What do you do when negative emotions, like sadness, anger, fear, anxiety, disgusted, etc hits you? What’d you say to people you care about, when they tell you their problems? Do you show them an empathy or toxic positivity?
We might not realize that we can be victim or culprit of toxic positivity at the same time. So, what’s toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity can be defined as excessive and inneffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situation(thepsychologygroup.com)
To give you an easier explanation (I hope), I’ll show you some example below.
Your friend has broke up with her boyfriend. She’s really heartbroken. She’s crying out loud and needs someone to talk to. Then she came to you and told you her problems. As a response, you told her some “encouragement words” ,such as :
” Be positive”
“Look on the bright side”
“Don’t give up”
“Everything’s gonna be alright”
“Moving on” (etc)
(In Bahasa, you often say, “sabar ya..”, “semangat ya..”, “jangan nyerah”, “udah ikhlasin aja” etc)
You told your best friend that you’re defamed by your coworker. It really damaged your reputation that you’ve developed for many years. And your boss was starting to lose his trust in you. Then, your best friend compared your problem with hers or others. She compared which one is more pathetic. She compared who suffers more between you and her or others. In the other hand, she just talked about herself, didn’t pay attention of what you’re saying.
If you have experienced those kind of situation, well, that’s toxic positivity. For situation 1, your friend become the victim of toxic postivity. And you become the one who throws toxic positivity. Meanwhile situation 2 is the opposite of situation 1.
There’re some characteristics of toxic positivity.
- Denial. Toxic positivity is fake positivity. It makes people deny and pretend to be happy just to cover their negative emotions. They’ll refuse to be honest to their true emotions and feelings.
- Unrealistic. Toxic positivity puts us as if we always have to be happy and positive. Life is up and down. Our life is not always at the top. We can’t always laugh. Sometimes we can cry. The encouragemnt words like I told you in situation 1, look good and motivating. But, it’s kinda problematic and unrealistic. Why? Some of you might disagree with me. Some of you might answer, “I just try to motivate his/her, so he/she can forget his/her problems. Where’s the mistake?”. Well, I suggest you to read it till the end cause the answer will be revealed (implicitly) on the next part.
- Comparing who suffers more. Like the example on situation 2, toxic positivity thinks others problem is nothing compare to our problems.
So, what should we do to avoid toxic positivity?
- Admitting and understanding your negative emotions. Negative emotions are normal. You don’t need to hide your true emotions by smiling or pretending that you’re okay. Cause it’s okay to not be fine (sometimes).
- Releasing your true emotions. If you’re sad after breaking up, you can cry. If someone treats you like a shit, you can angry. When you’ll have a presentation on annual meeting, it’s normal if you’re nervous, especially if it’s your first time. Why do we have to hide it? Why do we have to lie, like everything is okay? Hiding your emotions will damage your mental health in long term.
- Learning to control your emotions. Controlling emotions is different from hiding emotions. If you want learn how to control your emotions, you should admit and know first, what kind of emotions do you feel, what do you want. And you won’t ever know your emotions well, if the things you do is denial.
- Be a good listener. Don’t interupt someone who tells you her/his problem. Listen and pay attention to what they’re talking about. That’s the reason why God gives us 2 ears and 1 mouth.
- Don’t compare who suffers more. Our problem might be the same. But, our strength in facing the problem might be different. What you think is easy, can be difficult for others and vice versa.
- Giving the right response. I know it’s hard to give the right response and honestly, I often act like Ms.Know-It-All to them (I’m so sorry T_T). So, what’d you say? You can show them that you care about their condition by saying, :
“I’m deeply sorry to hear that”
“I know it’s really hard for you”
“If I were you, I’d feel the same” (etc.)
Or… you can give physical touch if necessary (and if he/she doesn’t mind about it), like patting his/her shoulder, hugs, etc. Then, you can offer him/her to talk (or even crying) more till he/she feels better and satisfied. If he/she asks you for an advice, please, do it wisely. If he/she doesn’t ask, please, don’t be Mr/Mrs/Ms Know-It-All (Tbh, it’s the hardest part I should change from myself). Cause sometimes someone only needs to be heard, not asking for advice.