Lately, a few people have thrown around the phrase toxic positivity in my direction. In my view, we are only on this planet for a short while, and why would you not spend it as content as you can be? To me, when someone I care about (or even in close proximity to) is feeling bad, I take it upon myself to make them feel better.
When I was younger, I would just listen, not knowing what else to do. Later, having gone through issues myself, I imparted what I felt was sage-like advice based on my own experiences. Now that I have reached my final form, I hit people with ice-cold, rock-hard logic.
If you look at the history of the world, you are living at the best time in history. People have the highest life expectancy, even for all its ills, the justice system is probably the fairest and civil rights the fairest. Could things be better? Absolutely. But right now, if you are reading this, you have access to more wealth of information than any king 500 years ago. While the trend of progress might take some dips, if you follow its trajectory, it goes up like a hockey stick.
That’s macro but go micro. Every brush with disaster you have had, you have walked away from so far. What hasn’t killed you has made you stronger, if you were able to let it. If you choose to take some good even out of some no-good situations. You learn. Eventually, you look at others’ problems they melt down over as inconsequential. A kid that scraps their knee? You soothe them but know it’s going to be okay. Teenage heartbreak? A rite of passage. Parking ticket? C’mon.
Right now I know I can bounce back from almost anything provided that the majority of my body is still working. If that were to fail me I would figure out something. I have utter confidence in myself. Even when I’m not all that confident. I just know things are going to work out.
Even when things are bad, part of me sees that it’s just bad from my point of view, when I see my life as the observer, it’s just a chapter. These few pages color the rest of the redemption arc of the story. There are always dips and we don’t know what good can come from this event.
Not to be too dark, but short of something happening to my son, which is the only thing I know will break me, things are going to be fine.
So that is my philosophy in a nutshell. Limited time. Happiness feels better than sadness. Things will always work out. Look for the silver lining. So easy right? Anyone should get it. Step by step, it makes perfect sense.
To me at least. But I’m not everyone.
In fact most of this I wouldn’t say to cheer someone up (almost never, I have tried some of it sometimes). Usually, I will tell some jokes at the appropriate time, or inappropriate to shock someone into a different state. Say soothing words or even get some religion in there depending on my audience.
However, one good friend was outraged about my trying to cheer them up. Which I couldn’t understand.
But I was told I had toxic positivity. A quick Google search will tell you that Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset.
Which I guess does define me. And for me at least it works out. You might argue I am doing well with some cash in the bank and don’t have any real troubles anymore. But I’m not exactly pounding down your door to preach my beliefs either. You just have to be near and have an issue. If you don’t want to hear what I have to say keep your problems to yourself. Right?
But I also want to meet people where they are at. Life is about compromise. So I wanted to find out what I am supposed to do for the people who find my rosy disposition a turn-off during their turmoil.
A coworker happened to throw out the phrase in a conversation and I inquired what toxic positivity means to them, what am I supposed to do instead of shining some light on someone’s situation?
Apparently, if someone is feeling down, let them feel down.
If they are having a bad day, acknowledge that today sucks.
Don’t focus on the silver lining.
Every fiber of my being feels incredibly neutered by not being proactive. Knowing that there are billions of people in this world who are having a fantastic day so how can I acknowledge that today sucks? Why would wallowing in anguish in what are moments you will never get back do you any good?
But then I realized one of the things I am always thinking about is perspective. From their view, they are sad and want someone to be there. Not that misery loves company and they want you miserable. Just to have someone to listen. Acknowledge their feelings. Positivity is a disparity that acts as a barrier at the moment.
When it comes to a death of a loved one, I would never try to make someone feel better. I cringe when people say “they have gone to a better place” or “At least they are no longer in pain”. Instinctually, I think people know it is okay to let people have a moment of pain when someone passes. Why have I become so callous to other lesser hurts?
So I have tried just listening and being there when people are down a few times and found some success. Not trying to pick someone up is tough for me. But maybe it is less of a chore than struggling to raise someone’s spirits. I would agree there is a lot less resistance to my energy. While I don’t know if it is something I could do long-term remains to be seen.
I would love to know your thoughts on this in the comments section below. What is it you are looking for when you are down? Do you find positivity a turn-off?