Be. U. TY Podcast is Here! The podcast that will help you unveil your authentic self so you can show the world who you are confidently. In today’s episode, our host Adozie Duffy talks about the word “Toxic Positivity”. What it means and when it is actually helpful to identify positivity as toxic or not.
“In believing that there is a way things are supposed to be, we end up causing ourselves a lot of pain and suffering because we’re denying what it is and then by comparing our lives to the movies we watch and the stories we read or the social media posts we consume, we are playing a losing game, because obviously our lives shouldn’t look like that, but instead of thinking this, we flip it back onto ourselves and make it mean, we must be doing something wrong.“
“We get into a pattern of trying to force ourselves to be better, to be happy, to feel positive, to be different, and that’s where toxic positivity plays a role in most of our lives without us realizing it.”
“When you’re constantly trying to be happy, you miss out on the reality of what is happening in your life at this very moment, and that is where the dissatisfaction truly comes from, not from having the emotion of sadness. ”
“The best way to combat toxic positivity is to start by telling yourself things that are better for you personally and that you can start to believe now.”
What to watch for:
01:17 – What toxic positivity means
02:03 – We are all kind of skewed to believe that most people around us are happy
07:24 – Where toxic positivity plays a role in our lives
10:38 – In denying yourself the chance to feel your sadness, you also deny yourself the opportunity to get to the happiness
11:05 – The scenario
13:11 – Toxic positivity is damaging
14:57 – The best way to combat toxic positivity
Connect with Adozie
Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It’s a “good vibes only” approach to life
Have you guys heard about this term ‘ toxic positivity? It’s essentially this term going around that highlights how being too positive can end up being bad for you.
& I totally agree with the sentiment, but I think when we talk about concepts like this, we can make blanket statements that don’t really offer up the type of explanations that are useful to use. & then people have a hard time applying it to their particular situation so they either use the concept loosely in ways that don’t actually pertain to their situation or they just write it all together because the way they’ve seen it used doesn’t resonate.
& it keeps a lot of us in this state of hearing about concepts without actually learning what the term means, & ya know, misconceptions are formed.
So today I want to talk about what it means and when it is actually helpful to identify positivity as toxic or not. because when we have terms like this pop-up, a lot of the time we miss the nuance, and so people can end up being further from where they started when they had never heard of this concept before.
Ya know, it’s essentially like cancel culture because you read an article headline, you don’t realize you’re missing the full picture, but suddenly you know you don’t like Doja Cat because she did some weird shit on the internet. Lol, are you following here?
So today I want to talk a little bit about the concept and what we can be doing instead of force-feeding ourselves positivity all the time as a means to trying to stay happy & healthy and on the ‘good side’ of life.
So basically what tends to happen with social media, media in general, and then honestly even in our personal lives, is that we all feel this type of pressure to show and or prove that things in our life are all Gucci. That things are fine and dandy and that no one should worry about us, because we’ve got everything under control.
The ironic thing about this is that we are literally at a point in society where we pretty much know that most people don’t have a life completely void of suffering or problems. We all at least on some level are aware that even the richest, most happy looking people experience pain, and loss, and hard times.
Yet, as a society, we still put positivity on a pedestal, and not just that we consider happiness to be the pinnacle of what we see as the good life, and we tend to shy away from anything that doesn’t help reinforce that narrative.
Which puts a lot of us in a pickle right? Because it means that even though we all intellectually know that going through hard times, being down, or just not feeling great is a totally normal part of human life, we still feel like it’s wrong when we experience these hard times in our lives, or these negative feelings, so we have a hard time moving through these spaces because no matter how many times people vocalize that life is hard, or being sad is normal, we don’t really see it that often.
Like, maybe we’ll see it in a movie or a tv show, or maybe even read about terrible sad things in a book or an article. But very rarely do you just see people in your daily life crying, or throwing a fit, or breaking down, or just being numb. All of those moments happen in private so naturally, we are all skewed to believe that most people around us are happy. Because that’s all we see, that’s what’s reinforced, so then that’s even how people (maybe even you yourself) believe we have to be as a default in any given environment. To the point where some of us have the tendency to hide our true feelings even more around the people closest to us out of worry or concern that us not being our happiest, will negatively affect those around us.
And then, on the rare chance that when we do see it in person, we’ve been so conditioned to see it as bad, we tend to shy away from it, or even feel uncomfortable when other people expose themselves in that way, which in turn just further highlights to ourselves that it is wrong and bad, so then when we go through something we have the lens of remembering what it was like when we watched someone else go through something, and it’s just this cyclical situation that feeds on itself without us realizing.
Freaking bonkers, like we all know we’re not supposed to be robots, yet we don’t behave like it, I mean seriously how could we at this point?
So now this leads us to how it all looks online right? Where we all consume so much of what is supposedly people’s personal lives and we just continue to see this theme, that people are happy & successful and that the way they do that is through keeping their chin up & soldering on. Then when you DO see people be vulnerable, or real online, it always kind of gets tied up in a bow, right? Like someone will come on after they’ve gone through something and talk about how it all worked out. Or people will share an emotional experience, but then always feel the need for it to have a resolution, or for it to be squared away.
& that’s not entirely crazy, because as humans, we like and relate to stories, and we’re used to telling and hearing them kind of in a bell curve right? Like with a plot that has a peak and a resolution.
But in telling things in this way it can confuse us about how life actually takes place, Which is actually that it is all over the place. That growth and success and learning all kind of happens in a zig-zag. That pushes forward but not at all in the way we think it should.
& a lot of us in believing that there is a way things are “supposed” to be, end up causing ourselves a lot of pain and suffering because we are denying what is. & then by comparing our lives to the movies we watch, the stories we read, or the social media posts we consume, we are playing a losing game, because obviously, our lives shouldn’t look like that. But instead of thinking this, we flip it back onto ourselves and make it mean that we must be doing something wrong. That other people have it all figured out & that we are just constantly missing something.
& then we get into a pattern of trying to force ourselves to be different, or better, & that’s where toxic positivity plays a role in most of our lives without us realizing it. Because it’s not necessary for us to present in this happy way all the time for us to actually get to experience the happiness that comes with being a human being. & this all takes place on a much more minute level than how we hear about it.
like, yes, I do believe it’s a problem that there are a million quotes on Instagram telling you to look on the bright side, or that you just gotta smile through it, but I think the actual positivity that is toxic (if we must use that word) to us, is much more subtle and comes from us to us, not necessarily from the outside world.
& this didn’t just come from Instagram quotes and corny brand slogans. This all originated from how you felt like you were allowed to be in your household, or like how your parents did or didn’t process their emotions in front of you. Like yeah, I definitely think the quotes aren’t helping, but they wouldn’t be such a problem if they didn’t have the strong foundation that is a society at large that stuff down their emotions. yes?
I agree that outside influences aren’t helping, but I do think that the more granular instances in our life are the ones that add up and damage us the most.
Like for instance, when you don’t allow yourself to just feel sad about something that is bothering you, no matter how “dumb” it may be. You are diminishing your own experience and in trying to force yourself to just get over it, you are not allowing the space for the sadness that is so very much a part of life. The sadness is just as real and necessary as the happiness, but when you are constantly trying to get to the happy, you miss out on the reality of what is happening in your life at this moment, and that is where the dissatisfaction truly comes from. Not from having the emotion of sadness, but from denying yourself of your emotions period.
Think about it, it takes a second for the body to process the sadness before it is able to move into the next phase, whatever next emotion that is. You can’t just plaster the happy emotion over top of a sad emotion, that’s just not how it works. Because when you do that you just put yourself in a state of nothingness, which sometimes manifests as anxiety or even numbness. But in denying yourself the chance to feel your sadness, you also deny yourself the opportunity to get to happiness. You just make yourself stuck.
In trying to force happiness on yourself, you’ve just kind of created this purgatory that doesn’t do you any good. & we do this in big ways and in small ways, so I think that’s why it’s hard to catch or even relate to. Like for example, it’s when you tell yourself “this is annoying AF, but it’s fine” or “I wish she wouldn’t have said that, but I guess it’s not that big of a deal”. These phrases seem harmless, but what are they doing? They are trying to force you to look on the bright side or to just move on, or get over it, without acknowledging that you are a human who felt a type of way & there is nothing wrong with that. Instead, we try to just glaze over the part where we’re unhappy and get to the part where everything is all found and Gucci.
& if another person did this to us, it would be so obvious that we were being invalidated. Like if I told my husband, that comment you made embarrassed me, and he just said “you’re fine” it would be like WTF? You rude ass! I just exposed myself to you & you just literally acted like it was nothing. But then we turn around and do that to ourselves all the fucking time because we think it is a real way of moving on, or becoming okay again, and IDK if you gals have noticed, it’s not working out for a lot of us.
& that’s why I believe toxic positivity is damaging, because you are essentially trying to redirect your emotions by just snapping out of it, and that doesn’t work. It just makes you feel invalidated and ultimately makes them feel worse.
The ability to actually change your thoughts to things YOU PERSONALLY see as positive is all that matters. & I think there is a huge sliding scale for what actually resonates with a person and causes them to change their emotions and actually create the feelings they are aiming for.
Telling someone who thinks they’re ugly to just stare in the mirror and call themselves beautiful doesn’t actually do anything helpful to them. It’s just 1. Invalidates how they are currently feeling about themselves and 2. Probably causes them to feel embarrassed, or insecure, or just stupid through trying to force themselves to completely change all of their views at once.
Like think about it, you wouldn’t be able to get an atheist to believe in god (or vice versa) just by getting them to repeat that “God is all around us” 10x a day in the mirror, You would actually do the opposite right? Like, make them double down on how ridiculous the whole thing is, because you didn’t start at the root, you didn’t undo their thinking and then replace it with things they relate to, you just tried to slap a bumper sticker on all the shit they already know to be true in the world. (* I’m not saying the atheist or the Jesus lovers views are correct here, I’m just trying to highlight how wild of a concept people have around got people to love themselves, or just turn that frown upside down) it’s like hello, I’m a whole human with so many life experiences that contribute to my particular set of current beliefs, just because you ride in here with your shiny positive phrase isn’t going to magically change all of the self-hating or self-loathing I’ve been up to before you got here. Belief systems don’t just change in an instant, and definitely not from the outside in.
So the best way to combat toxic positivity to me personally is to start by telling yourself things that are better for you, that you can start to believe now.
Like sure, maybe you don’t believe that you’re the hottest goddess in the room, but you could believe that when I really want something I know how to get it. Or people are into all types of people. Or not looking like every other girl in this room is something I’m proud of and actually like about myself. Or even it’s possible that another person could find me attractive.
We want to think about things that ACTUALLY make us feel better, not things that in theory are supposed to be positive. But instead, things that for you actually are positive for you, and the way that you know, is in saying them you feel better. You don’t feel undermined, you don’t feel anxious, you feel heard and validated and then you feel better. ‘
This is what toxic positivity keeps you from experiencing. It keeps you from actually moving forward because it is too busy telling you how you’re supposed to feel as opposed to meeting you where you are and then taking a baby step into a generally more helpful direction.
That is the most valuable thing to me. Taking a moment to really listen to myself about what is bothering me, and then letting myself have the space to be annoyed, or jealous, or sad. & then once I’ve sat with myself, giving myself the chance to change my perspective on the whole situation, and in the end, not measuring it up against anyone but my own self and my own needs. It’s the subtle difference between asking myself ‘is this helpful?’ instead of is this right? & in doing that I give myself so much space and room to just come as I am, and then work from there.
Okay, girlies, that’s everything, I’ll talk to you next week!