Self-criticism is disastrous.

The dangers associated with toxic positivity

The dangers associated with negative positivity

[This article is quite a touchy one.

I must apologize in advance because I might “go there”. i.e.,

I have no intention of hurting you or despising your beliefs.

However sensitive this matter is, the discussion is very important. As it affects a lot of people negatively including me the writer.

I’m a very optimistic person who always believes that there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is not a wrong positive statement to hold on to however, positivity has been cheapened by the actions of certain people.

Last year I really wanted to start a business, I read a lot of business books, said a prayer but I didn’t save enough money for the business.

The business was capital intensive and the money I in my savings was not enough to start up.

However, I was positive that the business will succeed.

I thought all I needed to do was to start small, do little advertisements and clients will definitely show up.

However, this didn’t happen, my first two months of starting up the business I got no client but guess what?

Instead of taking some time off to make some research and find out what the problem was. I kept downloading positive quotes which I used as a mantra.

After 4 months into my business, Ihad an encounter with my first client.

Guess what she said to me? It is a nice product you have got there however I have never heard of you before.

One will think that, this encounter will activate the thinking bulb in my head

However, the layers of positive self-talk I affirmed daily compressed my ability to think logically.

Note: I have no issue with being optimistic, I’m an optimist.

My business fully crashed after 6 months. All I had left were a layer of positivity shielding my fear, shame, and failure.

This wasn’t genuine positivity; it was clearly toxic positivity.

I learned a very important lesson after the fall of the business. Being positive doesn’t mean you have to be an emotionless human who sees the truth but hide it.  An optimist rather seeks the truth and looks for a solution to create a change.

For example, an optimist facing a lack of sales in their business will accept the fact that they have launched this business for 2 months but received no potential clients.

He/she will switch into problem-solving mode. They will critically analyze the situation, refer back to the business books they have read, and ask questions with the aim of helping them solve the issue.

This is the difference between optimism and toxic positivity.

The dangers associated with toxic positivity
The dangers associated with toxic positivity

What is toxic positivity?

  1. Toxic positivity suggests that people should not express negative emotions. It clearly states that it is better to suppress emotions under layers of positivity.

(I.e., no feeling of anger, hurt, sadness is allowed.

People must learn to put up a bold front no matter how hurt or sad they are).

This is a crazy concept and the fact that people actually live like this makes me feel so sad.

Being complacent and totally perfect is not a characteristics of humans.

If we were, then there is no need for different emotions that course through us when certain events occur.

As emotional beings, we love, hate, care, give, show kindness, forgive, get angry and sometimes hurt people.

We feel different kinds of emotions when certain things happen to us.

These emotions make us human, if we do not accept that we can make mistakes sometimes then how can we accept the mistakes of other people.

There is a saying that “charity begins at home”

If you can’t understand that sometimes you do unreasonable and questionable things, how will you be able to tolerate another person when they display these questionable characters.

Hiding our emotions under series of positive statements does not mean that the emotions have diffused into space. It is just hidden along with several other pent-up emotions that might just explode someday.

In a particular study conducted, the results showed that when someone is asked to stop thinking about a particular thing. It only intensifies their need to think about it.

Telling yourself not “to feel” is completely ironic from our personality. It is like denying our own nature and shying away from a part of ourselves that we should embrace and learn to control.

Optimists who are true to themselves will tell you how all about how hurt they have been. How despise they felt when they were mocked or bully, how hard they cried when the world felt like it was against them.

They embraced the negative feeling, process the emotions but what they didn’t do was subject themselves to self-hate comments.

Differences between negative self-talk and the processing of negative emotions

These are two completely different things. However, most people do not know this hence they confuse them to mean the same thing.

The act of processing your negative emotions and the act of engaging in negative self-talk is completely different. If you have made the mistake of confusing the two concepts, now is your chance to understand the concept.

Engaging in negative self-talk is one of the deadliest weapons lots of people use to destroy their future.

It involves self-criticism, self-hate, selfishness to one’s happiness, lack of acceptance, constant anticipation of the worst-case scenario.

An individual that engages in negative self-talk ensures that they hurt themselves emotionally and mentally.

They never give themselves credit for an achievement, they compare themselves with everyone even people that started earlier than them. They never accept compliments and always look for ways to apportion blame to themselves.

This is totally different from a person trying to process their negative emotions, probably you feel sad about something that happened. Instead of hiding the feeling from yourself, you make an effort to find out what caused your sadness.

Was it a word someone said to you? Was it an action?

Are you sure it was directed to you or are you misinterpreting the action? Do you need to confront the person? Did you do something that deserves the action?

At this point, you are trying to embrace the feeling in order to find out what propelled it. Most people explain that while doing this they end up crying or feel worse. However, this is better than storing pent-up emotions that are bound to explode on a particular day.


3 major characteristics of toxic positivity

If you are trying to stay positive when faced with challenging situations. Ensure that the positivity is healthy as toxic positivity will only do more harm than good.

Here are some characteristics that will help you identify if the positivity you exhibit is toxic.

1.It regards negative emotions as bad and unhealthy                                                                                                                                                         Bottling up a negative emotion is more painful than processing it immediately you identify the feeling. If you feel like a negative emotion is completely bad and evil then you should know that your positivity is negative.

Helpful positivity seeks to search for solutions, it encourages one to take responsibility for their predicament and look for possible solutions. This is not the case in toxic positivity. Toxic positivity paints negative emotions as the villains that need to be put away.

When you put away your emotions, you put off your ability to process the emotions. And search for ways to offer a solution to the problem faced.

If we cannot feel or process our emotions. This also means we cannot have compassion for others when unprecedented things happen to them.

  1. It is insincere and pretentious                                                                                                        Toxic positivity cannot last for long. How long do you want to feed yourself with lame positive self-talk over the unexpected death of a loved one?

Do you really understand what it means to lose someone?

Instead of welcoming the emotion and dealing with it even though it might take weeks or months. You decide to pretend that you’re happy and everything is okay.

You can choose to hold the hurt in for some time but how sure are you that it doesn’t affect another part of your life.

Most people slip into alcoholism and different social vices just to escape the pain that comes with accepting one’s emotion.

The truth is no matter how long you pretend and try to act like you are fine. Deep within yourself, you know that you are nothing close to fine, rather you are slowly killing yourself or pushing yourself an inch closer to mental illness.

  1. Lack of compassion for others                                                                                                                                                              A person who does not process his/her feeling might have little or no idea about what it really feels like to be hurt. Therefore, they give the same treatment to others.

Their famous lines include;

  • You are better than this.
  • You are been ungrateful, you still have …
  • You’re not the only one …
  • Look on the bright side
  • Forgot about that

They try to communize your emotions like it doesn’t really mean anything. They try to make you feel ashamed or guilty for being human.

These kinds of people are really not an advisable company. Especially when you are faced with life challenges that make you want to express your emotions.

How to deal with Toxic positivity

1.Always remember that it is ok not to be okay

Sometimes in life, bad things happen to good people and there is nothing we can do about it.

When you are faced with hard circumstances, you are completely free to feel what you need to then move on with your life.

We are humans and humans sometimes cry, get hurt, fall ill and face so many challenges.

Process your emotions don’t keep them compressed within, as pent-up emotions can lead to further negative effects.

  1. Learn to process your emotions

The perfect way to deal with a negative emotion is to process it. There is absolutely no need to hide the emotion or pretend that it isn’t there.

When you feel hurt, Search for the cause of the emotion.  Embrace the feeling but it should not be any excuse to engage in negative self-talk.

  1. Understand that humans are different

Humans differ and that’s one irrefutable truth. If we all can understand that everyone is different and so is their reaction, we will be able to avoid toxic positivity.

If someone gets you upset but did not apologize for their actions, you do not have to pretend that you are okay with the treatment.

We must learn to tolerate people However, silently hating someone while pretending to love them in their presence is not the healthiest way to live.

  1. Avoid toxic positive people

There are so many toxic positive people in the world. However, their act of toxic positivity might be minimal.

Just like me, I make considerable efforts to stay positive. Howevr,  it was obvious that I slipped into the toxic side of positivity.

It’s very possible that I treat the emotions of some of my friends without importance. The mere fact that I could not accept my own emotions shows that I will also treat someone’s feelings like a joke.

If you have friends who constantly downplay your emotions and treat it like it’s less important. Try to avoid them because they will only encourage you to engage in toxic positivity.

  1. Process your feelings but don’t engage in self-hate talk

Process your feelings but do not engage in negative self-talk. Don’t criticize yourself, you should be your no 1 fan and not your most rated critic.

Learn to love yourself a lot and negative self-talk will never be part of your self-care routine.


Positivity is healthy, it has yielded a lot of benefits. Most therapist encourages their clients to add positive affirmations to their daily routine.

However, while trying to stay positive, ensure that you acknowledge your negative feelings and try to process them rather than avoiding them.