Positive Mindset Or Toxic Positivity?

6 Ways To Be Authentically Positive

Would you consider yourself a positive person? Do you choose to look at the bright side and see the glass half full?  Having a positive mindset is vital however did you know you could be practicing toxic positivity?

The idea of being a positive person has always seemed a bit cliche. But as recent popularity in spirituality and personal development increases, you hear more and more talk about positive vibes along with more people attaining to reach that mindset.

In psychology, it has been proven that having a positive mindset has many benefits on both your physical and mental well being. 

So in a way it should be a goal we all aspire to reach, right?

Imagine being able to always look at the bright side and keep a light hearted approach to life. Or managing stress and anger with poise not allowing anyone to burst your bubble. 

Sounds both amazing yet impossible, or hard to reach. 

How can one stay positive during times of distress, disrespect, abuse, a pandemic, or even grief? 

Do positive people have some sort of energetic shield that keeps them from feeling any negative emotions?

The answer is obviously a no. They don’t.

As you might have guessed, this is where the term toxic positivity comes into play.

Positive Vibes Only

the words “Be happy” written on a wall showing Example of Positive mindset or toxic positivity

I’m sure you have come across that one person who is “radiating positive vibes only”. 

Don’t get me wrong, I used to be that person. 

Actually, I think being that person is a huge part of the spiritual journey.

It’s when you master your reality and decide you will shift your mindset to see the good in everything and start new healthy habits.

You begin emitting the energy you want to attract and you see how well this mindset benefits you. 

However the problem is met when you’re faced with your first few challenges with your new happy go lucky mindset.

You can decide to be real and allow yourself to feel whatever “negative” emotions you’re feeling or you can remain positive and avoid what’s bubbling under the surface.

Though choosing to stay positive might seem like the right thing to do, trying to remain positive when you are in fact feeling quite the opposite, is avoidance and very much toxic positivity.

Toxic positivity is when you fail to see that you are human. 

Being human is having emotions. A whole range. 

Feeling angry or annoyed aren’t negative, however can become negative if one chooses to dwell.

We all have emotions and no one’s life is perfect.

Why Mindset Is Everything

happy smiling woman of color with painted on freckles expressing positive mindset

Above it all, having a positive mindset is and should still be something we all seek to reach.

However it’s important to understand what it means when we say positive.

Being positive is not just about being upbeat and kind. It’s all about mindset.

Mindset is your attitude or philosophy of life. In its root, It’s the belief you have towards certain qualities.

There are two different types of mindsets.

Growth Mindset 

plant growing out of a hand symbolizing a growth mindset.

If you have a growth mindset you understand that beliefs and abilities can be developed through determination.
You understand that people can learn and become more knowledgeable or even develop new talents based on their choice and efforts to do so.

It’s easy for you to embrace challenges and work through setbacks and you’re inspired by the success of others. 

You have the desire to be a better person and grow or develop new skills.

And you might think things like “I am in control of my life and it’s up to me to change anything i don’t like” or “ there will always be more”.

Fixed Mindset

A red door against a caged brick wall symbolizing a closed fix mindset.

If you have a fixed mindset you might assume things like intelligence or talent are things you are born with.
Which leads you to give up challenges a lot easier, feel threatened by the success of others and find yourself around similarly fixed people who reinforce your self esteem. 

You might avoid challenges or hide from mistakes because you find it hard to accept your own errors as they dont make you look as smart.

It might upset you when someone gives you feedback or criticism. 

You might see things as black and white or have a scarcity/victim mindset. And have thoughts like “there’s not enough to go around” or “I can’t afford to do ____”

As you can see, having a fixed or growth mindset are similar to the ideas of being a “negative person” or “positive person”.

Which is where I truly think the focus of being positive should stay.
However people have taken this positive mindset ideology and transformed it into avoidance through rose colored glasses, unable to see how being overly positive can eventually have negative impacts. 

Is There Really A Such Thing As Toxic Positivity?

Rows of yellow smiley face stickers symbolizing the fake smiles of toxic positivity

Yes. There really is. 

As I mentioned above, when we avoid the problem at hand and respond to negative emotions with positivity we are essentially allowing the problem to go unaddressed which will lead it to fester.

As you might already know, avoiding our problems doesn’t get us anywhere and can eventually cause us even more problems down the line.

In fact this 2013 study showed that bottling up emotions increases the chance of premature death by 30%!!!

Similarly to when we have a long list of things we need to do.

If we avoid getting things done, they pile up until we are then overwhelmed and faced with an even bigger more complicated issue.

Suppressing negative emotions with positive emotions is far more psychologically damaging than just addressing negative emotions.

It’s best to work through them in a healthy manner as you slowly learn to shift your mindset to a more positive one. 

Another way toxic positivity is used quite often is when people respond with positivity to another person’s real life problems or even worse, suggesting positive thinking as advice for those suffering with mental health issues.

This is probably the most common way we see people use positivity toxically. 

You could have just gotten terrible news, maybe a family member passed away or is sick and you hear someone say “just stay positive” or “look at the bright side…”

That person is essentially minimizing your emotions and telling you to just stop feeling your feelings and think positively.

While they might assume they’re saying the right thing, it only comes off as insensitive. And they also don’t understand that it’s not REAL positivity. 

They assume that since it’s a positive, encouraging statement, it will automatically fix the problem.

This is a very common approach in the spiritual or even a religious community.

You might hear things like, just pray or just meditate in response to hearing someone express an emotional issue.

And while praying or meditation can help, it’s not how we should address all emotions at all times. And is definitely not the answer to everything. 

Spiritual Bypassing 

Mixture Buddha statue with two quarts crystal towers

Going further on toxic positivity in the setting of spirituality, Spiritual Bypassing is essentially a form of toxic positivity used by a spiritual or religious person.

It’s using spiritual ideas or practices to avoid dealing with current stressors. 

In a way it’s spirituality is being used as a drug to suppress and escape from negative feelings. 

While there are many benefits to a lot of these spiritual practices, it’s when they are practiced with the goal to avoid the issue when they can actually have opposing results. 

True meditation or spiritual practice is about allowing, acceptance and growth. When those aspects aren’t in consideration while practicing, it’s inauthentic. 

Another example of spiritual bypassing is in the victim mindset of an empath. 

A lot of people who identify as an empath have a victim mentality where they blame other people for their negative emotions. 

Saying they are picking up energies from those around them when the reality is that we are all responsible for the energies we put out and accept. 

Personally I believe being an empath is human nature. We all possess these qualities to sense energies. However I also believe that some of us are more sensitive or intune to these emotions. 

And this is where mindset comes to play.

If you have a growth mindset, you will understand that in the end you are responsible for your own emotions. 

If you are sensing a negative vibe, you have the ability to decipher whether or not it comes from within you and proceed accordingly.

How Can You Deal With Toxic Positivity?

Crystal ball with view of flowers symbolizing introspection into authenticity

Before working on responding to the toxic positivity around you, it’s important to address that which comes from within.

Do you find yourself responding to your own troubles with toxic positivity?

We’ve all been there at one point or another.

As I mentioned above, a huge part of my spiritual journey was practicing the “positive vibes only” mindset, unknowingly bypassing. 

And while I was relieved to have discovered on my own the damage I was doing, I am now able to look back and see it was a very important step to shifting my mindset from fixed to growth.

Had I not begun living more positively (even if toxic) I wouldn’t have understood the importance of a positive mindset. 

The first step to dealing with toxic positivity was accepting that it was okay to not be okay. 

That the drama in my life wasn’t a reflection of who I was or even my energy.

In understanding that it was normal to have life struggles, I began to broaden my mindset.

I started to accept those hardships and see them as more opportunities for growth. 

“No rain, no flowers”

It was when I began my journey into authenticity where I realized how I was hindering my growth by spiritual bypassing. 

Authenticity Over Positivity 

Unique woman’s being authentic. With a positive mindset

After reaching the realization that i was bypassing, It became apparent that the ultimate goal was authenticity.

Was I living in my true self?

The reality is, spiritually isn’t just happiness and sunshine and neither is having a positive mindset. 

Being truly positive is living with an authentic growth mindset. 

It’s being sad when you’re sad, and understanding that sometimes we need to feel these “lower vibrational” emotions to process what we are going through. 

The goal is to not become stagnant, and dwell. 

That’s when it becomes a “negative vibe”.

But keep in mind everyone’s healing journey is different and it’s never linear. Some people need days, weeks, months and even years to process.

What matters is that you are authentic in your own journey, while being mindful of the journey of those around you.

So how can you ensure you are living the positive vibe life, but also ensure it’s REAL positivity?

6 Ways To Have An Authentically Positive Mindset:

#1 Shadow Work- Identify Your Negative Emotions 

Shadows of flowers and hand against a wall symbolizing shadow work

One way you can identify your emotions is by practicing shadow work journaling.

Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed by an emotion, sit down and write everything that comes to mind along with how you are feeling and why.

List all the emotions that come up and by asking yourself why you feel that particular emotion, you find which one you‘re feeling at the core.

When we say we are angry, we are really feeling something deeper, like hurt, afraid or disrespected. So listing and dissecting our emotions helps us find the root.

Knowing that root emotion can help us understand why we feel the way we do and writing it out can assist with the healing process. 

We aren’t telling ourselves to be more positive, we are sitting with the emotions and allowing ourselves the time to process them. 

#2 Express Gratitude For What Is Already Good In Life

Woman journaling gratitude list for a positive mindset to overcome toxic positivity

This might sound a bit like toxic positivity. However, I don’t mean be grateful for the good as a response for the bad that happens.

I mean taking the time to make gratitude a part of your everyday life on its own.

It allows some time to focus on the positivity we already have. 

Doing so gives some perspective on the balance of emotions we always have.

For each thing you have to be grateful for there is probably a reason to be upset or hurt. 

That perspective can allow understanding that life is about balance. We have good things happening and bad things happening and they both deserve our attention. 

A gratitude list would be a great practice alongside shadow work journaling to identify our negative and positive emotions. 

#3 Practice Authenticity 

Power black women living in her authentic self.

Being authentic is being in a way that is living in your true self and feelings. It’s embracing your imperfections and being vulnerable. 

When we decide to live life authentically we avoid toxic positivity because it’s not in alignment with how we really feel.

Authenticity is a huge part of your spiritual journey. And being more introspective is a great way to start your journey to authenticity.

#4 Work On Developing A Growth Mindset

Bird soaring against a mountain landscape symbolizing freedom from a growth mindset

As mentioned above, I believe true positivity is having a growth mindset. 

When we have a growth mindset we understand that challenges come and go, and they only lead to more growth.

Shifting our perspective will allow us to see the benefit of some of the negative events in our lives, but also that they are okay to have. 

We will have a better understanding that life brings a series of losses but also gains and with a growth mindset we respond in the best way we can. 

#5 Surround Yourself Around Authentic Positive People

A group of diverse women laughing and connecting over positive mindset

Whenever we want to make any change it’s helpful when the people surrounding us are living the goal. 

Not to say it’s impossible to reach these goals without others, but it definitely helps to have motivated people who’ve been through the journey to reach out for advice and tips.

Another great way to surround yourself with authentic positivity is to follow or subscribe to social media accounts with the focus. 

Seeing the messages shared daily could provide motivation and support towards REAL positivity. 

Here are my top 5 favorite Instagram accounts that share authentically positive messages:

#6 Bring Authentic Positivity To Someone Else’s Life

Two people having a coffee one showing support with authentic positivity.

Practice makes perfect.

Making sure you are expressing real positivity to others regularly really locks in the mindset shift. 

Not only will you be that positive light in someone else’s life, you will also come across the many different scenarios allowing you more opportunities to hone in the proper ways to respond to people’s feelings whether good or bad. 

Conclusion 

Positivity is much deeper than just good vibes and looking at the brightside. It’s important that we familiarize ourselves with the common toxic positive responses, so that we avoid further hurting those around us, or even ourselves. 

Developing a growth mindset and living authentically are key to REAL positivity which is important for our personal development and mental health.

Furthermore, we must normalize not being okay, especially in today’s current society where mental illness is at an all time high. 

We all have a mind therefore we all have mental health to be conscious of.

Being in constant avoidance whether through toxic positivity or other forms of avoidance, only makes matters worse.

I hope reading this encourages you to take a step towards actual positivity and healing. 

Please share your experience with toxic positivity or spiritual bypassing. Or let me know if you struggle with being positive. I’d love to help.


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