How To Be Optimistic but Not Toxic. by A. Wimbush, LMSW
We know we need to clear this up. Its in our name, SMH.
The Toxicity of It All...
What does it really mean to be toxic? Right off the back, one might think it means to be constantly digging up drama and making negative comments and accusations of those around them. Someone who is toxic has malice intent and is strategic in how they operate. Everything they say, do, or get involved in is of utter evil and it will be very obvious that even a small interaction with them will end up draining your energy. Right?
This is NOT entirely true. Although some people who engage in toxic behaviors may also show these characteristics, there is such thing as Toxic Positivity. I think you may have guessed this was where we were going with this. Needless to say, Positive Steps10, LLC is NOT a proponent of toxic positivity. We are a self-help organization that promotes taking positive steps towards becoming a better version of yourself by providing resources and information for you to pursuit living your best life. However, we do recognize that some people who are constantly pumping us with positive quotes and positive ideas and advice are also perpetuating the very thing we despise- toxicity.
Here are 3 ways Positivity can be toxic:
#1 - Fake
Being positive 100% of the time is actually what makes you come off as fake. No one is living this perfect, blemish-free life that all they see are roses, rainbows, and beautiful colors. It comes off as fake and this can annoy or aggravate others. Acting as though everything is "Great" is going to push people away, not draw them in. It gives off the energy that you live in a fantasy world and that you are unrelatable.
If at all possible, be realistic that rough times and hard emotions are happening.
#2 - Dismissive
I remember telling someone about a situation at work and they responded with a completely unrelated comment. "Look on the bright side..." It was as though they didn't hear me. I did not feel like that person was listening nor did I feel validated. So I decided not to share anything I'm concerned about that I would like feedback on again with that person. Toxic positivity is dismissive to what is really happening. Again, everything is not "Fantastic", so responding as such when someone has a real concern is hurtful. It comes across like you truly do not care.
#3 - Stagnant
If you go through life meeting every concern or obstacle with toxic positivity without addressing the fact that you feel the opposite, you are becoming stagnant. You stunt your own individual growth when you act as if nothing is happening, you don't feel any negative emotions, things are not bothering you. What you ignore will show up later- morphed as something else and the toxic positivity cycle will continue but you will not evolve to your true potential.
However, Optimism is being hopeful about the future or the success of something in particular (per CollinsDictionary.com). The definition includes the words hope, positive, encourage, and confident.
Do this instead:
Tip #1 - Listen
Learn to listen to what people are saying. Use Active Listening which is the skill of being quiet while someone is talking and be able to restate what you heard them say, "So your saying that you are unhappy right now and do not know what to do..." Try not to give a bunch of advice or respond with a bunch of motivational quotes. Sometimes, people just want to be heard and know that your listening to them. "You feel defeated and that's ok."
Tip #2- Validate
Validation is an important skill to have. It is also the trickiest. It doesn't mean that you agree with the person. It just means that you heard what they said. It gives them permission to be themselves. Allow people the space to vent truthfully without judgement. And take this into consideration for yourself. If you normally vent to someone and they usually follow it up with toxic positivity or negative statements, then reconsider that they may not be the safe space you need at that time. This looks like offering a hug or thanking them for sharing something so personal with you. It may even be appropriate to remind them of how brave they are to admit how they feel.
Tip #3- Encourage
Instead of pretending that everything is wonderful and there is no bad in the world, be the light of encouragement in a time of comfort. This looks like offering a hug or thanking them for sharing something so personal with you. It may even be appropriate to remind them of how brave they are to admit how they feel. End the conversation with an encouraging phrase such as, "Keep going." "Hang in there." "Things are tough but I hope you will get through this."
Do Better, Be Better
We have adopted this simple motto because we don't want people to think that you can make some positive statements or actions and your life will be perfect or you will have everything go your way. Telling someone to do better means to take better steps now, in the present, and hopefully from now into the future you will be a better version of yourself. Take the optimistic route.
~ Be the Best You, One Positive Step At A Time. Your Journey, Your Positive Steps!