- Positive vibes only.
- Stay positive.
- Don’t worry, be happy.
- Get out of your head.
- Just go for a walk.
- Stay motivated.
- It could be worse.
- What do you have to worry about?
- Just be grateful.
- Just do “this,” just do “that...”
- Well, that happened to me too.
- Look on the bright side.
- Everything happens for a reason.
Certainly, most people don’t intend any harm with these kinds of comments and suggestions, but they very much smack of gaslighting in their absence of genuine empathy. They invalidate, minimize and oversimplify the harsh realities of real, human experience, whether directed outwardly to others or inwardly to oneself. It’s the emotional equivalent of watching someone badly fracture their leg and saying, “Eh... just walk it off!” If this pandemic has taught us anything, it might be that invisible/unseen threats - germs, viruses and, yes, emotional experiences and states - shouldn’t be discredited, downplayed, minimized and/or oversimplified. Emotional & psychological injury, pain and trauma are every bit as real, serious and severe as a visibly broken leg. Toxic positivity is apathetic, forced, insincere and can lead people to further anxiety, isolation, pain and unease. Sometimes, it can take everything in someone’s power to express how they feel. Often, we simply need a compassionate and PASSIVE ear to which to vent without all the excessive “positivity,” solutions and suggestions.
Toxic positivity seems to be something of a pandemic, especially during an actual, deadly pandemic in which social media and its insidious, obligatory ideal to “live your best life” (or, to pretend to) is our main, if not ONLY connection to others. Social media fosters the projection of a constantly, disingenuously and unnaturally happy, high-achieving, productive, successful facade. Nobody is all of these things all of the time, nor should they feel compelled to pretend to be. The human experience is BOTH the yin AND the yang. How could one know happiness without sadness, let alone the very human nuance of bittersweet-ness?
I recently had a conversation with a dancer who opened up about the negative emotions she was feeling, yet her Instagram told a very different story. If you’re posting to social media frequently, look at your last few posts. Are they authentic or are you projecting a disingenuous image of your life and self to mask anxiety, discontent, pain, etc? Are you looking for a dopamine rush from “Likes” & “reactions,“ even unwittingly, perhaps? It’s important to bear in mind that “Likes” & ❤️-reactions are NOT the currency of a fulfilling, genuine life! We all deal with stress and various emotions differently. If you haven’t kept up the “positive vibes,” kept smiling, redecorated the house, started a thriving business, got your front splits, done a handstand, counted calories and gotten ripped abs in this last year, that’s OKAY!
- I have put on a little more weight than I would have liked.
- I look at my phone too much and also compare myself to others.
- I make mistakes most days.
- I spend far too long finding a filter for an image or video to post and I overthink EVERY word I say online.
- I am an expert procrastinator.
- My monkey mind likes to worry about the future more often than not.
- I struggle with loneliness at times.
- I am desperately trying to grow my business. I am certainly not thriving financially, however, many people tell me that I am “smashing it” during lockdown. I have my doubts as to the accuracy of such statements, but, like you, I am simply doing my best. I AM a Human Being!
I am, however, not embarrassed by any of that and now able to sit with all emotions (the good, the “bad” and the ugly ones) and not pretend that I have my shit together at all times! To pretend, to suppress —this is just unnecessarily exhausting. I wore the “positive” mask for far too long. Putting on “positive vibes only” will ultimately lead to more distress. Trust me, it’ll catch up with you!
My continuing journey and fascination with eastern philosophy, yoga and meditation has taught me far more than the physical postures involved. It’s being aware of my thoughts and feelings—mindfully sitting with them. Being able to accept all parts of myself is literally liberating. I truly believe that we can all find more peace and ease when we connect with ALL parts of ourselves—managing every part of you with compassion, even the dark parts that we try so desperately to hide. The very foundation of wellness is the relationship that you have with yourself.
I encourage you to be authentic, mindful and okay with vulnerability, and to not need to constantly portray yourself as ecstatically happy and 100% all of the time, whether in person or online. We humans ALL have our up-days and down-days, just like waves have both crests and troughs; respectively, both states are essential and intrinsic parts of human-ing & wave-ing.
I find the occasional digital detox to better assist in achieving mindfulness by shutting out all of the distractions and “noise” of social media. I highly recommend it!