Toxic Positivity Detox: How to Get Out of the Beautiful Lie

toxic positivity

In case you missed my last post we are going on a toxic positivity detox! We have all been telling each other beautiful lies and it is time to pull back the curtain and get real! 

This topic is super important to me because in the coaching world there is a LOT of toxic positivity. I’ve had a coach tell me it’s all “mindset” or “I’ll get back whatever I am willing to invest” and while they may believe these statements they are wildly misleading. As someone who does believe that we can live in an abundant world I also understand that there is so much more to these cliches and everyone’s journey to success looks different. When we invest in ourselves we always get something back but it may not be financial and it may not look the same for us as it does for others. It’s a lot less sexy to say – but it’s true. 

As a coach I truly believe in the power of a positive mindset but I understand that it’s not the only ingredient to my clients success. Hard work, strategy, good timing, trial and error – they all play into our success. Doing something you love everyday makes the hard work feel easy but it’s still effort and energy you put into your growth. 

Our friend toxic positivity tells us that my statement above is pessimistic and #workhardplayhard always prevails so let’s dig into it. 

Toxic Positivity Defined

Toxic positivity is the overgeneralization that EVERYTHING and every experience must be viewed through a positive lens. When we participate in toxic positivity we mean well but usually we end up doing more damage than helping. 

This is because toxic positivity revokes authentic feelings. When we say things like “look at the brightside” we are asking people to not feel their negative emotions for the sake of our comfort – because we want to HELP! We put our need to feel like we have “fixed” people over their need to process their emotions. It is not fair! 

Think about it – when you complain to a friend and they tell you something like “everything happens for a reason” do you honestly feel any better? I don’t!

To detox from this we need to work on responding authentically, asking about how our statements make people feel, actively listening or setting boundaries around when we can take on emotional labor from others. 

It’s Ok to Say “No” or  “Not Right Now”

I used to be REALLY bad at saying no. This is not an admirable trait because it causes burnout, makes people bitter and usually made me into a shitty friend. Instead of saying no to people I would agree to help and lack the ability to pay attention or run out of energy to take care of myself. It was toxic, it’s not a good idea and it’s why we always need to put ourselves first. 

We also need to be ok with setting boundaries. It is ok to not have the energy to actively listen to someone. To handle this appropriately we just need to be honest. You are always welcome to say something like “I’m really sorry this is happening to you. Right now I am unable to engage in this conversation but I want you to know that I support you.” We can offer resources to them such as online counseling or coaching, other friends that may be available or a better time to chat with them. We can have boundaries and still be actively engaged in our friendships. We cannot pretend to listen, through some cliches at people and then let ourselves feel like we “fixed” the problem (because we all love that sweet dopamine hit of being the saviour)!

Happy to Help 

If we are in the space to listen to and comfort our friends we need to do exactly that. LISTEN and COMFORT. 

Some people love hearing anecdotes of times when the same thing happened to you, others just need to vent and others might just want to sit in silence together and process silently but with your company. None of these are wrong – but unless you are a Jedi you might struggle to read their mind. 

Normalize asking people what kind of support they would like or need. It is ok to ask and if they don’t know or are too worked up to decide try active listening and see where the conversation goes. 

A quick lesson on active listening! Active listening is a way to show that you are engaged, focused and willing to support the person talking to you. You can practice active listening by repeating back to people what they say, nodding, asking questions that engage the speaker in the conversation, withholding judgement and clarifying.

This does NOT mean you need to overthink the conversation or not talk about yourself at all. Instead it is a reminder to think of the best way to support your friends instead of spewing cliches at them. It’s a reminder to have a REAL conversation where you listen instead of lecturing your friend.

Ready to embark on this detox with me? Hold me accountable and if you ask I’ll hold you accountable to it too! 

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