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May 13, 2021
Can Being Positive All The Time be a Bad Thing?

In this episode, Dr. Peggie Kirkland looks at how people who always have a positive comeback  can actually have a toxic effect on you.  Psychology experts say they can  add stress  to your life and damage your psychological and physical health. P.K. offers alternative statements that you can use to support other women, such as telling someone, "I'm sorry you're going thro…


Can Being Positive All The Time be a Bad Thing?

Did you know that people who always have a positive comeback  can actually have a toxic effect on you?  Psychology experts have a term for this.  It’s toxic positivity, and they say it  can  add stress to your life and can damage your physical and mental health, add stress  to your life and damage your psychological and physical health.

Take for example a situation in which you share the fact that you had a bad day at work.  Someone who thinks they’re being positive may say something like, “You should be grateful that you have a job.” Or, let’s say, you share that your kids are acting up, they may say something like,”You should be grateful that you were able to have children because they know several women who would love to be in your shoes.”  The truth is that they are engaging in toxic positivity and they may not even be aware that their always positive behavior suggests that all of life’s problems can be solved with positive thinking. We know that is not the case, and in fact their behavior may well be covering up their own bad feelings that they have not dealt with.

So What are Some Ways to Deal With Toxic Positivity?

  1. Remember that you can't go through life without experiencing both good and bad feelings so when those bad feelings come up, share them with loved ones who can support you or seek professional help.
  2. Don’t try to ignore your negative emotions.  Lean into them and vent if you need to.  
  3. Have a pity party if you must, where you can express your frustrations  and don't keep blaming yourself over and over.  Do some exercises in mindfulness meditation if you need to (Check out Episode 8 that provides 5 Minutes of Mindfulness Meditation)
  4. Don't get stuck with your hand on the replay  button.    In other words, don’t keep looping the details of what is bothering you in your mind.  Identify the emotion, give yourself time to process it , and then let it go. Again, seek professional help if you are unable to do this on your own. 

Check out this link to learn how you can move from making statements that are filled with toxic positivity to statements that show acceptance and validation:

What’s The Bottom Line?

It’s unrealistic to think that you have to be positive 24/7 or that people who present this way are genuine.  Whether you’re a receiver or transmitter of toxic positivity, you need to stop it.  Transmitters, stop hiding behind your emotions, and start learning to speak your truth. If you know you’re on the receiving end of toxic positivity, start setting boundaries for how you allow people to have an influence on your emotions. You may even have to eliminate those folk who can’t be real with you, for a time at least.  

 

Transcript

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

0:11

Inspiring Gen X women to demonstrate their self-love through audacious acts of self- care. This is the Momma's motivational messages podcast with Dr. Peggie Kirkland.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

0:25

Hi, everyone. It's Peggie Kirkland, PK, as my daughter likes to call me when she's trying to be cute.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

0:33

Ladies, you know how we always want to be positive when we're supporting and encouraging each other? Well, do you think it's possible to be too positive? Guess what? Some psychology experts certainly think so. They even have a term for it, toxic positivity. And if you want to understand what I mean by this term, see if you can identify with these descriptions of people who no matter what you say, they come back with something positive. For example, let's say you share that you had a bad day at work, they'll come back with, "Well, considering so many people are unemployed, you should be grateful that you have a job." Well, we're not saying that that's not true. But that's not the kind of support you need in that moment. Or let's say, for example, you say that your kids are acting out, they'll tell you that, "You should be grateful that you were able to have children because they know many women who would love to be in your shoes." Again, true, but not what you need in the moment. Or if you say you're upset about not doing something fun, like going on vacation, for example, they will let you know that you should be grateful that you can go on vacation.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

1:58

The thing is that these kinds of people probably mean well, but they're sending the message that if you're going to be around them, you have to be positive. And that means that you can't be honest about how you feel. In fact, you might find yourself avoiding these kinds of folks, because they reek of toxic positivity, because basically what they're saying through their behavior is that they're not acknowledging that all of life's problems can't be solved with positive thinking because just being positive is not enough to get you where you want to go in life. It's a sort of like setting out on a trip, getting in the driver's seat, and just sitting there and being positive about your destination. If you don't have a plan, and if you don't put your key in the ignition, and set out in some direction, you won't get anywhere; you'll just be sitting in your driveway or in a parking spot.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

3:01

But let me be clear, I'm not saying that you shouldn't be positive. It's just that there needs to be a balance between having positive feelings and taking steps that will give you positive outcomes. And if I go back to my earlier analogy, if you're planning to go on a road trip, you have to take the steps of making sure your car is mechanically fit, that you have a plan for how you will get there, whether you will take the scenic route and linger in some places, or whether you just want the fastest route to get from point A to point B. The truth is that all that positivity that people spew out is really to cover their own bad feelings and emotions. In fact, they're what I call carriers of toxic positivity because they're masking how they really feel, and they're showing the world their good side while the other side may be hurting. Or, they have the perspective of, it could always be worse. Or they live in that space of, "It is what it is." And those are all mechanisms for sidestepping the issues rather than dealing with them. As you can imagine, putting your positive foot forward all the time may not be the healthiest way of dealing with situations and feelings that are less than comfortable.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

4:28

So then, what are some ways to deal with toxic positivity? I'm going to offer you four suggestions.The first one:

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

4:38

Remember, you can't go through life without experiencing both good and bad feelings. So when those bad feelings come up, share them with loved ones who can support you in what you're going through, or seek out some professional help if you feel your friends and family aren't skilled enough to help you.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

5:01

Number two, don't try to ignore your negative emotions. Lean into them, and vent if you need to.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

5:10

Number three, go ahead and have a pity party if you must, where you can express your frustrations because it can't last forever. And don't keep blaming yourself over and over again. Instead, just acknowledge the issue, the problem or the challenge, and then be willing to let it go. Do some exercises and mindfulness meditation if you need to.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

5:37

And number four, don't get stuck with your hand on the replay button. In other words, don't keep looping the details of what's bothering you in your mind over and over again. Face it squarely. Ask yourself what you're actually feeling. Try to identify the emotion, whether it is anger, fear, sadness, and give yourself some time to process it. And then let it go. Again, seek out professional help. If you're unable to do this on your own. You can also do things that improve your mood and make you happy, like playing your favorite music loudly. taking a walk in your favorite park, observing the trees, the geese, the lake if you have those; the new and old homes in your neighborhood; parks where children or pets are at play, or rewatch your favorite TV shows. All of these things can create a shift in your mind and your body.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

6:42

The bottom line is that it's unrealistic to think that you have to be positive 24/7, or that people who show themselves this way, are being genuine. In fact, several psychological studies show that this, "I'm so positive always" behavior can add stress to your life, and damage your psychological and physical health because bottled up pain can cause you to ignore the real problem so you don't ever deal with it.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

7:15

But since you might not be able to do this on your own. Here are some suggestions from the Psychology Group for how to move from making statements that are filled with toxic positivity, to statements that show acceptance and validation. I'm sure you'll find these to be useful. And of course, you may have to practice using them for a while in order to make them part of how you interact with others because it's difficult to change the way we do things habitually, right out of the gate. It takes time.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

7:49

I'm going to give you three examples of how you can shift from making toxic statements to statements that are more accepting. So let's say for example, someone is describing a terrible experience they had at work. Instead of saying, "Don't think about it. Stay positive." Say something like, "This is really hard. Just know that I'm here for you."

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

8:16

Or, you know, people have that way of measuring your ability against theirs, and they would say something like, "If I can do it, so can you?" Well, what this statement is not taking into account is that everyone's story, everyone's limitations, everyone's abilities, they're different. And you may not be aware of what is really holding a person back from acting. So instead, you might just ask them to describe what they're feeling, and just be an attentive listener.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

8:50

Or someone might say, "It could be worse." Frankly, I think I'm guilty of using that one. Instead, you can just acknowledge that what the person is going through is terrible, and show some empathy by just letting them know that you're sorry they're going through that situation and again, you're there for them.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

9:13

So here's what I have to say, ladies. Whether you're a receiver or a transmitter of toxic positivity, you need to stop it. Transmitters. Stop hiding behind your emotions, and start learning to speak your truth. No one wants to entrust their truth to someone who is inauthentic. And if you know you're on the receiving end of toxic positivity, start setting some boundaries for how you allow people to have an influence on your emotions. You may even have to eliminate some folk who can't be real with you, for a time at least.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

9:53

Remember the following about toxic positivity. One you can't go through life without experiencing both good and bad feelings.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

10:02

Two, don't try to ignore your negative emotions. They're your emotions.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

10:08

Three, have a pity party, if you must. This way you can express your frustrations.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

10:15

And number four, don't get stuck with your hand on the replay button. Let it go. Remember, you can get started by picking one of these realities to act on and to think about as you move forward.

 

Dr. Peggie Kirkland

10:32

Well, that's it for today. Did you enjoy today's episode? If so, why not leave a review? It will only take two minutes, and it will provide me with valuable insight as to what's resonating with you. Let me thank you in advance for doing that. All right, please open your arms wide to receive all the light and love I'm sending to you. We need more love in the world. So embrace it, and hold it close to your heart 'til next time.