Jung said that too much of anything is a ‘bad’ thing, whether it be idealism or morphine. So, can you be too positive? Yes! It’s essential to remember that while positivity and optimism can be valuable, it should not come at the expense of denying or invalidating genuine emotions. Healthy emotional expression involves embracing the full range of human feelings and acknowledging that it’s okay to experience both positive and negative emotions. If you encounter toxic positivity in yourself or others, it’s crucial to address it and encourage open, honest and empathetic communication about emotions and challenges. An important starting point is to be able to spot toxic positivity.

Let’s put the searchlight on and take Key Steps to spot the signs of toxic positivity quickly and…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’

  1. Minimising or invalidating emotions. When someone consistently downplays or dismisses negative emotions by saying things like “just be positive” or “don’t worry, be happy,” they might be practicing toxic positivity. People engaging in toxic positivity might try to make light of your pain or struggles, making statements like “it could be worse” or “think positive” or “look on the bright side.”
  2. Supressing or ignoring real issues. If a person avoids discussing or addressing real problems and only focuses on positive aspects, it may indicate a toxic positivity mindset. Temporary dissociation as a coping mechanism is health but long-term avoidance or repressing feelings can lead to physical, mental and relationship issues. And encouraging others to suppress or hide their true emotions instead of expressing and processing them is a common sign of toxic positivity and very damaging.
  3. Lack of empathy. People practicing toxic positivity may struggle to empathise with others’ pain and emotions because they prioritise maintaining a positive facade. They could also lack empathy because they are not in touch with their own emotions and, therefore, can’t relate to you and yours, which could lead to…

  4. Judgement and/or blaming. When someone judges or blames others for their negative emotions or circumstances, maybe even implying they are responsible for attracting negativity due to their mindset, it reflects toxic positivity. This often happens because they judge themselves for being what they perceive to be “negative” and, therefore, judge you too.
  5. Masking and pressuring self or others to be positive. When someone appears overly cheerful and positive regardless of the circumstances, it might be a sign of suppressing true emotions. And when they pressurise others to adopt a positive attitude, even when they are going through tough times, it’s a sign of toxic positivity.
  6. Overuse of inspirational quotes or positive messaging. Constantly sharing motivational quotes without acknowledging the complexity of emotions and life challenges may indicate a tendency towards toxic positivity. When people continually try to deliver difficult messages with a positive slant, it encourages toxic positivity and people lose their authenticity.
  7. Dismissing the importance of mental health. If someone belittles the significance of mental health issues or suggests that mental health problems can be cured solely through positive thinking, it’s a BIG red flag for toxic positivity. Don’t let yourself get baited. Positive thinking can wear you out make things worse. It’s important to recognise and acknowledge you true feelings.

What examples can you share of toxic positivity in your workplace, home or social circle? Please share so we can spot the signs quickly and my next article will be about how we can overcome toxic positivity and really…

‘be the difference that makes the difference.’


NOTE: The information in my blog may be freely shared and re-used in any online or offline publication, provided it is accompanied by the following credit line: This was written by Dr Sharon King Gabrielides, and originally appeared in her free weekly  ‘Key Steps Food for Thought Blog’ available on the Key Steps website.

Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

About Dr Sharon King Gabrielides

Sharon is a dynamic facilitator, speaker and executive coach with over 25 years’ experience in leadership development and organisational transformation. Her PhD thesis contributed a framework for holistic and sustainable leadership development that was published by Rutgers University in the USA. She is faculty of numerous business schools and highly sought-after by leading corporates because she works hand-in-hand with them to create sustainable results and long-term success. In 2020, Sharon was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame, which is a lifetime achievement award, recognising excellence and her contribution to the field.

Sharon is one of only three women in South Africa to have achieved the title of Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – the Oscar of the speaking industry. She is also a COMENSA Master Practitioner (CMP), a qualified Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (MCCT™) and an accredited Global Virtual Speaker. Sharon is also a registered Education, Training and Development Practitioner (ETDP), holds an Honours degree in Psychology and practices as an NLP master practitioner.

Most important to Sharon is that she has become known for her genuinely caring manner, practical and transformational approach, and for providing valuable tools and that allow people to take Key Steps to really… ‘be the difference that makes the difference.’