Thoughts: Toxic Positivity

I wrote this a while ago and debated on sharing. It has felt appropriate again lately.

This is not the first time I have discussed this problem, but here we go. For a few years now, there has been this rise in the idea of being more positive, and for the most part, I support it. I support the idea of looking for the good things in life. I support taking charge of your mental health and trying to focus on the things that make you happy. I support putting a positive message out there.

The problem is the internet always has to take things to the nth degree, and there will always be people that glob onto something and use it as their excuse to judge others, and now positivity is that.

As I said, it’s something I’ve discussed before because I had seen it. This idea that you must ALWAYS, without fail, project nothing but positive emotions. I worried that it was dogmatic, and lately, it’s become clear my fears were well-founded.

An unnamed person that I follow online recently expressed being harassed by people from the so-called “positivity movement” because she sometimes talked about her experiences with losing people in her family and dealing with an illness. It weighs on her, and some days it’s challenging to be positive. A lot of my own experiences reflected hers to some degree. Even my own blog posts have brought out someone that wanted to get into some “my life is harder than yours, but I push through” pissing contest.

In the recent past, I unfollowed someone after a rant about people that weren’t grateful every day of their lives as the biggest roadblock to themselves, even the only roadblock. Their tone was harsh, their words more so, and when people pointed it out, they simply replied with “cry and flame more you just don’t want to be accountable.”

No mention of mental health or suffering mattered to them. It was all “haters” because they weren’t as willing to be positive as the person that made the post.

This is NOT positivity

This is a SHOW

This is using positivity to judge, harass, and compete with others

This is what the internet does

The core idea of looking for the positive in life, expressing more positive emotions, and taking charge of changing the things you dislike about yourself and your situation is good. The idea that any variation from that is ultimately a character flaw is beyond problematic.

I will be honest… I am not grateful every day that I am alive. I suffer from a cocktail of mental health disorders, and some days, I don’t want to be alive. Positivity for me, on those days, is a fight, and one I tackle. I will force myself out of bed, I will do what I have to, but I won’t be grateful, and I won’t have flowery thoughts about those days — furthermore forcing myself to try to won’t help.

Pretending my life is okay when my brain is trying to kill itself is not positive; it’s denial.

I would never say that I or anyone else should give in to those thoughts, or do anything short of meeting them head-on, but denial, pretending, it’s not fighting them, is giving them ground.

One of the most powerful things I can do is meet my honest feelings head-on, acknowledge them, consider them, and fight them.

Saying “I must be grateful every day no matter what” short changes me the chance to deal with my negative emotions in a healthy manner and fight them honestly.

I also think when life is hard, admitting it can be very therapeutic. It sucks that you are suffering and you are allowed to work through those emotions; you are allowed to acknowledge them, complain about them, and then come out on the other side. No one that is denying those emotions has truly confronted them, and they will have to someday.

But Megan, I meant you should always look for the positive. Then you should have said that. You shouldn’t have said, “if you aren’t always positive, you are the problem,” Which is what people are doing, and of course, it’s what they’d do. This is the internet; everything is a tool to make yourself better than those around you. Of course, people are using “I am positive, and you should be too, or you suck” as a weapon to make themselves feel better

Centuries of study into mental health have said that we must acknowledge our pain; in the past, we denied that because it was a weakness, and we are repeating that mistake but for different reasons.

Some days I hurt, I bleed, I am crushed, I am defeated, I don’t want to be alive, I hate myself, I hate my life. I acknowledge those feelings, and then I work through them.

The answer is never “you are grateful, or you suck” it’s you aren’t grateful some days and then get back to being grateful.

Positivity is not a competition. It’s not something you use to judge others. It’s not something you are doing better at.

It’s the act of projecting real positive emotions in your life and in the lives of those around you.

And as someone that has been on the other end of this, not everyone that calls you out is a hater, sometimes you are crappy, and people are informing you of that. When you tell people their problems are just that they suck and they don’t want to try harder, you are the hater… not them.

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