The Toxic Positivity Trap

August 19, 2021

Have you ever experienced a difficult situation such as losing your job or being injured but were told to “stay positive” by everyone around you? Alternatively, they tell you that if you work hard and stay on your feet, things will get better if you just “keep your chin up”?” These are forms of toxic positivity. 

While not intended to hurt, these comments may have detrimental effects. In the face of a difficult situation, they become happy instead of feeling negative emotions or processing the situation.  

What is Toxic Positivity? 

No matter how desperate the situation may seem, toxic positivity suggests that the best course of action is just to stay positive. It’s also a trendy idea currently.   

Toxic positivity can take many different forms. An example of that might be a parent who discourages you from expressing anger or sadness. Or perhaps a friend who says to “keep your chin up”. Or it could be a social media post about how we should all be productive during lockdown. It may even be your own guilt for experiencing “bad” emotions such as fear, anger, or sadness. 

The bottom line is that toxic positivity is the belief that all emotions, such as sadness, anger, fear, or loneliness, are “bad” and should be avoided at all costs. In toxic positivity, these feelings are replaced by “good vibes only” and positive feelings without addressing the underlying causes of these feelings.

Isn’t It Good To Be Happy? 

Even though there is nothing wrong with being happy, forcing yourself to act or feel happy constantly may leave lingering effects later on. When we ignore the reasons for our feelings or push them deep inside, we do not allow ourselves to address the emotions or discover why we feel them. As a result, these feelings are avoided

In addition, toxic positivity can make people feel shame when they are suffering. When things go wrong, they may think that they aren’t allowed to feel upset. They may feel ignored, invalidated, or dismissed. Toxic positivity tells people that emotions other than happiness are not valid and should not be felt or expressed. 

Signs of Toxic Positivity 

Some signs that you or someone you know may be engaging in toxic positivity are: 

  • Dealing with problems by brushing them off 
  • When faced with a difficult situation, telling oneself or others to “get over it.” 
  • Masking or hiding your genuine emotions 
  • Getting angry or sad and feeling guilty about it 

How To combat toxic positivity? 

If you have been engaging in toxic positivity and would like to develop a healthier perspective on emotions, you can! Here are some tips on how you can create a healthier approach to your emotions. 

Please do not allow yourself to be ruled by your emotions, but don’t ignore them either. We know that letting our anger or sadness get the better of us can cause some hurt to those around us. There is a difference between managing our emotions and denying them. Managing and processing emotions becomes more manageable if you accept and allow yourself to feel them. At the same time, you are getting to the core of your feelings. 

Be supportive of others’ emotions and listen to them. When we surround ourselves with toxic positivity, it is easy to spread it to others. When a friend or family member shares their emotions with you, remind them that feelings are normal. Be careful not to shut them down with platitudes such as “it will all work out” or “it will all work out.” Rather, reassure them you are here to listen to them and help them work through their emotions. 


It is perfectly acceptable to remain optimistic during hard times, but we shouldn’t forget that emotions are integral to human nature. Being in touch with your feelings is the best way to understand yourself, process your feelings, and move on to genuine happiness. 

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