Traveling through this pandemic has, at times, felt a little bit like traveling through the desert—long, exhausting, monotonous and never-ending. Yet, we’ve been given no other option but to continue on our arduous journey until we finally see an end in sight. No end has been sighted yet, sadly. In an effort to help, some people (myself included) will try to be encouraging with phrases like: be grateful, choose happiness, look on the bright side, etc. But is this actually helpful? Maybe not.
There’s healthy positivity and then there’s toxic positivity and it’s really important to know the difference. Toxic positivity is the assumption, either by one’s self or others, that despite a person’s difficult situation, they should only have a positive mindset. We were not “built” to only be happy; all of our emotions make up the human experience and to deny or invalidate them is unhealthy. Toxic positivity can make us believe we are weak for feeling what some deem as negative emotions, but that is not true. We are not weak, we are human—and allowing ourselves to feel emotions like anxiety, fear, and sadness, gives us the space necessary for self-compassion, which is so vital to our mental health.
Today, ask yourself, “Where do I fall when it comes to toxic positivity?” Are you, like me, trying to encourage others or yourself through rough times, with the best of intentions? Perhaps now we can honor some of these painful emotions within ourselves and others, knowing it’s an expression of compassion to honor how people are feeling. We don’t need to put on a smiling face every day. In our efforts to be supportive, perhaps we were delegitimizing some real feelings. For me, this is a lesson learned.