Toxic positivity means (generally speaking) that humans should be positive all of the time. Some may even use the phrase good vibes only.
I first heard the phrase toxic positivity about a year(ish) ago. At the time, I heard the phrase in reference to the field of education. During my last therapy session, I heard my therapist use the phrase in reference to me.
In theory, being positive all of the time sounds pretty good. The law of attraction – you are what you think; positive thoughts bring positive results. I once believed this, and to an extent, I still do, but really I call bullshit.
I am all for finding joy in everyday life. I am all for feeling gratitude for the small things and the big things. I am all for pushing through – mind over matter – and having a good attitude in times of challenge. However, recently, I have found the reminders, from others and myself, to keep my eye on the prize or to focus on the positive or to be grateful for waking up are really pissing me off. I’m pissed and annoyed because sometimes LIFE SUCKS, and sometimes we HURT, and it is OK to FEEL sad, angry, uncomfortable, broken. It is not healthy to ignore those “negative” emotions – to stuff them down and pad them with fluff. Eventually, the fluff goes flat, and we’re right back where we started.
The joy isn’t lost on me. I feel joy every single day. I feel gratitude every single day. But, I also feel grief in the minutes between joy and gratitude. I also feel disappointment in the minutes between grief and joy. I also feel heartbroken in between the minutes of disappointment and gratitude. I also feel heavy between the minutes of fluff.
Every single human, on the face of Earth, has experienced trauma in the last year and a half. We have ALL lost something or someone. We are ALL grieving in some shape, form, or fashion. In moments like these, God doesn’t expect us to pull up our bootstraps and keep pushing forward. God simply expects us to have faith in love, and love is sometimes messy, but God’s love is unconditional.
So, yes, when I see the way my husband looks at me, I feel joy and gratitude. When I’m given a new technology that helps me communicate with students who don’t speak my native language, I feel joy and gratitude. When I see my miracle nephew walk by himself for the first time, I feel joy and gratitude. When I wake up to a new day, I feel joy and gratitude. When I use my body to move, I feel joy and gratitude. When someone shares kind words with me, I feel joy and gratitude. When I am able to help others, I feel joy and gratitude.
But, yes, in between all of that joy and gratitude, I feel a multitude of other emotions too, and those emotions are valid. They don’t make me weak. They make me human, and I will not be, or feel, apologetic for being a human. A human God loves unconditionally.