Welcome, August! 2020 is f l y i n g by, and I am here for it. This has been a year that I think no one was quite ready for, and in the midst of all the negative things that have happened – it’s actually been a quite beautiful year.
For one thing, Mother Nature has had time to heal. Countless species of animals returned to their old neighborhoods within mere weeks of less humans walking around, less carbon emissions during quarantine, etc. People have become more focused on small businesses, taking care of themselves holistically, etc. Communities have banded together in times of the COVID-19 crisis, in protest with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. There has been a lot of good that has happened this year.
However, there has also been a lot of negative things too. Division, hate, exclusion, violence, death.
So what does all of this have to do with toxic positivity?
By definition, “toxic positivity” is a phrase typically used when someone portrays themselves as happy no matter what.
I have found myself to fall into the trap of being toxically positive.
Growing up, I was raised Catholic and had to go to mass every Sunday. Church was boring most of the time, but I had to go. My father, the lovely man he is, started a game with me where I tried to come up with one good thing about being there. And it was from this practice that we eventually applied this to life in general.
Looking for the positives in less-than-stellar situations is a great tool! This has been something that has become almost second nature.
The problem lies when someone only sees the positive in any/all situations, and does not hold space for the negativity.
Real life example. You hear from a friend that their elderly and ill relative has passed away. Telling them “At least they’re not suffering anymore” is a toxic-positive thing to say. Because yeah, it’s true, they aren’t suffering anymore, but a statement like that doesn’t leave room for their grief.
Toxic positivity has been on my mind lately because it’s something I’m working on un-learning. Being taught to look for the silver lining is important but for some of us (🙋♀️), this became only holding space for the silver lining.
This is something that is super prevalent in the spiritual community. Those of us who ONLY accept #loveandlight and don’t allow for anything else, is where the issues come. Because while we should not wallow in the negative side of things, we can’t ignore it either. We cannot accept the good without the bad.
This above concept is something a lot of people forget about. I think they get so focused on positivity only because they know that what they focus on is what they’ll attract (Law of Attraction 101)…but this mindset is similar to when kids throw all their toys under their bed or in their closet when they clean their rooms. Yeah, it looks pretty, but it’s not actually clean.
A friend recently has been going through a bit of a rough patch with their depression. And I kept finding myself not knowing what to say, because my first thought was to list out every good quality about her. I was going to say every positive thing I could think of, until I realized that that actually is not as helpful as I want it to be.
Because in this moment, I am making her struggle about me. What I want to do is make her feel better, so I’m going to say what I think she needs to hear. But who am “I” to decide what she needs? She knows what she needs. So all I should do in that instance, is hold space for her. Allow her the time to be as she is. Let her know that I am here for her, and that’s it.
And this, folks, is important. It’s important to be honest about the “why” behind our actions. It’s important to have the self-awareness, and the accountability, to question ourselves of our intent. Most times, concerning people who are unknowingly being toxically positive, it can be a reflection of their own trauma. Maybe, as a child, they were not allowed to show negative emotions. Maybe you’re saying something triggering to them and they process things by deflecting. And these scenarios are on them, but still.
In summary – everyone is doing the best they can with all things and we should not push them to feel differently than they do. And looking for the silver lining is just one of many things that can be done to process and deal with a kinda-shitty-situation