Toxic positivity.

There’s nothing wrong with positive thinking.  But it’s become fashionable in recent years to shame “negative thinking.”  I put that phrase in quotes because sometimes “negative” just means being realistic.    Too often, being positive is the same thing as denying reality: The 3 pack a day smoker with a chronic cough insists they are healthy when you suggest they see a doctor (of course, this could be fear on their part too).   The abused wife tells you everything at home is fine even though she has the demeanor of a whipped dog and flinches whenever her husband speaks to her.   Your “friend” tells you you’re being paranoid when you (correctly) observe that he hasn’t called you in several weeks and is always “busy” whenever you’re around.    He is gaslighting you.

These are examples of toxic positivity.  Empathy is not a factor when it’s directed at someone else’s concerns.    Toxic positivity sounds more like criticism or gaslighting when directed at another person, or just plain lying or denial when it’s about yourself.   In both cases, it helps no one.

I don’t know who made this chart, but I like it because it shows the difference between toxic positivity and real positivity, which includes empathy.


Further reading: 

Where I Stand On Positive Thinking

22 thoughts on “Toxic positivity.

  1. Just a week or two ago Vickie did this to Caroline on Dark Shadows. Everything Caroline said, Vickie said, stop worrying, that won’t happen, you’ve got to… etc. etc. I told the screen, “You’re a terrible person to talk to, Vickie.” Then I saw this meme…. 🙂

    I remember getting a lot of “toxic positivity” at various times in my life: after breakups, after breaking off relations with bad “friends.” I had so much crap to get out of my system, but nobody wanted to hear about it. That’s why I turned, first, to diaries and journals, and later to blogging.

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    • I got the toxic positivity thing all my life. My parents were really into that, they couldn’t tolerate my “negative” emotions. I always had to fake happiness or be criticized or even punished. It caused me to develop low self esteem and painful shyness and constantly worry about what others thought of me or if they might think I wasn’t “happy” enough.

      Blogging was the best therapy ever! Once I went NC with my narcs, I started this blog and it was incredible how much writing my thoughts and feelings out and getting feedback from complete strangers changed my outlook on things.
      Now I use my blog differently since I’ve changed a lot and just write about a variety of things. (not all of them positive!)
      I hope other narc abuse survivors still find help from my old articles. They’re still my most popular posts so I guess they are helpful.

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  2. Oh yeah, and then there was the guy who called me “too negative” because I was depressed. Made it into a character flaw, in fact, and a reason he didn’t want to date me. So I became even more depressed.

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    • That’s one popular way narcs love to gaslight you and make you feel defective. By telling you your normal feelings are “character flaws.” Of course you got more depressed, that was probably the intention.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know what exactly was going on with him, because he had actual diagnosed mental health issues such as depression that may have influenced how he treated me. But his behavior sure was narcissistic!

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  3. I’m thankful that you wrote this post, Lucky. I needed to read this today. My doctor called this morning and told me the radiologist found an area of concern on the mammogram that I had last week, so I need to have more tests done this Friday. And I have been a nervous wreck ever since I got the doctor’s phone call.

    I don’t need anybody to beat me up with toxic positivity, I have been beating myself up all day! I tell myself I shouldn’t worry, because I had surgery and biopsies on my colon last July and everything turned out benign, and then I had surgery and biopsies on December 6 for growths on my skin that the surgeon told me he was sure was cancer, but those, too, were benign. SO, all day today, since the doctor called, I have been telling myself not to be a worrier, because those other biopsies turned out not to be cancer, so this probably isn’t cancer, either.

    But you know what, Lucky? I Am Tired Of This Shit.

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  4. I just happened to stumble across your blog and I am so glad that I did! I so agree with what you’ve written. Toxic positivity doesn’t address the underlying issue, it merely puts a mask over it.
    In fact, I had recently written a post about the same. Perhaps you would be interested in reading it and offering your opinions!
    Nonetheless, great post! Keep blogging!

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