All of us have faced issues in our lives and we all must have come across statements like, “You will get over this”, “Cheer up yaar”, “Whatever happens, happens for good”, “Look at the brighter side”, and whatnot. This makes us feel better and we shun reality and believe in only positive things. Sometimes, we ignore the things that are out of our reach or capacity.
We tend to love this pseudo motivation and believe that we can do anything even without a proper plan or knowledge about that thing. We hear about something and our heart goes on for it, without taking permission from our mind, without assessing whether we can do it or not, or what the backup plan this if this doesn’t work out, what else could be the option for success if not this.
We force ourselves to be happy and motivated and this results in toxic positivity. When I first heard this term, I felt curious about how positivity can be associated with a negative word.
Saying “be positive” is probably the verbal panacea of the world for every minute to the mammoth problems.
But this toxic positivity has messed up with many brilliant minds and beautiful souls. We also start differentiating people on the basis of this toxic positivity.
We fall in love with those who support our thinking and further pump ourselves with their pseudo motivation and develop hatred towards the ones who ask us critical or realistic questions. Our bubble of fake happiness and motivations suddenly bursts as it collides with reality and we tend to run away from that reality. We get anxious, stressed, and depressed about what they said, and instead of getting into reality, accepting our problems, and failing to understand their point of view we end up talking to those who we know will support us and fuel ourselves with more toxic positivity.
It was two years back when a friend of mine had just graduated from a great college with good marks and was now confused about her next action. She heard that an IAS officer makes a lot of money and gets extra respect in society. Since she was a good student and a topper all her life, she thought that she can crack the exam in one go without even knowing about the level of preparation and hard work she will have to do. She enrolled herself in one of the best institutes in the city and started preparing for the exam. As she continued with her classes, she started facing the realities of preparing for a civil services exam.
She was taken aback many times but then charged herself up with fake motivation and forced herself to be happy. She was facing difficulties in many subjects and concepts and started solving these issues with more desperation and anxiety instead of having a relaxed approach. This helped her understand the concepts but she failed to retain them. She always used to be nervous and worried about the exam and even felt guilty about taking a break or enjoying life like every normal person. She gave her first attempt and didn’t qualify for the prelims. She cried for a couple of days and then decided to give herself another chance to become a collector.
She spoke to people and watched videos that would give her fake motivation and started studying again. By this time, everyone in her family and neighbourhood knew about her IAS preparation and was pretty sure that she would crack the exam based on her past academic record. This added more burden to her life as she could not back out now even if she wanted to. The fear of failure started overtaking the opportunities for learning. Four years and four attempts have gone and she hasn’t even managed to qualify for the prelims.
She thought of herself as a worthless human who had wasted four years of her life being burdened, anxious, disappointed, and forcefully happy. She took a break for a few days and decided to free herself from the burden she had put upon herself. She thought about what she should do and was as confused as she was four years ago. She just had a simple aim and that was to earn money. All her life, she was dependent on her father and wanted to be financially independent.
She started working in an MNC on a salary of Rs. 15,000 per month. She was on cloud 9 when she received her first salary. It was way less than the salary of an IAS officer, but she was happy. She also faced many issues in her office such as work deadlines, office politics, and personal problems. But she had a more pragmatic solution and acceptance oriented approach towards these problems and started adjusting to the situations until she finds the next best opportunity. Meanwhile, she started applying to other companies in search of better profiles and a greater salary.
Toxic positivity is more injurious to mental health than a negative attitude.
To overcome this, we have to happily accept ourselves and acknowledge our strengths as well as weaknesses by not hiding our emotions and feelings from ourselves. A positive person is not someone who always has a smiling face on or someone who is always charged up.
A positive person is the one who accepts all things and situations the way are, becomes aware of all the pros and cons of something he/she does or plans to do, when someone contradicts their belief, thinks for at least 2 minutes about it rather than shrugging it off like a nightmare and most importantly, is prepared for failure as failure has as much scope as success has.