There is absolutely nothing wrong with looking at the bright side of life and staying optimistic no matter what. There are some people who can genuinely stay positive (in the right way) in all kinds of situations. Perhaps the vibes of these people are just too strong that no amount of trouble can shatter their happiness and optimism.
On the flip side, there are some people who fake their emotions and try to portray themselves as the epitome of positive vibes despite the negative things that are happening to them and around them. These people do not want others to see their true feelings and want to maintain an image of being happy all the time.
While many believe that these two kinds of people are considered examples of toxic positivity, no one can rightly judge them. Each individual has his own story — and the only way to understand why people act the way they do is to know their different stories and experience their life first-hand.
Perhaps trying to stay optimistic despite the negativities of life — whether pretend or genuine — is the only thing that keeps them going.
Maybe the one who fakes his happiness is only using this strategy as a form of motivation to convince himself that happiness is just around the corner.
Some people fake it till they make it.
Different people have different ways of coping with their problems and unpleasant experiences. For some individuals, recognizing their negative emotions is an effective way to let off some steam. However, for others, trying to stay positive and maintaining good vibes is the only thing that keeps them sane.
When Positivity Becomes Toxic
Positivity only becomes toxic when it is used to cover up or silence other people’s negative feelings and experiences.
For example, if your friend is grieving a loss and comes to you for some support, and you just tell her to stay positive and that she’ll get over it in no time, that’s forcing your false optimism on her. She may view it as toxic — and to tell you the truth, it really is.
Toxic positivity is the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience. Toxic positivity is an insincere type of positivity, and it almost always leads to harm, unnecessary suffering, and misunderstanding. It’s important to note that there is a fine line between having a healthy positive attitude and forcing other people to look at life from your perspective.
When it comes to deciding whether to look at the brighter side of life or acknowledging the presence of life’s shady side, you are only responsible for yourself. You make a choice for yourself and your general outlook in life should only affect you.
In short, you cannot force anything to anyone, whether it is well-meant or not. Whether you have other people’s best interests at heart, or you are just plain insensitive to other people’s sufferings.
Another example of toxic positivity is trying to manipulate a real unpleasant situation to make it look like it could have been worse. Sadly, some toxic positive people do this in purpose to make those who are adversely affected look like they are playing victims, or they are just being cynical.
A more realistic example is one we often see during this pandemic: job loss. Many people around the world have lost their jobs and become unemployed due to the closure of a lot of businesses, thanks to the COVID-19 crisis.
While a lot of people suffer, however, some people brag about “looking at the bright side” and tell others that it could have been worse. Others are telling us to just be grateful because not everyone lost their jobs. Ironically, these people who are spreading toxic positivity are those who were not directly affected. Do you ever wonder what they will say or how they will react if they were the ones suffering this unfortunate fate?
Positivity becomes toxic if you show a lack of empathy.
There is nothing wrong with being optimistic. As a matter of fact, it may just be exactly what most everyone needs especially during this time of uncertainty: a dose of positivity. However, if you dismiss other people’s sorrow and sufferings as if they are not real and therefore unnecessary, then you are not spreading optimism — only pure toxicity.
Too Much Negativity Can Be Dangerous Too
While toxic positivity is real, let us also not forget that too much negativity can be more deadly. During this time of crisis, there’s so much negativity from almost all aspects of life. From the fear of the virus to the fear of a possible continuous economic collapse, many people are getting more and more anxious and depressed.
We cannot blame people for letting off their steam. Perhaps those who are ranting and complaining are just doing so because that’s the only way for them to unload their feelings and frustrations that are bottling up inside. People who choose to look at the silver linings cannot and should not force these people to see things from their points of view.
Similarly, people who prefer to acknowledge, accept, absorb, and release their negative emotions should not force others who are doing the opposite to do the same. It’s okay to ask for support and expect empathy — but we can’t force anything to anyone — and we definitely cannot force anyone to feel what we feel, or be honest with what they truly feel.
“Misery loves company.”
Unfortunately, there are just a lot of negative people around. Not just the understandably negatives (i.e. those who have valid reasons to be negative). Sad to say, there are just people who tend to choose to see, or worse, point out the bad things, no matter how little and insignificant they seem. In fact, many people choose to get offended with small things and label those who prefer to stay positive as insensitive.
Some negative people get offended when they see pictures of other people’s meals, saying that many go hungry during this crisis. Some people get angry at those who post their old holiday photos despite being stuck at home just like almost everyone else. People tend to get upset with workout selfies, family videos, bible verses, motivational quotes, and almost anything that depicts enjoyment and optimism.
These people are miserable — they want everyone else to sulk in sorrow and suffer in pain, just like they do. Misery indeed loves company. But just because you are unhappy doesn’t mean others should be unhappy too. Just because you are suffering does not mean others should suffer too. There is a fine line between being honest with what you feel and just being bitter in life.
Embrace Individual Differences
We have different experiences in life and we have different ways of coping. What works for you may not work for another.
In this time of crisis and uncertainties, it’s more important to care for our health (both mental and physical), keep healthy relationships, and embrace individual differences. Showing no empathy and taking too much offense are two sure ways that will lead to further division.
If staying optimistic about life, no matter what’s happening around you, helps keep you going, by all means, stay positive. Just remember to also be empathic towards other people who cannot yet see the good things that you are seeing.
On the other hand, if by being pessimistic once in while helps unload your burdens, feel free to release your negative emotions in whatever appropriate way you think possible. Just make sure not to take offense from almost anything that doesn’t agree with you.
This world is in too much pain and suffering already. Let’s try not to add to its burdens by further destroying one another — or worse, by causing our own destruction.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”Audre Lorde