Why You Should Banish Toxic Positivity From Your Life

Why You Should Banish Toxic Positivity From Your Life
Written by Publishing Team

Flashback to summer 2020. You know THIS summer. There was no camp in person. We all worked from home. My husband used our kitchen island as an office for his sales work. My 4 year old was bouncing off the walls of our condo in town. Then there was me, six months pregnant and miserable. I was exhausted but forced myself to take my son for daily nature walks and keep him playing nonstop. One day, a friend of mine sent me a well-being SMS. When she asked me how I was, instead of giving her my usual response, “Oh, we’re all fine, we’re just adjusting to this new normal!” I was honest. I let off steam and told her that I was struggling to balance my pregnancy, that I felt isolated and exhausted from following an energetic preschooler. She replied, “Well, remember we only have 18 summers with our kids. We should treasure the time.

Wait! What?

Her attempt to show me the bright side of the situation made me feel guilty, ashamed, and honestly angry. This is how toxic positivity works. Toxic positivity rejects your “negative” emotions. It puts a positive spin on everything. It leaves no room for real genuine feelings.

My friend’s intentions were good, but they missed the mark. I immediately regretted having been vulnerable.

Here are some simple guides I have used to eliminate toxic positivity and replace it with real conversations of acceptance:

Leading with empathy

We all have different paths on this parenting journey. Each family has its own needs and obstacles. I really believe that the common thread is that as parents we all do the best we can. With that in mind, my first response to a friend having a difficult day / week / month is to validate their feelings. You can just say, “It sounds difficult, how can I support you? I’m really trying to figure out how my friend is feeling at this point. I don’t tell them how they should feel. To me empathy is like support and they decide how they would like to be supported.

Resist cliché messages

Life is not an Instagram legend. Responding to your real friends with toxic positivity slogans like “Everything happens for a reason” can seem dismissive and impersonal. Problems are not uniform and neither is compassion. It can make a person feel ashamed of having negative emotions. I want to be a person that my friends can be themselves with, not just when they crave the sun. As a general rule of thumb, if you’ve seen the quote on a t-shirt, coffee mug, and notebook, stay away! Yes, this includes “Positive vibes only”.

Be a safe space

I used to think of a safe space as a physical space. Like my parents’ house or my best friend’s couch, places where I can let go of expectations and truly be me. Recently, I realized that people can serve as safe spaces. You can be a safe space for your friends. Providing a non-judgmental ear provides comfort. I thank friends for feeling comfortable enough to let me be me.

Community has always been an important part of my parenting journey. I rely on other parents for advice, resources and yes, reassurance. Toxic positivity bypasses the vast array of human emotions. Focusing only on happiness and positivity just isn’t realistic. I challenge myself to think about how we can present ourselves to each other in a way that allows parents to be truly transparent about the ups AND downs of parenting. I hope you find the space to do the same.

Jenny LeFlore is a community builder, advocate, influencer and mom of ObieQ, 5, and Jameson, 1. She has created a community with her brand, Mama Fresh, where the diversity of motherhood is celebrated. Mama Fresh is all about taking a new approach to motherhood. Her mission is to be that mom friend you never knew you needed. Follow her on Instagram @mamafreshchi.

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