OPINION: Positivity can hurt too
By Erick Barrientos
Published Monday, Oct. 12, 2020
Last semester, I was dealing with a pretty heavy break up and, well — we all know how that goes. The days that followed were not my best because there was a lot of frustration, confusion and pain but it is normal. If you know anything about me, if you don’t then you’re gonna learn something, I tend to dive into those kinds of emotions and let myself “feel them out.” Otherwise, I will never get better.
Of course, my friends were aware of the situation, obviously because I told them. They were as supportive as they could have been, which was great. I loved that. However, I noticed something very interesting as the weeks progressed. The longer I was dealing with my feelings, expressing my negative emotions, the more my friends started pushing me to get better.
I totally understand why. They wanted me to be in a better place. They didn’t want to see me sad anymore but some of them pushed it too far. There were times where I’d tell them how sad or upset I was feeling and they told me to “get over it” and that “I should be happy it’s over.”
What was worse, it magnified those negative feelings because my friends denied my emotions and that hurt.
I felt lost. One side of me felt wrong about expressing those kinds of emotions with them, like I was a burden, but the other side resented them for forcing this idea of positivity onto me. It turns out, though, there is a term for this and it’s pretty interesting to say the least.
“Toxic Positivity,” if you aren’t aware of it, refers to the idea that staying positive, and only holding onto positivity, is the way to live your life or handle situations. Instantly, my mind was blown! All this time, my friends were going around forcing me to try to feel good and it turns out their positivity was actually a bad thing.
In a lot of ways, this discovery made me realize how crippling their actions were. By forcing me to avoid my sadness and frustration, they reinforced this idea that I shouldn’t pay attention or acknowledge my negativity. That thought made me reflect on the kind of cycle someone can get trapped in because I was in it. These emotions can become bigger, like the way mine did, and more significant as they continue to be unprocessed.
Ultimately, it’s an unsustainable way to live. We, as complex individuals, cannot program ourselves to exclusively feel happy; we’re not built that way.
Reflecting on this thought now, I know my friends we’re doing it intentionally—but that being said—what they were trying to do wasn’t really fair to me and it isn’t fair to anyone. So the most important thing I can say is if someone is feeling sad, frustrated or angry don’t deny their feelings. THEY ARE VALID FEELINGS. Sure, be there for a person, support them and openly discuss those feelings but don’t overlook them. Cliché positivity isn’t helpful; it is a means to eliminate negative emotions. The best way to avoid toxic positivity, at least in my mind, is to be considerate and try to understand where a person is coming from cause we all cope with things differently.