Why Fake Positivity is Toxic

Don’t worry, be happy. Cheer up, buttercup. Look on the bright side.


We all know the platitudes and clichés that society serves us on a shiny platter when we’re having a tough time.


I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing more vomit-inducing and rage-inciting than being told something like, “every cloud has a silver lining” when I’m feeling anything but optimistic.


Although our friend, partner, co-worker or neighbour may have truly good intentions when they say these phrases to us, they can still be really harmful.


Gratitude? I’m all for it. Perspective? It’s key. But bypassing so-called “negative” emotions like anger, sadness or fear robs us of true opportunities to learn and heal from what we’re experiencing. We can’t grow there if we don’t go there – hey, I should trademark that.


I’ve definitely been guilty of throwing out an “it’ll get better” too early in the feeling game. We’re not going for perfection here, people, we’re going for learning.


I’ve learned how powerful it can be to just hold space for someone when they’re in the thick of it. When we do this, we’re not responding to another person’s feelings with buzzwords and big gestures, we’re just listening.


As a result, the person is given permission to express exactly how they feel without the burden of our judgment, efforts to fix the situation or pressure to rush their healing journey. Because, remember: this is about them and not us.


For longer than I’d like to admit, I perpetuated the whole fake positivity thing – especially when I got into the yoga world.


I clung to inauthentic optimism like a new baby clings to its mother. Anything to not feel the self-loathing and grief I’d been consumed by for so long.


Sure, things can and likely will get better. Yes, there’s always something to be grateful for AND…it’s also okay to not feel okay right now.


We can’t know joy if we don’t know pain and yada yada yada. But we also can’t live fully if we reject any part of the emotional crayon box. That’s just part of life’s premium package, my friends.

Maybe we can sing from the rooftops about our joy, but can we sit with our sadness? Meet our anger? If not, that’s okay. It’s tough work. But we should know that there’s value in our “shadow” parts.


They’re teaching us the same thing our “light” is: how powerful self-compassion is. Whether we’re joyful or sad, we can always show ourselves more love.


And, it’s not a race to get to a more loving space – it’s just a final destination if and when we choose it to be.


So, let’s do better to not force ourselves to feel better before we’re ready to.


We’ll “see the forest through the trees” when we’ve finished exploring the woods. No sooner or later than we’re meant to.


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© 2020 by Eryl McCaffrey