Have you ever heard of toxic positivity? A good example is when you’ve opened up to someone about your feelings or what you have been struggling with and they responded back with some type of an “at least” statement? “Well, at least, you still have ___.” “At least ___ didn’t happen.” Once you hear that you give s somber “yeah, you’re right” and then feel like you need to move on and get over it. Toxic positivity is defined as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy and optimistic state in a situation, (Tanglaw Mental Health). The issue with toxic positivity is that it can give the person who is confiding in you that their feelings are now being minimized or shamed, not validated like they should be, even though that might not be the intention.
I admit that this is something that I have personally done with my friends or family. I’ve tried being optimistic and having them look at the positives in the situation. However, toxic positivity lacks empathy it keeps us from connecting with others by keeping us on the surface. The reason we do it is because most of us are uncomfortable being around someone when they express a lot of pain. We use toxic positivity to bring the person up out of their pain so that we can feel more comfortable. Unfortunately, that also kills the opportunity for intimacy.
Now that you know more about it, here are some suggestions for better responses in the future to avoid toxic positivity. . .
Instead of…. Say….
-“Everything happens for a reason.” -“It’s okay to feel bad sometimes.”
-“Failure is not an option” -“Failure is part of growth”
-“It could be worse” -“Sometimes we experience bad things. How can I support you?”
-“Look on the bright side” -“It can be difficult to see the good in this situation, but we will
make sense of it when we can.”
(Tanglaw Mental Health)
When someone is being vulnerable with you, they are showing you they trust you with their emotions and taking a risk. Remember, the most important role of being a listener is to make sure that the person speaking feels heard and validated. Don’t allow toxic positivity to get in the way of someone’s vulnerability.
“An empathetic response never begins with “at least,” -Brené Brown