Rewriting Toxic Positivity Expressions

Toxic Positivity has been a bit of a buzzword lately, and I think a really helpful one. Basically, toxic positivity is when you always try to be positive, happy, or have a smiley-attitude, despite experiencing negative feelings.

It’s called toxic positivity because this kind of positivity, that fails to acknowledge, dismisses, or attempts to erase our unhappy feelings, can have a toxic or harmful impact on our mental health and wellbeing. The phrase or term was coined to highlight how contrived positivity can actually be damaging, and to remind us to acknowledge, feel, and express negative emotions instead of pretending they aren’t there.

Life is filled with challenges and grief and we can’t always find “the silver lining” or smile through it. If you would like to read another piece I wrote about toxic positivity check out this one: Positivity Won’t Erase Your Grief.

In my experience toxic positivity often appears in common expressions usually said in an effort to comfort those struggling. While these expressions are well-meaning, they can often do more harm than good and contribute to people to feeling invalidated.

I thought it would be interesting and helpful to try to rewrite some of these expressions into more helpful sayings that both push one’s thinking in a more positive direction while also allowing and addressing negative feelings. So, here it goes.

“Everything happens for a reason.”
Instead,
“Life is hard and unpredictable. But, there is still room for learning, teachings, and growth in all experiences, even the really painful ones.”

“It will happen when it’s meant to.”
Instead,
“It may or may not happen, we can’t know. But, you will find a way, and someday you will be okay either way.”

“It’ll be okay.”
Instead,
“It will be hard, it will hurt. But you are strong and so, you will find a way to get through this difficult experience.”

“All’s well that ends well.”
Instead,
“A positive ending doesn’t erase a difficult journey. I’m glad that you are happy now, but sorry that you had to go through hard experiences that might have left scars to get here.”

Finding a positive perspective can help us to cope in hard times but, we need to be careful to still process and accept the negative feelings that come along with them. I’m sure these aren’t perfect rewrites either but I hope they show that you can both hold a positive perspective and honor negative feelings. I’d love to hear what you think of these rewrites in the comments below.

Write soon,

Hannah B.L.

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