When “Good Vibes” Get Bad – Toxic Positivity

“No bad vibes!”

I’m sure you’ve seen this message before. Maybe you spotted it scattered over an array of colourful notebooks at Indigo, or on that one over-enthusiastic influencer’s Instagram.

If that doesn’t ring a bell for you, how about the phrase urging you to “always look at the bright side!” 

You get the gist: it’s pushing people towards the idea that you should block out any and all negativity that may arise in your life. Now would be a great time to erase all of the above advice from your mind, forever. Although at first glance it may come across as a form of self care, it’s really just a load of harmful and unhealthy behaviour, otherwise known as toxic positivity.

Here is the definition of toxic positivity according to Verywellmind.com: “The belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset.” The simple reality is that you can’t heal your problems with “good vibes!” and suddenly flip on a cheer-up switch. 

Now, don’t get me wrong: it’s great to focus on happy thoughts to get through those rough days, but there is a difference between this normal search for hope and constantly forcing yourself to suppress valid emotions. Here are some examples of this toxic positivity and better alternatives:

Change “don’t worry, you’ll get over it” to “this is hard, but you can do this, you’ve done hard things before. You don’t have to pretend you’re okay right now.”

Instead of thinking “stop being so negative”, know that “it’s normal to have negative emotions in this situation. Don’t pressure yourself to always feel happy.”

Avoid “it’s fine, just change your mindset” and try “I know it’s hard to see any positives right now, and that’s okay. Later when things are better, you can make sense of it.”

It’s not true that “failure is not an option”. Actually, “failure is part of growth and you need to listen to yourself. I’m proud you are trying.”

You should never block out and invalidate your emotions or situations that don’t fit into the category of good vibes. In the end, avoidance of suffering just causes more suffering. When denying our situations, we start to live inauthentically. When this happens you can lose connection with yourself, in turn making it difficult to form or keep up good relationships with others. This may seem like common sense, but I find that people often forget to allow themselves moments, days, or possibly even weeks where they feel bad and do not feel guilty for it. 

In order to work through problems, you need to assess what you’re feeling and why. This is what keeps us sane and healthy. Allowing a broad range of emotions helps you regulate your responses to issues. You can try writing things down, talking about them with someone, or simply acknowledging you aren’t feeling great. Even just letting yourself cry is helpful. This might not always be easy, so be patient with yourself.

Now, not only do you need to remember to protect yourself from this mindset, but don’t project it onto others either! Even unconsciously, you can say certain things in an attempt to make someone feel better, but in the long run, it will only make things worse by invalidating and minimizing their feelings and problems, and potentially harming their ability to open up to you or others. 

In short, use this article as a reminder to feel your emotions and take the time you need to heal from any issue, no matter how insignificant it may feel. Aim for a balance between the good and the bad, and I encourage you to set boundaries with anyone who does not welcome this. Accept that it is okay to not be okay. Actually, it’s more than okay; it’s just plain human, and yes, this can take some time to remember too. Now say it with me: all vibes are welcome.

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