Toxic Positivity: Demanding ‘Good Vibes’ Is Inspiring Precisely No One
Demanding good vibes from all people at all times is doing more harm than good…
If one more Instagram influencer, rolling around half-naked on a beach in the Maldives, yells that I must exude “Good Vibes Only!”, I swear on their g-string bikinis that I’ll forward them the bill for my antidepressant medication.
What those three words ultimately communicate is that if you are experiencing any emotions besides profound joy, you are not welcome here. There is no space for you. You – and only you – are responsible for your emotions, and if you’re feeling down, then the answer is simple. Cheer up. Smile. Laugh! Things aren’t so bad, you big old sad sack.
If only the solution to the complicated tapestry of human emotion was a few syllables. An energetic pep talk by a friend. An exorcism of all that is bad and then a few minutes of recognizing the good in everything.
It would seem that if demanding ‘good vibes’ were, in fact, a solid way to induce good vibes, then suicide wouldn’t be the leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds globally.
That’s not a very ‘good vibes’ thing to say, is it?
Psychotherapist Whitney Hawkins Goodman has termed this kind of language “toxic positivity”, suggesting that remarks like ‘just be positive!’ and ‘think happy thoughts!’ are dismissive and invalidating.
“I want you to know,” she wrote on her Instagram sitwithwhit this week, “that worry, joy, fear, happiness, pain, rage, anger, sadness (and more) are all part of the human condition,” and rejecting them is unhelpful.
While there is some truth in overused quotes like, “be the energy you want to attract,” and “time is too short to be wasted on anything less than love, good vibes and happiness,” they’re also completely ridiculous.
Like skincare and exercise and hydration and sleep, happiness becomes yet another thing we’re always already failing at. To imagine that there is some blissful state awaiting us in our future, just on the other side of an inspiring three word quote, is ludicrous.
Toxic positivity also contributes to the myth that there’s such thing as ‘good’ emotions and ‘bad’ emotions.
Sometimes things are just a little bit shitty. Or sometimes, they’re not even that shitty, and you don’t know why you’re stuck feeling like shit.
And trying to quickly do away with those feelings is just about as useful as yelling at the sky: “PLEASE STOP RAINING.”
As much as we might like to, bad feelings are not something we can eliminate from our lives altogether, no matter how many green smoothies we down or self-help books we flick through.
Maybe you feel chuffed frolicking on an island in the Maldives.
But, unfortunately, demanding good vibes from all people at all times is doing more harm than good.
Featured image via tumblr.com.
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