Alt Text: Two columns. First column title is Validation and Hope. Second column title is Toxic Positivity. Text contrasts First and Second column text is “Validation”: This is hard. You’ve done hard things before and I believe in you. I know there’s a lot that could go wrong. What could go rights? vs “Toxic Positivity”: You’ll get over it! Just be positive! end text]
The graphic shows the difference between supporting someone with validation and hope, and trying to support them with “toxic positivity.” According to Whitney, it’s the difference between, “This is hard… I believe in you,” and, “Just be happy!” If you could never pinpoint why simple “inspiring” quotes didn’t sit well with you, this could be the explanation.
The hard-to-face truth is, supporting people isn’t about being “positive.” In fact, when you force positivity down someone’s throat, it can actually have the opposite effect. “Toxic positivity” can make people feel unsafe expressing their negativity, and negativity thrives in isolation. It can make people think there’s something wrong with them for not simply “choosing” happiness, and shame is negativity’s enabling best friend.It reminds me of a popular animated video about empathy, which uses the words of Brené Brown. If sympathy is shouting down at someone while they’re stuck in a hole, empathy is getting into the hole with them. If “toxic positivity” is telling someone to just “look at the bright side,” support is putting yourself in someone’s shoes, and accepting their feelings for what they are.