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Saying ‘Be Positive’ Is NOT The Answer To All World Problems. It’s Toxic Positivity!

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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.

Does Telling Your Friend “Be Positive” Actually Help?

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.

My Friend Threw Herself Into IAS Preparation Without Considering The Possibility Of Not Succeeding

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.

Representational image.

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.

Failure Has As Much Scope As Success, Be Prepared For Both

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.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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