Toxic Positivity and its Detrimental Effects on Mental Health

A few days ago, I came across a YouTube video of a motivational speaker. Since the topic was of interest, I hit the play button. In his almost 10-minute-long video, he passionately talked about the importance of a positive thinking and the power of manifestation. One problem though. He seemed bit of a radical in promoting his version of positivity. I found many aspects of his message problematic, especially his attempt to cast out everything else but positive thinking. Positive thinking is a crucial aspect of life. However, when turned toxic, it can be dangerous for emotional well-being. Toxic positivity is masking true feelings and forcing fake happiness. When done consistently, it can cause serious mental health issues.

Here are some detrimental effects of toxic positivity on mental health and relationships.

Impact on Self 

Suppression of Emotions: Emotions are an integral part of our life, and many factors affect our emotional well-being. People obsessed with optimism suppress their emotions to avoid the feeling of discomfort. Suppressing those unwanted feelings with external stimuli may provide temporary relief but does not resolve the core issue. Too much resistance to negative emotions can eventually turn into emotional outbursts and frustration.

Denial of Reality: Over-motivated people often underestimate their limitations in the present circumstances. Such denial leads to disowning the responsibility, and failing to do what is needed. They try to brush off problems under the carpet instead of resolving them. The inability to accept the reality results in burnout, distress and disappointment and affects their mental health.

Dissonance with Self: People with toxic positivity feel shame and trouble owning negative emotions. They feel guilty for unpleasant thoughts and often blame themselves. It creates dissonance in them. They become confused about what they are and what they pretend to be. Such people find difficulty in expressing their feelings due to fear judgement.

Impact on Others 

Lack of Empathy: ‘It’s okay, no big deal’, ‘You are such a crybaby’, ‘Better luck next time’, ‘You have seen nothing yet’, these are some shallow assurances people with toxic positivity offer others. They lack empathy and ridicule others for feeling low. They also try to rationalise the gravity of their sufferings with motivational quotes. It impacts the morale of people going through rough times.

Shaming and Blaming: People with toxic positive mindset shame and blame others for basic human emotions like fear/anger. They are quick to judge others without understanding their circumstances. They provide one standard solution to all problems, i.e. avoid talking/thinking about negative emotions and move on. It creates a sense of ignominy and self-doubt among people who approach them for help.

Blissful Ignorance: Excessive positivity leads people to live in a fantasy world where everything is perfect. They are ignorant about the realities of the world and think that everything happens for good. They straightway dismiss the feelings of others by calling it an overreaction. Such people lose valuable relationships due to their ignorance about basic emotional needs.

Fake optimism and over-motivation can create mental distress and hamper our productivity. Here is how one can build resilience and mental strength.

Self-compassion and Acceptance: Self-love starts with self-compassion and acceptance. Acknowledge your personality traits without being judgmental. List out the trigger points and your behavioural patterns in different emotional states. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. Mindful practices help in improving awareness about thoughts and emotions.

Express Your Feelings: Allow yourself experience negativity. Observe how it impacts your thought process. Create a distance between you and your thoughts to identify the underlined cause of negative emotions. Cry/ vent out if necessary. Reach out to credible people for help if needed.

First Act, then Manifest: Affirmations, visualisation, and manifestation are the most misunderstood concepts. Many believe that manifestation is the way to get desired things in life. While it is partially true, manifestation is worthless without an action plan. Understand your limitations and set realistic benchmarks for success. Also, always be ready for worst-case scenarios to avoid unexpected shocks.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Priyanka Pugaokar
Priyanka Pugaokar is a communications professional with expertise in internal and external communication, crisis communications, content generation and media relations. She holds over ten years of combined experience in communications and business journalism. She is currently associated with Rashi Peripherals Limited as Corporate Communications Manager and leads several strategic projects. She is an avid travel explorer. A lifelong learner, she holds interest in yoga, naturopathy, energy healing and crystallography.

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