We all want to have the best of intentions, I mean at least I hope we do.
In order to do that though... we need to start watching what falls out of our mouths.
First, read the room.
Second, process your thoughts.
Third, just be present.
I know we've been indoctrinated to believe that putting a positive spin on every little thing will make life all better.
But that is not always the case.
Redditor numb_yet_emotional wanted to discuss the ways being "positive" maybe didn't work out best. They asked:
"What is the worst toxic positivity you've heard?"
Don't tell me to just smile. I like a solid frown thank you.
What Day?canadian what GIF by CBCGiphy
"I read a comment on Reddit that someone had wished someone a 'Happy rainbow baby day' on the anniversary of their miscarriage. So uh... that."
Just Like Bey!
"People saying that we all have the same 24 hours."
"There's a motivational image somewhere that says 'you have the same amount if hours in the day as Beyonce' and it's like.. I mean yes but how many of her hours are spent cooking, cleaning, struggling with finances, and handling life? I would argue she has more hours because she pays people to do things instead of wasting her time."
"I’ve been called brave before because of my disability. Nah bro. I’m just living life the best I can just like anyone else tries to do."
"You should be proud of not letting it affect your personality and make you bitter!"
"First of all, you never knew me without this condition, so for all you know, this IS my bitter self. Second: honey, if every bitter person needed a good reason, and if every person with a good reason turned bitter, there would be such chaos in human society."
"I would often cry as a kid because I had a really bad father. My mom's response would be 'at least you have a father, some kids don't have one!'"
"There's a saying in Dungeons and Dragons, particularly regarding toxic groups or Dungeon Masters. It's become a slogan for subreddits where people share their horror stories about really bad games, because it's pretty common that people are writing them in retrospect and, at the time, feared that they wouldn't find a group to play with again. That saying is 'Bad D&D is worse than no D&D.' Bringing this up for no reason at all."
“it’ll be ok”americas got talent shut up GIF by NBCGiphy
"When my baby was diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness in utero and everyone outside of the medical field kept saying 'it’ll be ok.' Meanwhile I’m trying to figure out how I’ll survive planning my baby’s funeral if the worst happens."
I can't with some of these. It's like people have never been in public before.
Shut Up!Joe Biden Reaction GIF by Election 2020Giphy
"Recently went to a crisis Uni. One of the case workers said you can't be sad if you're grateful. Very untrue!!!"
“doesn’t mean it”
"The idea that you 'have' to forgive everything, often said immediately after the thing happened. It’s often used as a way to dismiss the hurt or the action. You don’t have to forgive everyone or everything. Many times, forgiveness is good, especially when you can communicate with the person who hurt you. But sometimes anger is adaptive, and it signals an important boundary that you can recognize in the future."
"Relatedly, the idea that you should be explaining away someone’s behavior by trying to imagine what they were thinking or feeling. In many cases, understanding other perspectives is extremely helpful. But in cases of repeated abusive behavior, telling someone that the abuser 'doesn’t mean it' or 'you know they love you, but they have problems controlling their anger' is not helpful."
"Just choose happiness!"
"I hate this for two reasons."
"1: there is a seed of healthy advice here that has been drowned and corrupted into something absolutely meaningless and offers no help for any situation."
"2: happiness is just one of several emotions humans feel. All of them are valid and serve a role in the human experience. Anger, fear, jealousy, love, disgust, regret and sadness are just as valid as happiness and suppressing them is not healthy. Acknowledging our 'negative' emotions as they are helps us get out of bad situations much more effectively than 'choosing to be happy.'"
Pain is Pain
"Two things. It's selfish to want to help yourself when you're in a state of depression, and you shouldn't be depressed because you have what many people don't have. A roof over your head, food, water, electricity, etc. No matter who you are, you can always take care of yourself, and you can also feel depressed. Placing yourself before anyone else shouldn't be selfish, it should be basic self needs."
"Family always sticks together!"
"Bull. F**king. S**t!!"
Sometimes the best way to help... is to just shut up. There's a positive.
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Having someone to support you and to be a positive influence in your life can be a beautiful and even life affirming thing. But toxic positivity is also a thing.
It's insidious and can serve to completely invalidate the other person's feelings.
Believe it or not, when someone is seeking help and support, they're not necessarily looking for positivity.
Consider what writer Sarah Schuster has to say on the subject:
You can't make someone be positive. You can't sprinkle positivity dust on them and make their problems go away. And honestly, when people are seeking help and support, they're usually not looking for straight-up, inspirational poster positivity. More often, they're looking for validation that their negative feelings are OK.
Toxic positivity is the opposite of what many of us are looking for when seeking help and support:
The hard-to-face truth is, supporting people isn't about being "positive." In fact, when you force positivity down someone's throat, it can actually have the opposite effect. "Toxic positivity" can make people feel unsafe expressing their negativity, and negativity thrives in isolation. It can make people think there's something wrong with them for not simply "choosing" happiness, and shame is negativity's enabling best friend.
When we're supporting someone who's hurting, we need to leave room for positivity to grow. And you don't yell at a flower to "just" grow — you water it. In this case, you water it with listening, with validation, and with unconditional support. It's OK to experience negative emotions, and with support, we can help people who are stuck in negativity find their own way out. Simply telling them to "be positive" doesn't cut it.
This is where a graphic created by Whitney Hawkins Goodman, LMFT, owner of The Collaborative Counseling Center, comes in, and it's eye-opening.
Hawkins Goodman successfully illustrates the difference between toxic positivity and actual validation and hope below:
Here are some positive sayings I found on Pinterest. Alone, they're pretty benign. But for someone who is really struggling they can sting. I translated them into some different variations that I think still inspire hope, but are validating. What do you think?
See the difference?
Others do, and the chart has proved rather eye-opening for those seeking to understand the two distinctions.
We should always work on ourselves to be better friends––and better people––step by step!