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Toxic Positivity v. Healthy Dose of Reality

people doing group hand cheer

Yesterday, I lobbed questions asking what to do about toxic positivity:

How has toxic positivity kept you down? How has a culture of toxic positivity kept you from facing the pain of growth? How has American toxic positivity furthered your trauma? What can you do about it?

See the original post here.

If your answers are all “I don’t know” or “I know, but I could use some pointers” or “Bitch, I’m an expert, but go on,” then this is the first of three strategy-heavy posts to pull you out of the mire of fake smiles and syrupy feelgoodism.

I said the first of the “seemingly easy solutions” was to find support. These are some ways to find healthy, kind support that doesn’t minimize your experiences, feelings, and pain.

Support Looks Like Happiness

Of course, finding any support poses the risk of more toxic positivity. And where you find support depends upon who you are, where you invest your time, and what you value. I could tell you there are caring folks all over social media, but what they post might not be to your liking. I follow a bunch of folks who hype people up within their niches like finances, dance, and body acceptance. Sometimes, even a good meme account or the internet’s best pets help.

The thought is this: Support doesn’t have to be someone who directly addresses your pain. It can be whatever doesn’t feel toxic just to have a haven away from numbed-out denial smiles.

brown wooden framed don t start with me karen poster
Photo by Brett Sayles on

Support Looks Like DMS, Texts, & Chats

Those folks you go to for meme shares, giggle fits, and gif-heavy group chats might be the support you need, but maybe you didn’t think of them. Maybe you’ve missed the obvious. That’s not an insult! Maybe you’re like me, and you have to joke your way through everything to avoid vulnerability. So, your group chats look like this:

Screenshot of text messages in a group chat. It's all gifs of animals doing ridiculous things or in costume.
This is an actual screenshot of the group chat between my loved ones.

It might feel awkward, but it can be worth it to say to those same folks: “Hey, this sucks for me right now, and everyone I talk to tells me to get over it. I need a hug.” Those chats might turn into this, which is a shit ton better than, “Other people have it worse.”

Screenshot of group chat gifs, but this time, it's hugs and love and admitting we've been crying a lot.
Same group chat, new day. It was a rough one for all of us.

The point is: While some of your closest humans might not be great with support, others could be if given a chance. They might’ve been holding on to that Baymax gif for months. Who knows?

Support Looks Like Self-Compassion

Don’t forget you. Self-compassion might not be your apricot jam, but it can be, and you already have it in you to try. OK, get that sarcastic laughing out of your system.

I get it. Less than a year ago, the idea of self-compassion was a joke to me. I still and always will have doubts about it; however, therapy, a fantastic resource, and a commitment to feeling better helped me see the sheer strength self-compassion can provide. It can help you:

  • create boundaries with Toxic-Positivity Tinas (I’m going with that; sorry to the people named Tina . . . minus one . . . but that’s a story for another day),
  • hype yourself up because if you can be your own worst critic, you can also be your own best cheerleader, and
  • find the strength to seek mental health help in the form of a counselor or therapy, if that’s a thing you’re considering.

I’m not even scratching the surface of options here, but it’s a place to start. Just pick and use one to see what it’s like to find someone who supports you without the minimizing, denial, and redirection. Even if it’s reading posts on Instagram about toxic positivity, it’s a way to see for yourself that there’s other support waiting for you.

Plus, starting here can help you consider the questions I asked at the start, which I’ll get to on Saturday. But for now, what will you try? And are you ready to talk about honesty tomorrow? Because it’s happening.

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