I visited the psychologist the other day and discussed the matter between optimism and toxic positivity. It gave me a lot to think about. Therefore I am typing out this blog just to help to clear my mind.
Growing up, I was often told to “toughen up” or “things will be over before you know it.” This forced me to hide my true feelings away, which lead to detachment from my real emotions. The consequences of this made me suffer from pre/ post-natal depression as I don’t know how to embrace my true feelings.
I told my psychologist that I was finally in a better mood. However, a fight with my husband (despite being resolved within a few hours) was enough to bring me back to hell. I couldn’t go back to my original “happy state”, this made me very upset. I couldn’t even put up a smile in front of our daughter. Whereas the old me was able to “fake it” despite feeling low.
Optimism & Toxic Positivity
“Positivity is over-rated.” She said. I was surprised by her statement. As everything online tells people to be positive. “Being overly positive can be toxic, that’s why there’s a term called toxic positivity,” she said.
“For example, your hands are sore from holding your baby. How can you feel positive with regard to this particular matter? The pain is real. Being overly positive will force you to discard that feeling and try to feel something you are not. It is just not realistic.” She added.
“But I’ve seen those athletes in Paralympics, despite their disabilities, they still seem positive with life and I admire that,” I said.
“There’s a difference between being positive and being optimistic. They have lost their legs, how can they not be upset about that? However, what they can do is find the silver linings in life. Such as luckily there are still wheelchairs for them to get around. These findings allow them to continue to feel happiness. They haven’t discarded their negative emotions, they accept them.” she said.
“Another example would be my daughter. She had to be on crutches 6 months into pregnancy as her hip ligaments loosened up way before the due date. I was worried about her. Then she told me she always knew she was special, even her pregnancy was different to others! That is accepting the situation and being optimistic.”
How to move on with life?
“I know all this. However, I just couldn’t go back to the same happiness. It’s not the fight that upset me, it’s the fact I couldn’t go back to how I felt in the past.” I said.
“You can’t. There’s no way you can go back to the past. No two feelings are the same. You have to see that a resolved fight is like a reset button. It brings you back to floor level, then you will have to work your way up the happiness chart again. If don’t embrace this, you will forever be unhappy.” My psychologist said.
I paused for a moment to think through what she said. It’s true I get stuck in negative emotions as I couldn’t turn back in time. This means every time an incident happens, I have to be optimistic and find happiness once more.
The Definition between Optimism vs Positivity
I went home and looked up the dictionary and optimism means “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something.” Whereas positivity means “the practice of being, or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude.”
Toxic positivity according to Wikipedia is “dysfunctional emotional management without the full acknowledgment of negative emotions, particularly anger and sadness.”
I reckon the article “Optimism vs positivity – what’s the difference?” discussed this topic quite well too. I mean, I never had trouble distinguishing these two words, but have never given more thought to it either. I think this session helped me to learn about myself a bit more and how to be optimistic in the future instead of blindly positive.