Do you ever feel guilty for faking happiness, or pushing positivity when you really don’t feel it yourself?
Dr Jaime Zuckerman would explain it as Toxic Positivity; the assumption that, despite any emotional pain, one should only strive to have a positive outlook. This is not only unhelpful to the state of mind, but spreading it around causes others to feel guilty too. Saying phrases like ‘everything will be fine’ or ‘sending positive vibes’, doesn’t help anyone – however well-intentioned.
Can you relate to this story from our co-Director, Shabba Turney?
“A friend recently complimented me on my abundance of positivity, and I was surprised by my guilty response.
Due to a nasty bout of gastro on Christmas morning, I felt frustration, disappointment and self-pity – not a drop of positivity. While New Year was a happier occasion, the Covid-19 restrictions resulted in an overriding feeling of sorrow and disconnection. All the wonderful rituals of singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, sharing hugs and kisses with my community and dancing into the wee hours, were a distant memory. On the first three mornings in January, I woke up with a non-alcohol induced hangover; the expectations of a happier New Year didn’t materialise, and I felt guilty for not feeling more positive.
Despite all this, my default response to the question ‘how are you?’ was ‘great!’ and I sprayed as many ‘Happy New Year’ messages as I could muster, however, I felt like a big Positivity Fraud.
On reflection, I’ve decided to stop berating myself for negative feelings and accept that this is a necessary part of a healing process. Now I’ve accepted what’s really going on, I can be more compassionate towards myself and others. From this place of compassion and acceptance, I can experience the warm glow of optimism and gratitude once more.”
As Simon Sinek explains, optimism is not the denial of reality, but the unwavering belief that the future will be better. So, instead of wishing you all a Happy New Year, I wish you all a year of self-care and acceptance.