Toxic Positivity: Extreme Happiness Is Bad For You?

toxic positivity

Toxic positivity means being too positive in the face of a negative situation, such as a serious injury or death, telling people to “cheer up” or “look at the bright side of things,” being unable to sympathize with others hurt, emotional distress, or loss.

Whitney Goodman, author of the Toxic Positivity: Keeping It Real in a World Obsessed with Being Happy, calls toxic positivity a form of personal emotional gaslighting, urging people to be “sad when [we]’re sad and angry when [we]’re angry,” so we can fully experience our “rainbow of feelings.”

Toxic Positivity Criticism 

The problem with Goodman’s words, or anyone else who is a supporter of the toxic positivity movement, is that being positive does not mean that we will need to fight for our life at every turn. In fact, truly negative events are rare, and when they happen a truly positive person will have enough emotional intelligence to deal with negativity in a healthy and mature way. 

Furthermore, small or intermediate negative events happen to us all the time. Unfortunately, most people aren’t completely sure how to deal with this form of negativity and therefore they just learn to accept it, calling it normal or unavoidable, hence buying into the whole “let’s normalize being negative” culture. 

As such, toxic positivity justifies negativity and keeps it in place, preventing us from looking for real solutions for negative thinking and behavior, such as learning how to be happy today and forever in a lasting, toxic positivity freeway.

Truly Happy People Aren’t Toxic

What I’m saying is that truly happy people aren’t delusional optimists. They are people with great emotional intelligence and a functional emotional toolkit, flexible enough to deal with both positivity and negativity situations, which occur to them as much as anyone else. They just deal with these situations in a different way than most. 

As such, learning how to feel happy is the ultimate solution for our well-being, since happiness positively affects virtually every part of life. 

Perhaps the only time I’d recommend buying into the whole toxic positivity nonsense is if we are unwilling to truly learn how to feel happy today and forever. 

And yet, we only live once, and most of us want to have the best life possible, so instead of finding reasons to feel negative, or justifying our negativity whenever possible (such as buying into the toxic positivity myth), I propose that we learn how to be optimally happy in a lasting way. 

Now, wouldn’t this be a nice way to lead our lives? 

Toxic Positivity Test

To understand your personal beliefs about toxic positivity, please answer the following questions:

  • Is extreme and lasting happiness possible? Why or why not? 

Your answer: _____________________

  • Is occasional negativity important, healthy, and desired? Why or why not? 

Your answer: _____________________

  • How happy are you (lately, on an average day)? Rate your happiness on a 0-10 scale, 0 being extremely unhappy and 10 extremely happy.

Your answer: _____________________

Share your answers in the comments or in a private message.


Source: Lyubomirsky. S., King, L., and Diener E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success?. Psychological bulletin. 131(6), 803.

Picture of Roman Russo: Author of Optimal Happiness

Roman Russo: Author of Optimal Happiness

Roman Russo wasn't always happy and struggled with his own negative emotions, anxieties, and depression, until one day he pledged to resolve this part of life, whatever it took. The journey took 6 years, but it was worth it. Today, Roman considers himself to be one of the happiest people alive, part of the 1% of the happiest elite, and he now teaches others a working and universal happiness formula to reach a similar goal. He offers his best advice on Optimal Happiness social media, newsletter, blog, and books, and teaches a complete and unconditional happiness formula in his online courses.

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“The problem is that of optimization,” states Roman Russo, author of Optimal Happiness: The Fastest & Surest Way To Reach Your Happiest Potential. There is plenty of advice on how to be happier or less sad, but no one is speaking about how to become the happiest we can be. And this is the difference that makes all the difference. By not looking at our maximum potential for happiness, we fall short of achieving it. After all, we all have hundreds of ideas on how to be happier or less sad, but most people still feel like they are not living their best lives. As such, Optimal Happiness explores the question of how to be the happiest we can be, regardless of who we are, where we are from, and what our life circumstances are. It proposes a complete and unconditional formula for happiness and explains how you too can become happy today and forever, inviting you to join the 1% happiness elite and become one of the happiest people alive.

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