Toxic positivity: 10 harmful phrases that hinder healing
Toxic positivity isn’t something new. If we are honest with ourselves, it’s a familiar uninvited guest.
Just think. How often have you ever heard or said these phrases?
You’ll get over it.
Just work harder.
You’re stronger than this.
Oh, these phrases have a subtle way of showing up even in our most intimate relationships. We’ve heard these toxic phrases while walking through hard seasons of heartache, disappointment, and despair. Words often uttered by well-meaning people who love us. Sadly, these are words some of us have spoken to others when we didn’t know what else to say. Sometimes these words are a part of our inner dialogue interfering with our healing process. Simple phrases with good intention that pack a powerful, harmful punch.
What makes toxic positivity harmful, especially when we don’t intend to be hurtful?
Toxic positivity focuses on positivity as the sole response to difficult experiences or emotions. By centering on toxic positivity, we:
- Belittle the experience with “feel good” quotes
- Compound the hurt instead of identifying healthy coping skills
- Create barriers to seeking help
- Shame others or even ourselves for feeling complex emotions
- Encourage hiding true feelings
Toxic positivity only minimizes the beauty of the human experience.
Toxic positivity only minimizes the beauty of the human experienceTweet
Here’s the deal–we are complex individuals who live in the space of “and.” We can experience pain and joy, gratitude and grief, hardship and hope. When we embrace the space of “and” we can identify healthy ways to help us process challenging experiences in our lives. We do not avoid the uncomfortable things; instead, we realize our emotions are indicators of what we need. We make room for feeling all our feelings while embracing the messy, hard space for the healing process.
How can we change our conversation?
Let’s start with identifying 10 harmful phrases that reinforce toxic positivity, plus what you can do to replace your conversation with words of love and hope.
- You are so strong.
- Try this instead: You don’t have to go through this alone. It’s okay for you to be soft and tender.
- I don’t know how you do it.
- Try this instead: I am here for you. It’s okay for you to need help and let others help you.
- You have so much to be grateful for.
- Try this instead: It’s okay to be grateful and to feel sadness for what you are going through.
- You’ll get through this.
- Try this instead: I’m sorry you are going through this. How can I support you?
- Don’t worry.
- Try this instead: I realize this is stressful. What are you doing to take care of yourself?
- Failure isn’t an option.
- Try this instead: Failure is a part of both growth and success. I know this is disappointing right now, and I am here to listen.
- Just focus on the good.
- Try this instead: It’s okay if you are going through a hard time right now. What do you need?
- You’ll be just fine.
- Try this instead: I understand you need some time to recover.
- Just work harder.
- Look on the bright side.
- Try this instead: You can tell me what you are going through. I am here to support you.
Remember, it’s okay not to be okay. Being aware of toxic positivity is the first step to creating change in our language and how we can show up for others. If we want to prioritize our healing and create a safe space for others, we must lead conversations filled with love and hope.
Note: I am not a mental health professional. This post does not replace seeking out professional help or following the guidelines of medical professionals.
Healing and hope,