What is toxic positivity?

Trigger warning as this may offend some people- but that is ok because we can be triggered AND worthy of love and belonging.

Toxic positivity is kind of the opposite of affirming and holding space for your own and others’ actual realities and perspectives and experiences. Most humans just truly need and want to be seen and understood for who we/they ARE and where they are at any given moment of their journeys.

Trust me- I know this for many reasons: my career as a listener AND my own human experiences with all sorts of struggles, AND raising children, AND being married, AND having professional colleagues who are fabulous friends to name a few.

Toxic positivity is often used with beautiful intentions but it misses the mark of being helpful and establishing a foundation for authentic connections. It can sound like cheerleading. It often makes the person saying all the “positive” things feel better and less awkward- we therapists find it awkward to even engage with others in this way or to see it happening because we know how damaging and minimizing and frustrating and sad it can be for the person being “TP’d”….

As a human, a grieving daughter and a member recently initiated into the Multiple Sclerosis Club, I know firsthand what it feels like. Consistent messages from kind humans such as … Just Stay Strong,

You seem like you are doing Fantastic,

Just Keep Having Faith,

Everything happens for a reason,

God only gives you what you can handle….

Ummmm- most of us( not speaking for ALL as we are all different- but MOST humans ) really want to laugh and cry and are saying Fuck Off in our heads, as we politely say thank you or just kind of ignore this type of “help.”

Empathic responses or affirmations to those going through the shitty parts of life look like this:

This must really suck for you.

I am here if you just want to scream or cry or cuss.

I am sorry you are going through this.

I hope you have a good day and know you are loved.

I have no words for this ridiculousness you are going through but I love you.

Life can be so hard and such a mystery.

This must be really scary for you and your family.

Whatever you are feeling is valid. And I bet you probably have all kinds of different feelings- it may seem like being on a roller coaster.

Fuck Cancer

Fuck MS ( insert any and all chronic illnesses)

For those who aren’t cussers, you get the gist…

I hope these examples give you a new way to consider helping your fellow humans AND to look inside and explore what you may need to hear from your own self in your own efforts to provide internal compassion and self-acceptance.

May we all recognize our own individual needs and experiences while at the same time remembering that we are all unique with various perspectives. Differences are part of the human experience AND connecting with others is a gift that serves us all very well.

I’m too tired to edit for grammar so it is what it is. And if you really know me, you know I am an excellent editor but sometimes you just have to call it a day.

8 thoughts on “What is toxic positivity?

  1. Wow!! So this is why you always made a better grade in grad school than me! Great writing my friend!!! This has been my “paradigm” (insert laughter here) for many many years! It doesn’t help at all to pretend that everyone is going to be fine and better. I will always be here to sit with you and say “this sucks”!! And it does.


  2. I just found your blog and I am so glad I did! I loved reading this post and find you to be very interesting. I have just recently gotten to the point that I just want to say fuck it! I have taken care of people all my life and always helped everyone. I tend to ignore myself.
    I was diagnosed with MS almost 20 years ago. I know it is probably a good thing that I was diagnosed so young, but it still sucked. I actually started my blog 3 years ago and really do enjoy it. I have always been passionate about writing, so this gives me a chance to write and have a healthy outlet. I am really looking forward to reading more of your posts!! I hope if you have the time you will check out my site. I do try to spread positivity, but I keep things honest. I hope you are feeling well and have a very Merry Christmas!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there and thank you so much! I can’t imagine having MS for as long as you have- I was 46 when mine attacked me on my son’s 15th birthday- so you definitely have a lot of experience living with what I sometimes refer to as Multiple Surprises…
      I would love to follow your blog- I am not the most technically inclined so just tell me how- I am brand new to this whole thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It has not been easy, but I refuse to let MS win this battle. If there is anything I can do for you, please never hesitate to reach out to me.
        I do hope you will be able to follow my blog because I do my best to share positive thoughts and help when I can. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. My email address is alyssabowman81@gmail.com
        Take care!!!!


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