As we navigate life’s disappointments and heartaches, it can cause us to build an emotional wall to try to protect ourselves from being hurt again. Raw emotions are intimidating to unpack when you’re guarded. It forces you to get real with yourself by addressing both the good and bad emotions you face. Some choose to run away from the bad ones altogether with unhealthy coping mechanisms–like toxic positivity.
What is toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is the act of pretending like “everything’s fine” 24/7, even when it’s not. You could be silently suffering and people would still think that you’re on top of the world, because toxic positivity does a great job of hiding how you really feel. How do you know when you’ve fallen into this trap? You’ve adopted a robotic-like mindset that life’s better when you ignore hard feelings. You might make comments like, “It’s good vibes only over here,” or, “I’m only going to look at things on the bright side.” As time went on, you’ve probably realized that the “no negativity” approach is just a temporary escape from hurt feelings. All buried emotions eventually resurface for air, whether you want them to or not.
How to stop suppressing your emotions
Giving no response to negative emotions is a response that says, “I’m avoiding my pain to look like I have it all together—regardless of how I feel deep down inside.” If you’re afraid to face them for fear of being judged as a “negative Nancy” or “Debbie downer,” you’re not doing yourself any favors. Life and people will let you down sometimes, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit when that makes you sad or angry.
It’s considered “goals” to stay on a positive high. However, it’s unrealistic if you want to process painful situations healthily. You do more harm than good to your emotional health, and your relationships if you ignore them like they never happen. Confronting the hurt head-on is the way to truly heal and move on. Here’s how to find that healthy balance between being positive and being human when things aren’t so peachy.
Learn to sit with your feelings
“I’m fine” isn’t a healthy response when you’re far from fine, because you’re lying to yourself and also suppressing your true emotions. Embrace that softer side of you that comfortably acknowledges when you’re hurt. Difficult feelings don’t just “roll off your back” like water. Before you get to that happy and healed version of you after the hurt, you have to swim in your pain to get to the depths of what’s triggering you and why.
I know how scary it is to pull difficult feelings to the surface that you’ve buried, especially if you’re used to sweeping them under a rug. Remember that grief is an important step in the emotional recovery process. It may force you out of your comfort zone, but it’ll give you the time and space to grow through what you go through.
Get comfortable with conflict
Toxic positivity is a typical passive-aggressive response to conflict. With this approach, classic rebuttals to hostility may include, “I’m above the negativity,” or “I’m taking the high road.” This doesn’t erase the pain that you feel from others’ wrongdoings toward you. It just causes resentment that can’t help but seep through as relationships progress.
Many relationships fail due to a lack of communication. If you want them to stand the test of time, welcome healthy conflict when things go awry. You can communicate what’s bothering you in tense situations and still be the bigger person.
Every now and then when conflict arises, you might feel tempted to revert to toxic positivity as a way to handle it. Unlearning this behavior doesn’t happen overnight, so give yourself grace.
Embrace honest dialogue
Being “the strong one” in your relationships can get tiring after a while. When times get rough for you or a loved one, you may mean well with your carefully chosen words to reaffirm that “tough times don’t last,” but it doesn’t necessarily help.
You may want to vent to someone about troubling emotions, but fear of rejection has you teeter-tottering along the lines of keeping it real or just staying on a positive note. This is why some people pull away from loved ones while healing from an emotional burn.
What’s the point of a relationship if you can’t come as you are? You shouldn’t have to mince words or fake happiness around those who are part of your village. If you feel that you do, find a new village. People who love you won’t invalidate your feelings when you’re down. They’ll give you a shoulder to lean on. You should do the same when friends and family members come to you for that same compassion.
Put yourself in others’ shoes when they seek your support through processing unsettling emotions. They don’t always want to hear, “You’re going to be okay.” Sometimes, they just want you to listen and nod.
Tell a therapist
If you feel that you have no one to talk to, consider seeking therapy to help you navigate the ebbs and flows of your rawest emotions. A therapist’s office is a safe, non-judgemental space where you can undeniably get the emotional support you’re looking for.