Toxic Positivity: Signs You're Forcing Happiness

True positivity lies in acknowledging difficult emotions and looking for ways to overcome them. 

Tenzin Chodon
Written by: Tenzin ChodonUpdated at: Apr 10, 2023 11:49 IST
Toxic Positivity: Signs You're Forcing Happiness

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True happiness does not lie in ignorance. "Stay positive," "Be happy," "Forget about your problems," isn't it all easier said than done? Cheering someone up is one thing, but forcing them to be content, positive and happy can affect them negatively. While you may be their best support system, you must learn to acknowledge their sadness, pain, grief and loss. You need to accept, acknowledge, process and heal from the grief. It could be a sign of toxic positivity if you're forcing yourself to be happy or convincing others to get over their sadness. This article will discuss what it means and why it can be harmful. 

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What Is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity is when people believe one should maintain a positive mindset and approach life even when things are complicated. It negates the existence of complex emotions and encourages people to showcase a cheerful self. Being positive and having an optimistic outlook on life is great, but if it is at the cost of invalidating painful experiences and emotions, it can have a long-term negative effect on a person's well-being. These include problems with communication, isolation and the inability to seek help, low self-esteem, ignorance towards bigger harm, tolerance towards unfair practices, and more. 

According to research published in the journal Emotion, overemphasising happiness can make people more likely to obsess over failure and negative emotions, proving counterproductive. This is because a person is constantly pressured to be happy, even when the circumstances are completely opposite to it. 

Toxic positivity is not the same as being positive. A healthy form of positivity focuses on accepting and acknowledging all kinds of feelings - happy and sad. Toxic positivity encourages a pretence, in which a person feels obligated to be happy but isn't so. 

Signs Of Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity can be subtle and easily missed. However, some behaviours can help you identify them. These include:

  • Invalidating difficult emotions and feelings all the time.
  • Ignoring problems rather than trying to tackle them.
  • Minimising other people's feelings just because you feel uncomfortable.
  • Shaming others for not having a positive attitude.

Why You Shouldn't Force Or Fake Happiness

It is tough to escape difficult emotions and feelings. They're bound to occur, and you cannot make them go away. The way ahead is to face them head-on rather than suppressing them and hiding them from others. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people who accept their difficult emotions do better in the long run than those who force themselves to be happy. Choosing the path of acceptance helps you deal with loss and grief and allows you to move. But if you choose to suppress, you're likely to suffer silently. 

How To Deal With Toxic Positivity

It is difficult to tackle toxic positivity, but it isn't impossible. So here are a few things you need to do to avoid it. 

Accept that it is okay to NOT be okay

Learn to manage your negative emotions; avoid negating them

Be a good listener or be around people who are good listeners

Optimism is good, but being realistic can help you deal with emotions

Call out those who encourage toxic positivity

Communicate your emotions; do not hold back

Also Read: Signs Of Anger Issues In A Children: Tips To Help Them To Deal With It


Happiness is something everyone wants to achieve. But to understand the true essence of happiness, it is important to experience sadness and all the difficult emotions that come with it. Having said that, whether you're someone who preaches such positivity or is on the receiving end, know that forcing happiness is not a long-term solution. Instead, true courage lies in accepting the problems, finding answers and moving forward.