Toxic Positivity or Authentic Optimism
A primary outcome for applying the 3 Vital Questions® and Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® frameworks is supporting you to be the best version of yourself possible. This includes being resourceful, even when life is hard.
When difficult things happen, one common approach is to stay overly positive and force yourself to look on the bright side. You might hear yourself say, “Everything happens for a reason. My job is to force myself to stay positive.”
Another approach to difficult situations is to give up, allowing the gloom and anxiety to take you over. In that case you might hear yourself say: “Why try to improve myself or the situation—it all seems hopeless anyway.”
While the second approach gives in to the Victim mindset and is rarely effective, being overly positive can also be ineffective.
One of the disciplines involved in being a Creator, the central role in TED*, is to accept your full range of emotions as part of telling the truth about your current reality. To be overly positive when, in fact, you are experiencing unpleasant feelings and difficult realities, can lead to what has become known as “toxic positivity.”
This phenomenon involves overgeneralizing positive thinking and pretending to be happy all the time. While often well intended, forcing yourself to be positive when disappointments and traumatic experiences hit can do more harm than good. Denying or rejecting appropriate emotions in response to difficult situations can diminish your resilience and capacity to be with life’s challenges.
Toxic positivity often minimizes and even invalidates feelings. You can also suppress the feelings of others if you tell them they should just be grateful for what they have. If you live in a state of toxic positivity, it can eventually trigger shame and serve as an avoidance mechanism to your true feelings.
You may be engaged in toxic positivity if you are feeling guilty for being sad, disappointed, or any other heavy feeling that you’ve told yourself to “just get over.” The reality is that, if you are facing a difficult situation, it is important to acknowledge your emotions and allow yourself to feel and speak truthfully about them.
A big part of nurturing your best self as a Creator is noticing when you get triggered by difficult circumstances and interrupt old, reactive habits. Instead of engaging in toxic positivity, we encourage you to develop the capacity for authentic optimism. When authentically optimistic, you embrace your basic goodness and the goodness of others. You remind yourself of your true essence as a Creator, as are others.
You can tap into authentic optimism to learn and grow, even in the darkest of times. It is helpful and healthy to say to yourself, “Right now, I am feeling (fill in the blank) by the situation. I know I will eventually work through it, but right now it is difficult.”
Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying: “I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’”
We know deep in our bones that the universe is a friendly place, and humanity is imbued with goodness. Authentic optimism rests with this premise. That does not mean that we sugarcoat suffering with obsessive positivity. It does mean that you can still choose to be kind, respectful and grateful, while not denying the truth of a difficult reality.
How you choose to meet your future is up to you. Will you tell the truth about the practical realities that you, your family, and even the world are facing? You have the capacity to cultivate authentic optimism by courageously seeing reality for what it is and still choosing basic goodness.