Do you consider yourself a person who sees that glass as half full, or half empty? If you are the former, it probably annoys you when friends, family or colleagues often come in with a negative perspective on something you are trying to see in a positive light. And conversely, those with a more pessimistic view get tired of being constantly bombarded with that positive spin. Both parties may end up wondering, “Can’t I just feel the way I want?” If you’re like most people, you likely fall somewhere in the middle, and situation dependent, you may swing from one side of the spectrum to the other. In truth, it’s possible to feel more than one thing at once, for instance, when facing a challenging situation, you may feel nervous about the future (more on the pessimistic side) while also being hopeful you will succeed (optimistic). These feeling are complex and can be confusing.
We spent some time in our last blog talking about negativity bias and how important it is to combat our natural tendency to focus on the negative. However, it can be equally damaging to ALWAYS focus ONLY on the positive as well. It’s called toxic positivity and it is increasingly prevalent in our society today.
While it’s true having a positive attitude is good for our well-being, difficult situations inevitably arise in our lives—think financial distress, job loss, illness, loss of a loved one— and it is equally important for us to be able to, and be allowed to, acknowledge and express difficult emotions as well. In these situations, toxic positivity may surface in comments such as, “look at the bright side,” or “everything happens for a reason.” While these comments may be well-intentioned, they do not allow people who are going through difficult situations to genuinely share their real feelings and gain the unconditional support they need to cope.
Tune in next week, we will continue exploring toxic positivity and how to combat it in our next blog.