While the pandemic raged on and people grapple with the slow poison of anxiety and depression on a daily basis there have been times when we express positive emotions in the midst of it all.
With the horrors of the waves of death and despair in the rear-view mirror, hopefully, we have all been advised to ‘stay positive,’ but is being in a ‘positive frame of mind’ all that good all the time. Is it even possible, or is there such a thing as ‘toxic positivity?’
The problem of positivity
Online self-help gurus, influencers and other of their ilk are seldom self-aware about their self-help business. While some commiseration is needed even in grave situations and we need succor from those who ‘influence’ us, there is a case to be made for these so-called gurus making suckers out of their captive audience.
Some are ‘urban monks’ who use quotes from the Dalai Lama and Thích Nhất Hạnh like connective tissue for their garbled Insta mumbo-jumbo thought-pieces. Reels that make the teenaged dancers churning out video after video of the latest club-banger appear more productive and sincere.
While many are hesitant to talk about the outrage, grief, loss or frustration people are feeling with anything that appears ‘disturbing,’ maybe we need to connect with the real and, God forbid, negative?
The Pressure To Appear OK
The fact is ‘toxic positivity’ can be as disturbing if not more. At its roots, forcing yourself into a positive frame of mind is an avoidance strategy used to push away and invalidate any internal discomfort.
What happens when you bottle up ‘negativity’, you actually cause more harm.
For example, studies have shown that when you’re asked not to think about something, it actually makes you more likely to think about it.
Failure to effectively process emotions in a timely manner can lead to a myriad of psychological difficulties, including disrupted sleep, increased substance abuse, risk of an acute stress response, prolonged grief, or even PTSD.
Not All Of Them, Men
This is not to say that all influencers spout the same cursory motivational drivel or do not have your best mental health interests at heart.
Most are running a business and the longer you are hooked to their pages, the more they are able to realise their best lives, you know, something they advise you to do. Self-awareness has no place in a conflic of interest, you see.
Chances are however, someone called Whiskey Triceps might not fully understand the nuances of ‘adulting’ or someone posing with his newly acquired latest gadgets or superbike may not be the best person to guide you about the pitfalls of an overly materialistic life.
Everyone copes differently
The pressure to be productive and positive, to always be ‘on and get it’, to ‘hustle’ leaves many, if not most people, feeling inadequate and ashamed that they are simply trying to make it through the day without a panic attack or crying spell.
This is especially true amongst older folks who have seen and done a few things and may not be so inclined to ‘get out of the comfort zone’ they worked so hard to get into, in the first place.
And yet, social media is flooded with messages about how to live your best life and that Musk works 25 hours a day.
Not everyone copes with stress by getting busy and not everyone’s jobs change the world. For many, these messages are harmful, leading to increased feelings of depression and anxiety, as they feel they are not living to their full potential.
During times of stress, our brains are full. We do not always have the cognitive capacity to tackle something with a heavy learning curve and take on a new task, so it might be more harmful and make it more difficult to cope with the world.
What is The Takeaway Message?
If anything, you are able to put food on the table and live a basic life, you have got it made. You are already a success and can always learn at your own pace. Motivational videos should motivate you to stop watching motivational videos.
Perhaps, someday the creators themselves will take their own advice and ‘quit’ making those videos.
After all, it is them who advise us that there is only so much money you need to be ‘happy.’
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