I like to see myself as a shiny, happy person laughing. But have I become too much of a Pollyanna? There is a lot of ‘look on the bright side’ and ‘good vibes only’-ness going around. While we can try to keep the vibes high and look for the silver lining, we should check that our positivity isn’t toxic.
Toxic positivity is the push for a mental state in which we only experience and show “positive” emotions. We see this push in books, quotes, social media, and everyday conversations. It has become all of our jobs to paint a picture of positivity for ourselves and the outside world.
We can think about this kind of toxicity being demonstrated by the passive aggressive air hostess or barista, forced to smile and say ‘have a great day’, even though their eyes and their seething insides tell a different story.
On a recent episode of the “Wilosophy Podcast”, Em Rusciano was talking about how women often say that they’re ‘fine’ even when they’re not and tend to push down rage with alcohol, food and social media. She now asks all the women in her life how they are twice so they are more likely to answer authentically. Em is seeking to open the conversation about ‘it being Ok to not be Ok”.
There are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ feelings, there are just feelings and all are part of the human experience. We can aim to neutralise the stigma around expressing all feelings. Many little poppets in my class (aged 3-5) pop up after stacking it saying “I’m ok and I’m not crying” before they’ve taken a pause to check if they’re hurt or say “I’m a big boy/ brave girl. I don’t cry”. I’m now trying to encourage them to cry if they need too and explaining that being ‘big’ doesn’t mean you don’t feel or express things.
Whitney Hawkins Goodman is the owner of The Collaborative Counselling Center and runs the Instagram account @sitwithwhit where she shared a great chart offering alternatives to toxic positivity (see below).
How can we ditch the toxicness?
- Be authentic. Even if you’re in customer service, you could offer a smaller quicker genuine smile rather than pasting on the cheesy grin.
- Ask how people are and listen for the answer.
- Respond in a way that offers validation and hope rather than just saying ‘smile’ or something equally inane.
- Neutralise feelings so they’re not categorised in ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
So join me in offering authenticity, validation and hope rather than ‘good vibes only’.
Love and light and all vibes welcome here xxx Yvette
Wilosophy with Em Rusciano Part 2
Therapist Explains The Important Difference Between Support And ‘Toxic Positivity’ In One Simple Chart:
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