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Sweet Polly sunshine and the facade of toxic positivity

What is toxic positivity? It’s the belief that you should appear happy, even if you are struggling. So picture a person who is skipping through a lollipop land of shiny faces and perfect families with a basket of daisies singing show tunes all the time.

Like that’s for real?

Now there are benefits to being an optimist for sure. But toxic positivity takes positive thinking to an extreme. It minimizes and denies any trace of human emotions that aren’t strictly happy and dismisses difficult emotions. That’s BS.

We need to make room for those emotions, too. In fact, the way to happiness is to acknowledge and work through struggles instead of burying them in a deeply dug latrine.

I’m going to be brutally honest. When I express sadness and someone says that “happiness is a choice,” I want to punch them in the face for suggesting it’s my fault for not “choosing” to be happy.

It’s shaming
It causes guilt
It avoids authentic human emotion
Most importantly, it prevents growth. Because toxic positivity promotes avoiding painful emotions and denies us the ability to heal emotionally. I have learned to laugh again. And not because I forced myself but because I allowed myself to feel my way through all the pain so I could find it again.

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

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