By Barb Ward

Emotional regulation is key to managing and combatting toxic positivity. Being self-aware regarding your emotions and being able to identify the emotions of others, enables you to navigate the intricacies of difficult situations in both your personal and professional relationships.

As a quick recap, toxic positivity occurs when you begin to believe that to be an optimistic person you must only be positive all the time. Toxic positivity tells you that your negative feelings are not okay, and if you can’t find a way to be positive all the time, then you must be doing something wrong.

There is danger in toxic positivity regardless of whether you are on the giving or receiving end of this thought process. On a personal level, denying negative feelings can lead to feelings of isolation, rejection, loneliness, and depression. Without a proper outlet for your emotions, this can be devastating to your psyche. If you are the one always insisting on positivity from others, essentially denying their right to feel sad, angry, frustrated, you risk alienating yourself, eroding trust with your friends and colleagues, and building a dysfunctional work environment that will destroy your organizational culture.

So, how can you combat toxic positivity?

Recognize it. Know what toxic positivity looks like, on yourself, and on others. If you feel guilty for being sad or angry, or hiding behind positive words even after suffering a tragic loss, you’re experiencing toxic positivity. Likewise, if you attempt to smooth over another’s negative experience with empty platitudes such as, “Everything happens for a reason,” you are promoting toxic positivity.

Be aware and take steps to avoid placing a positive spin on every situation.

Encourage Emotional Authenticity. Acknowledge that everyone experiences emotions differently. Do not label people for their emotions. Help them work through the negative and process those emotions so they can come out on the positive side stronger.

Be vulnerable. Sharing your own struggles, frustrations, and challenges in different situations illustrates to others that these emotions are okay, and that they are not alone. It is a very powerful force in creating trusting relationships.

Thinking positively is important but learning to distinguish between an optimistic outlook and feeling like you need to be positive all the time is essential to healthy positivity. By learning how to recognize when you or others are trapped in a toxic positivity cycle, you can avoid the pitfalls it creates. By experiencing negative emotions and working through the pain, you gain a healthier and stronger perspective. No pain, no gain indeed.