So, would it sound really bad if I said I hate toxic positivity? Like, really hate it? I know the word toxic is in there and that’s never good, but positivity? Can you hate positivity? Uh…yeah…you can. But do my sweet peeps know what ‘toxic positivity’ is? In a nutshell, the term refers to being constantly told by society to ALWAYS BE HAPPY! No. Matter. What. Do you know what I say to that? Blech.
Look, I know we are living in hard times and I get that. People want to be happy. But why are we being ‘forced’ to be happy all of the time? At all costs? Why are negative emotions seen as so horrible? “Don’t get mad!” “Turn that frown upside down!” “C’mon…smile…things aren’t so bad!” Heh? Why can’t we get mad? If someone hurts us or we almost get in an accident or we get swindled by a deal on e-bay, why the hell can’t we be mad? Isn’t it just common sense that we would feel that way? If I get cut-off by some boob in a speeding car, I’m not going to smile and say everything is peachy. I’m going to be pissed and I think that’s a-okay! If I want to frown because of something I read or heard or saw, I’m going to do it. I’m not going to ‘turn it upside down’ and pretend to be happy, especially when reading the ending of “A Prayer for Owen Meany” (Note: love ya, B ❤) And for fuck sakes (dammit…sorry ma… 🙄), if I buy a plant from e-bay and the pic shows something from the Garden of Eden, but when I open the box I get a blade of grass, I’m going to probably say a lot of things ma would wash my mouth out with soap for. And why not? Sheesh.
So why am I talking about this now? Y’all know how much I love Pinterest. If Pinterest was a guy, I’d kidnap him and force him to marry me because I know it would be heavenly and that the marriage would actually last (this time 😳). Anyhoot, I am always seeing motivational quotes and I started thinking that they were actually pretty insincere and just…well…plain stupid.
“Life is too short to be anything but happy.” Okey dokey. 🤨 C’mon. We need to be happy for our entire life? So…when my grandparents died, I should have smiled and been happy? No! I did not feel happy during these times…I felt like crap. Yes, I know they went to heaven but that didn’t take away my sorrow at the time. What about people who were living through the Holocaust? The Great Depression? WWI? Were they supposed to be ‘happy’ because life is too short? Doesn’t that sound like a crock of shit to you? (And ma…don’t get mad at that one…you say it ALL of the time 💩).
“Hey Kristi…you know the quote isn’t quite as dramatic as you’re making it.” It isn’t? Uh…yeah it is. It doesn’t have a disclaimer about times when you are allowed to be sad. The sentence stands alone (like me 🧀). Doesn’t it?
How about this: “Make today AWESOME!” Hmmmm…OK. I personally think there are a lot of words being overused in our language these days, and awesome is one of them. The word literally means ‘awe-inspiring’, ‘magnificent’, ‘wondrous.’ Peeps, working on my classes, folding my laundry, picking up poop in the yard before Dottie and Eddie can have a nibble, and scrubbing my bathtub does not make for an awe-inspiring day by any stretch of the imagination. Moses parting the Red Sea was awesome. See the diff? But if I don’t make my day the most majestic I’ve ever experienced that would awe the poop out of you, I’m falling short. Right?
Rachel Hollis is an author and motivational speaker (which is what I want to be! 🤓) and wrote the book “Girl, Wash your Face!” (I tend to wash everything…just sayin’). Anyhoot, she has come up with some goodies herself: “If you’re unhappy, that’s on you.” What the fuck? If I’m depressed because I’m bipolar and cycling down, that’s on me? ME? She’s blaming me for that? Well, spank me hard! I didn’t know I could control my clinical depression from a disease that affects my brain chemistry and functioning. So, to all of you grasshoppers out there who have depression, cheer the hell up! It’s on you if you’re down.
Here’s another gem from Rachel: “You are in charge of your own happiness.” Look lady, if I was in ‘charge’ of my own happiness, I sure as shit wouldn’t be 3x divorced and living alone with 2 dogs and 30 plants who are my only company most days. Hey…there’s only so much YOU can do to be happy because our circumstances dictate our moods as well! If I would happen to get Covid (God forbid any of us do, but I’d much rather get it than my folks), I’m not going to be happy no matter how much I ‘charge’ myself to be. Blech again.
Now, before you start thinking I’m a huge downer and am bullying Rachel, I’m not! I just think that the toxic positivity she often spreads does more harm than good. I cannot make everyday awesome. I can’t always be in charge of my happiness. I can’t always force myself out of a down mood. NO ONE CAN! But hearing these little nuggets can make people feel they SHOULD be able too! And when we ‘fail’, we feel shittier than we did in the beginning. Thanks for that, Rachel.
Here’s a quote I think we’ve all heard at one time or another: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Heh? So, if I don’t DIE from the horrible-ness of something that could in fact be fatal (according to the quote…very inspiring), I’ll be stronger? Dead or strong? Talk about Russian roulette. 😲
“Cupcakes are muffins that believed in miracles.” Seriously? Read that again peeps, and then tell me honestly you didn’t roll your eyes so far back in your head that you now need to take a Tylenol. A muffin believed in miracles and changed itself into a cupcake. OK. I’m gonna let you in this: if I ever…EVER…see my muffin start growing icing and sprinkles, I’m going to check myself into a facility. Quickly.
And my all time favorite? “Never give up.” C’mon. Sometimes you have to stop trying…you need to give up. Like Kenny Rogers said: “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em…know when to walk away, know when to run…” (as I typed that, I was singing it at the top of my lungs and Dottie got up from my side and hobbled into the other room. Huh. 😐). Ssssoooo…J wanted to end our relationship. I didn’t. Therefore, I should have kept calling and calling and calling and not give up until the result I wanted was met even though there was a snowballs chance in hell it would be. My dear grasshoppers, that’s called stalking. It’s OK to give up on some things…it really is. It does NOT make you a failure or a quitter. Sometimes, things are just not feasible to do. Take me: I’d like to get my doctorate. However, the cost and time is something out of my reach right now, so yes, I’m ‘giving up’ on that. Not because I’m a big loser, but because I don’t have $45,000 to pay for it and 40 extra hours a week to work on it right now.
This toxic positivity has seeped into everyone’s life. Every so often, I see someone posting a really sad situation on FB and their ‘friends’ will say things like: ‘It’ll get better!” “Focus on the good!” “Don’t let it get you down!” Maybe what they need to hear is: “I know this is hard for you, what can I do to help?” or “I’m sorry you are feeling so bad.” Forcing someone to be happy when they aren’t minimizes and belittles the true feelings they are experiencing. Look, God gave us the capacity to experience a WIDE range of feeling. Both good and bad. Why do we suppress half of what we have inside of us?
Why do we feel like we have to wear a happy mask in this world? Why do people post only HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY on their social media, instead of posting REAL REAL REAL? Why are we living such fake lives in this regard? Why, in the name of all that is holy (note to my sweetie students: you know how to say that 😉), do we have to wear a smiley face mask constantly?
Today, 1:5 people experience anxiety and diagnosis of major depression has risen over 30% . Our World in Data shows that from 2010-2013, Facebook saw a 126% increase in users and Twitter grew 417%. In 3 years! And the numbers continue to skyrocket: from 2010 to NOW, FB has grown 359% and Twitter, 663%. Hmmmm. So the more people on social media, the more anxious and depressed we are. Take a look-see at this:
“Natalie Hendry from RMIT University’s School of Media and Communication says social media is a breeding ground for toxic positivity, because the face-tuned picture-perfect lives can leave us feeling like we have to be happy – all the time. ‘Struggle, pain, confusion, boredom, distress – all things that are just as human as happiness, joy or feeling fulfilled – are shut down by overly positive messages,” Dr. Hendry says.” Kelly Scott – ABC Life
Peeps…I’m not saying you shouldn’t post happy and positive experiences. Not at all. But what I am saying is this: it’s OK not to be happy all of the time. It’s OK to feel sad, mad, aggravated, exasperated, angry, fearful, bored, jealous and any other ‘negative’ emotion out there. We’re only human and to have the expectation that we are made up of glitter and rainbows who poop out unicorns is unfeasible, to say the least. We should NOT feel guilty for not being OUR VERY VERY BEST(!) all of the time, because in reality that’s never going to happen. Reality can be pretty icky for all of us at times, and it’s ok to admit that. It’s ok to feel that. It’s ok to experience that. Even Rachel is facing this right now: she and her hubby of 18 years are divorcing (and how horrible for them and their beautiful kids 😟), and I know (all too well 🙄) how terribly devastating this is. But when you’ve posted again and again about your wonderful, happy, super duper marriage AND scores of people paid big bucks to go to workshops where you and your ex-hubby touted your marriage as an example for others to live by (while you were struggling with it in ‘real’ life), it shows how things aren’t always as they seem. She once said this: “We don’t want a good marriage, we don’t even want a great marriage. We want an exceptional marriage.” I’m wondering if by saying this, she kind of set herself up for failure by reaching for this unattainable star. Phenomenal marriages aren’t out there, sweetie. Two imperfect human beings cannot have a near perfect life together and to be honest, your readers would probably take comfort in knowing that.
Maybe this over-expectation was an issue. Maybe it’s an issue so many of us face. Hearing about how wonderful and exciting and happy and beautiful and…well…perfect our lives are supposed to be can often make us think we aren’t doing something right. Here we are poking the remote while we should be reaching for a star instead. Here we are being upset about our struggles right now but are told to ‘just be happy.’ People preach to always try harder…expect more…be more. But you know what I think? Maybe just doing the best you can is enough.