity has many of us masking and suppressing true selves. So, what exactly is it? Psychology Today defines toxic positivity as the “act of avoiding, suppressing, or rejecting negative emotions or experiences.” Basically, toxic positivity is not allowing yourself (or others) the space to unload your baggage anywhere at any time.

How many times have you heard someone say, “everything happens for a reason,” or “the sun will come out tomorrow” (thanks Annie). These sayings invalidate one’s experiences and feelings related to whatever they may be struggling with at the moment. It also encourages a few different emotions and actions such as shame, minimizing, isolation, and disconnection.


With toxic positivity comes the notion of shame. There is a desire to cloak a situation with positivity which then encourages the individual(s) to silence their experiences and instead look at things in a more positive way. In essence, it shuts down any invitation to share/process feelings of sadness, pain, etc. Example: “I really don’t think I want to see my family for the holidays.” Toxic Positivity: “It’s the holidays and they’re your family! It could be worse.” Instead say: “I understand the holidays are hard for you and if you need anything, let me know how I can support you.”


There is no issue that is too little or too big. They’re all relevant and no two people’s struggles are the same. Toxic positivity would disagree and instead tell you that everyone is capable of doing X. Example: “I still struggle with the death of my friend and it’s been 20 years.” Toxic Positivity: “You’ll be okay! They would want you to smile and be happy.” Instead say: “Everyone grieves differently, there’s no time limit on it. How do you think they would want you to remember them?”

 Isolation and Disconnection

Toxic positivity is a huge culprit of these two. Putting a mask on and bottling up your true feelings, thoughts, and emotions will leave you with a shell of a person for the outside world to deal with and a lonely, alienated soul on the inside to deal with. Alone. Example: “I feel so stupid because I just failed this exam. Twice.” Toxic Positivity: “I need to look for the silver lining in this situation and take this as a sign I wasn’t ready.” Instead say: “I failed the exam twice, and I could use this opportunity to identify any gaps and possibly find a study group.”

 Being healthy and true to ourselves means acknowledging ourselves and others, mindfully. It means making sure you allow yourself and others the space to process thoughts, emotions, and feelings without judgement or … you guessed it, toxic positivity.

Now, let me end by stating that positivity is not a bad thing. For instance, someone may not know that they are completely disregarding how you’re feeling. In this case, it would be helpful to mention it to them, if you can. If it’s a repeated occurrence, that’s when it becomes toxic. Sometimes, looking for a silver lining does work for some people and research has shown that it’s an effective way to reduce anxiety and improve mood. Balance and moderation is key. Need help finding that balance and moderation? Let’s work together. Feel free to reach out and schedule an appointment with me today.