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Toxic Positivity – What Is It And How Does It Harm You?

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Around the new year, a friend of mine called to chat. We started reminiscing about the year,

and I mentioned some difficulties I was going through. Within just a few seconds, however,

he had cut me off.

“Let’s not talk about all that,” he said. “It’s too depressing. Can’t you just focus on the


At the time, I agreed, but I was left wondering

about our conversation afterward. I generally

consider myself an upbeat person, and I

hadn’t been discussing anything too “out

there,” but my buddy still hadn’t wanted to

hear. So, what was it about my experience that

had bothered him?

I think the answer has to do with toxic

positivity. Instead of being honest when they’re feeling down or admitting that they need

help, people who practice toxic positivity refuse to acknowledge anything is a problem. It’s

putting on the perfect face to the world, even when everything is far from perfect in reality.

This reaction pressures many people, especially us Black males, to not be open about our


Here are some examples of how toxic positivity may express itself:

● Saying “It’s all for the best,” “Pray about it,” or “It will all work out in the end” when

someone confides something challenging to you and refusing to acknowledge their

difficulty. Examples of possible responses you can use that don’t invalidate someone’s

feelings: “I offer my condolences,” “Can I pray with and for you?”, “That has to be tough”--

validation and being heard in these situations can be helpful.

● Let’s call it the Instagram effect – Presenting that everything is perfect to the rest of the

world, even when it’s not.

● You feel like you can’t complain because “other people have it worse” than you do.

Don’t get me wrong; optimism is a good thing! But ignoring anything negative in your life

and hoping it will just “go away” isn’t going to work. You can only solve your problems by

confronting them and working through them.

So how about it – Can you think of any times you’ve seen or practiced toxic positivity?

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