Last week was rough. A project I’ve been working on for months didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted and is now on hold. Our house is in a state of chaos after getting a new kitchen floor and holding a garage sale. There are several items on my to-do list that have been ignored by me because of time. Just knowing these things are waiting to be done can kick my anxiety into gear. And we are at the cusp of beginning a new school year, a transition that always takes so much mental and physical preparation.
I could go on, but experience tells me that focusing on all the “negative things in my life” will serve only to fuel the fire. Whereas, pivoting toward only the things that make me happy fuels a different fire.
What am I talking about? Toxic positivity and negativity.
You may have had that experience when you share a troubling or challenging situation in your life with someone, but they keep saying things like, “look on the bright side,” or “what’s something positive about what you’re going through,” or “you’re overreacting.” They seem to indicate that there’s something wrong with talking about anything negative. Or perhaps it’s your own voice that’s trying to avoid “bad” thoughts and focus on only positive topics?
Either way, this is toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is when you or another person dismisses negative thoughts and instead tries to focus on the positive. It can end up making us feel more negative in the long run because we haven’t been allowed to process and let go of emotions that weigh us down.
The flip side of toxic positivity is toxic negativity. This would be if you or another person in your life tends to focus only on the negative thoughts and experiences in life. We can get STUCK in the land of “everything is bad, and nothing will ever change.” Have you known people like that? Have you ever lived there?
As I mentioned earlier, this last week was very challenging for me. I noticed myself bouncing between toxic positivity and toxic negativity at various times. One of the things about life transition and uncertainty is that it’s like driving on an icy road. If you try to go too fast and aren’t careful, you could end up crashing on either side of the road and getting STUCK.
Finding and maintaining the middle path can be a challenge if you don’t know what’s going on in your mind, body, and/or spirit. So, the first step is always to develop and maintain awareness of whatever is happening. In fact, that’s what my focus was for last week: stay aware. It was my mantra. Remaining focused on opening my awareness to the experience prevented me from flying in one direction or the other for too long. It also kept me from making any rash decisions that I might have regretted later.
In this episode of Growing in Uncertainty, I talk about my experience of last week, what I learned about toxic positivity/toxic negativity, and how to find and maintain that middle path.