Toxic positivity has become a buzzword in recent years as people become more aware of the potential harm caused by constantly trying to remain positive, even in the midst of hardship, suffering, and psychological distress.
The term refers to the belief that one should always maintain a positive attitude, even when confronted with adversity, and that any negative or unpleasant emotions and/or life experiences should be overridden by feelings of gratitude or joy. The rise of social media and the influence of an everyday life coach has only exacerbated the phenomenon. This leads many people to seek advice from unqualified people rather than seeking evidence-informed mental health care and support.
What is toxic positivity and why is it harmful?
The message of – ‘always be positive’, whist well-intended, can often encourage people to dismiss their feelings and instead look only on the bright side of the situation. The danger, is that it can cause people to feel guilty for having negative emotions and can lead to the invalidation of their experience. This can lead to a vicious cycle of shame and self-blame, where people feel they are failing to live up to the ideal of being constantly happy and positive.
The rise of unqualified mental health ‘experts’ on social media
More recently, social media has exploded with individuals presenting themselves as mental health and wellness “experts”, yet many lack formal training or qualifications in these areas. Often they promote their services through social media platforms, offering quick solutions and simple fixes to complex emotional problems. Unfortunately, this can lead people to rely on these coaches, rather than seeking mental health support from qualified, experienced, and accredited mental health professionals who deliver evidence-based health care.
Whilst these kinds of life coaches are well-meaning, they often lack the knowledge, expertise, and skills to address the root causes of mental health issues. What’s more is that they are unprepared to deal with serious and complex mental health conditions, which require proper diagnosis and treatment from qualified mental health professionals.
The danger of toxic positivity and the influence of unqualified people offering short-term solutions, is that they can be an attractive solution for many Australians struggling to find affordable and accessible care. This can lead people to seek out alternative options, such as online coaching services, which may not provide the level of professional care they need. Whilst life coaches may provide valuable guidance in certain areas, they are not a substitute for mental health care.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”– Brene Brown
The risks of avoiding proper mental health care
Qualified mental health providers such as Interrelate, are working to bridge the gap by providing affordable, accessible, and effective mental health care. It is important to remember that seeking mental health care is crucial for managing mental health challenges, whether through traditional channels or innovative new solutions like online psychological counselling. Accredited mental health professionals are trained to diagnose and treat mental health conditions and can provide evidence-based care that is tailored to an individual’s needs.
7 ways toxic positivity can harm your mental health:
- Feeling guilty for experiencing negative emotions.
- Invalidating your feelings because they aren’t positive.
- Falling into a cycle of shame and self-blame because you don’t feel good about everything.
- Finding temporary relief from an unpleasant feeling or problem, but not long-term solutions.
- Exacerbating mental health issues instead of resolving them.
- Developing unrealistic expectations of having to be constantly positive.
- Avoiding proper mental health care and support.
Toxic positivity is a habit more than a health condition, but it can have serious effects for your overall experience of health and wellbeing. If you’re wondering if you, or someone you know have fallen into the toxic positivity trend, then having a chat with a mental health professional can help you to develop healthier solutions for working through challenges.