By Betty Gulko
“Stay positive!” “Look at the bright side of things!” “Keep on smiling!”
These are some of the things you may hear me say pretty often. Making a shift in our views towards a more positive outlook is, without a doubt, a game changer. Building the muscle to see things in life with a smile creates more positive emotions and hormones that keep us on an uplifted step. But is it becoming too much? Can aiming towards consistent positivity become toxic?
Toxic positivity is the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. It’s the idea that we should focus only on positive emotions and the positive aspects of life. If you understand this and see yourself falling towards this constant force, towards only “positivity,” then you may begin to see some signs of repressed emotions.
While cultivating a positive mindset is a powerful tool, toxic positivity stems from the idea that the best or only way to cope with any type of difficult situation is to put a positive spin on it, and not to dwell on the negative. Unfortunately, this can turn to emotional avoidance. It can undervalue and negate emotional experiences, and overvalue positive ones too. It is important to be able to sit with all of our emotions, name them, and understand them. A strategy like this, which pushes away certain internal distress, promotes a low distress tolerance and as a result, creates an unhealthy emotional regulation.
Of course, the goal of having a positive and optimistic outlook can be healthy. The idea to become a more joyous person is certainly something beautiful to become. To be able to have the ability to be mindful while paying attention to your actions and reactions, while acknowledging all types of emotions from negative to positive, is key. The pressure it gives to remain happy through any truly difficult moment, though, is in actuality unhealthy and toxic.
“Negative” emotions are not bad. We need to have all types of emotions to be able to feel and become aware if something is not good for us or even guiding us to a dangerous situation. We don’t need to judge ourselves for having any “non-positive” feeling towards anything; this will only lead towards disappointment, shame, and guilt. Putting too much emphasis on positive spins on things can stall problem solving and deeply connecting to what is going on inside.
These and more are some of the reasons why I always encourage being one with all feelings. Although I showcase a positive view, I also believe in feeling the feels and working with what your body and mind is telling you. Share and express those feelings so you can better determine how to work through them. While building up the muscle of positive outlook, it helps to maneuver through any difficult situation more easily, with less bumps. Here are some thoughts towards embracing all emotions:
Journaling. When you write down, in your own words, how you feel and the descriptions of situations that occurred, you avoid any judgments. You have the freedom to completely let it out and go from the mind to paper. This clears all the emotions from sitting and giving weight on your life. It’s an opportunity to self-reflect in the most raw of ways.
Self-Care. Our growth is holistic; it’s mind, body, and soul. Exercise, sleep, a healthy diet, being in the moment, and connecting with friends and close ones are all-encompassing components allowing you to have more tolerance with difficult moments and challenging emotions.
Mindfulness. Working on how we can become so aware of self has been proven to be a powerful stress reliever. It helps one use their mind to steer away from negative emotions and channel the energy towards being more positive. While being aware of all the emotions, being mindful gives you the opportunity to sit with that feeling and accept it.
Talk with a Coach/Therapist/Mentor. There are incredible people available who are equipped to help better understand and normalize a wider range of emotions. You can search online or call your insurance company to find one in your area and network. I offer a free discord glow-up session that will give you the opportunity to determine if I will be the right fit for you.
When one is only encouraged to think positively, even in the face of hardship, this can play a role to toxicity. It can potentially intensify the feelings and make it harder to cope in the long run. Don’t get me wrong: the goal is to be a happy and joyous person, so a positive thinking attitude is healthy. But, it’s the nonstop positivity that is simply unattainable. Remember that we all have ups and downs, and moments of uncertainty. Just be sure to honor those emotions as well, and give yourself grace to process and then achieve the better wellbeing you already have within you.
Betty Gulko, Psy.M, is a consultant/coach who focuses on mindset + confidence and helps others GLOW UP from the inside out. As the founder of Chat with Betty podcast and the Glow Up Club, she made the leap from trauma to success by allowing herself to pivot into who she truly is, and you can do the same. For more information, visit BettyGulko.com or e-mail Hello@BettyGulko.com. Follow @BettyGulko on social media for daily doses of inspiration.