Toxic Positivity – what is it and how do we avoid it?

Toxic positivity refers to the harmful and invalidating behaviour of enforcing constant positivity, without acknowledging or addressing a person’s genuine struggles and negative emotions. It can suppress authentic feelings, and therefore lead to guilt, shame and isolation.

Here are a few tips to avoid toxic positivity in your workplace, classroom or home.

  • Create an attitude of ‘it’s okay not to be okay’.  Accept that it isn’t realistic to be okay all the time.
  • Encourage your children and students to manage their negative emotions, not deny them. Ask them:

‘Could your emotions be giving you important information that could help you to make a beneficial change in your life’?

  • Encourage them to focus on listening and showing support for each other. Kindness rules.
  • Share with them these examples of how they might communicate well.
Toxic StatementNon-toxic alternatives
Just stay positive  I’m listening.
Good vibes only!  I’m here no matter what.
It could be worse.  That must be really hard.
Things happen for a reason.  Sometimes bad things happen. How can I help?  
Failure isn’t an option  Failure is sometimes part of life
Happiness is a choice  Your feelings are valid.

Start noticing toxic statements and strive to let yourself and others feel and express their emotions – both the positive and the negative.

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