4 things every teen should know about toxic positivity

Social media is flooded with a “good vibes only” mentality. It’s always the good, the better or the best moments of life. Life isn’t always like that. It gets messy. There are bad days, weeks or even months. Sometimes the good luck runs out and the bad moves in. Even focusing only on the good can be as bad as focusing only on the bad. 

What is toxic positivity?

Ever heard the saying, “too much of a good thing”? That’s exactly what toxic positivity can be. Sometimes optimism and positive thinking are essential. It’s not a good mindset to constantly live as an Eeyore. However, relentless optimism can be just as bad as relentless pessimism. 

Instead of allowing oneself to be real and accept that life is a roller coaster of emotions — good and bad — toxic positivity embraces only the good.

Toxic positivity is the new fake it till you make it. 

Why is toxic positivity bad?

If you’re striving for good vibes only, why can too much positivity be toxic? It can keep you from facing hard choices or problems. It can cause you to feel guilty for feeling sadness, disappointment or any other “bad” emotions. It will have you hiding your true feelings behind cute sayings and memes on your social media. Toxic positivity will have you being like Elsa, saying, “Conceal, don’t feel,” at least to anything but the good. When you’re always positive, you don’t learn how to handle hard emotions or difficult situations in a healthy manner. 

What does toxic positivity really look like?

A positive outlook can be beneficial for your mindset. What does a toxic positivity mindset or comment look like? Is it easy to spot? It’s often wrapped up in good intentions.

You may tell a friend or a parent that you’re having a bad day. You’re expecting comfort, but you’re met with, “You have too much to be thankful for to be having a bad day!” Or they may say, “You’re too young to know what a bad day is like.”

Maybe you and a sibling are fighting. It could be over an invasion of privacy, or any other sibling rivalry squabble that occasionally occurs. You’re told that your family and family sticks together no matter what. No matter what? Even the happiest of families need their space and time away from each other!

You just experienced your first heartbreak. Your heart is shattered in a million or trillion pieces on the floor. “You’re young. You’re just a kid. You don’t understand what real love is and will find it one day.” Love knows no age limit. Real love to you is real love. Your experience is a big deal if it feels like a big deal to you. 

Toxic positivity, while most likely coming from good intentions, invalidates your feelings. You had a bad day? You’re young; you can’t possibly know what real bad days are like, right? A better response from the person to you would have been, “I’m sorry that you had a rough day. Would you like advice or just to vent?” Just because you’re a teenager and not having “adult” problems, doesn’t mean you can’t have bad days or issues. Empathy is the best approach instead of forcing toxic positivity.

How to avoid toxic positivity

It is possible to keep a positive outlook without straying into toxic positivity. Here are some things to remember to avoid toxic positivity:

  • There are no “bad” emotions — All emotions are a natural experience in life. No emotion is inherently bad or good. Some emotions make us feel better than others. Without the hard emotions, we can’t learn to appreciate the easy and fun emotions.

  • Failure is OK — You may have heard, “Failure is not an option.” Perfection can be a form of toxic positivity. Not a single person is perfect and positive all the time. Failure helps you grow. Success comes from risking failure and failing to fail.

  • Avoid always using positive sayings — Empathy is key. You want to receive empathy as much as you need to give it. Acknowledge to yourself and others that it’s OK to feel disappointment, to have a bad day, to fail spectacularly. Embrace the “bad” as a natural part of life and keep going.

  • Get help if you’re stuck — If you’re on the receiving end of toxic positivity or need help to stop avoiding hard emotions, help can be found in therapy. Therapy doesn’t have to be scary. A therapist can help you navigate any difficulty you may be facing with process-based therapy (PBT), which is the clinical model we use at Lightfully. Process-based therapy can help you address the toxic positivity that may make you feel anxious. PBT can also help you address the underlying issues that are behind your toxic positivity. In addition, part of your PBT plan may be to learn healthy mindfulness. You may learn how to acknowledge how and why you’re feeling a certain way and not to judge yourself for feeling that way as well.

Emotions are an important part of life, and Lightfully Teen can help you find a healthy balance

Lightfully Teen can help you learn how to balance the good and the bad emotions and avoid falling into toxic positivity. Our licensed clinical experts are trained to help you with many mental health disorders. You are more than a diagnosis or just “a kid.” You are a unique individual who is a complex human being navigating a difficult world. 

At Lightfully Behavioral Health, we’re here to help you to learn how to navigate the ever-changing social and emotional world of the teenage years. It doesn’t have to be to “fix” any certain kind of condition or issue. Seeing a therapist can give you a neutral, empathetic ear that can provide you with needed advice or sounding board. 

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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