Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.
This month is one focused on mental health and mental well being. We often try to understand how we can support our friends. Plot twist: What if our actions are harming them instead? How can identify these signs and do better? The truth is less shocking than we think. Here’s two stories to support our journey in becoming a better support!
1. 6 Signs YOU’RE the Toxic Friend
2. What to say and not to say when supporting a friend
6 Signs YOU’RE the Toxic Friend
What’s going on here & Why we like it
Psych2go, a youtube channel focused on mental health, shares 6 signs that help us identify if we are the toxic friend we wished we wouldn’t be. We like it because we often like to think of ourselves as helping others and being kind to our friends. This video shines a light on our potential blind spots. Don’t root for their success? Enable their negative and self-destructive behaviour? These are some signs that there might be signs of toxicity. Don’t despair if you find these signs in you, it is an opportunity to grow and develop!
“Is it hard for you to say sorry? We all make mistakes…But if your response is to tell others to suck it up and not worry about it without considering how they feel, then you are doing more harm than good to your relationship”
It is tough to shine a light on our blind spots. Running through this list of signs can help us be the friend our friends need.
What to say and not to say when supporting a friend
What’s going on here & why we like it
Maggie, a therapist, shares on what are some signs of toxic positivity, why it is toxic, and what we can say to our friends that are feeling down. This provides readers with a very actionable list of things to say when stuck in a situation where we are inclined to say ‘just try to smile!’ or ‘good vibes only’. We love it for its actionability and practicality. Enjoy!
“It (toxic positivity) provides false reassurance rather than genuine empathy”
Follow and memorise some of the phrases to say if you are often stuck in knowing what to say. Ultimately, we have to also apply empathy and compassion when supporting friends. Though our words are one part of the story of helping others…knowing what to say is a helpful starting point.
TLDR: Burying our friends and ourselves with positive quotes when we are down can hurt. Active listening is one way to avoid toxic positivity
Heard Or Said Something Similar?
“Everything will be fine.”
“This too shall pass.”
“Good vibes only. Stay strong, jia you*!”
Social media rewards us for positively curated stories. This has created new challenges in how we manage the emotions of others and ourselves.
Toxic positivity: The forced blanket positive response to all difficult situations. The firm belief that keeping positive is the sole way you and others should live your life.
Though being positive is important. It is also important to let yourself experience difficult feelings. Here’s why toxic positivity is an issue and how we can be part of the solution.
Positivity Is Great.. So How Does Toxic Positivity Harm Us?
Positivity is important to keep us going in life. No doubt. ‘Focusing on what is good, will bring good’ we are taught. But like all things, e.g. Pandan Cake 🍰 , too much of something is not desirable.
Positivity becomes toxic when one rejects anything that triggers negative emotions and replaces it with positive motivational quotesor ‘vibes’. This habitual response to negativity has been found to create anxiety, depression or physical illness.
Ever tried to tell a panicking person to ‘stay calm’? I hope you didn’t!
Toxic positivity is not just an issue for your mind and body. It is an issue for others. Pushing it on others also makes you seem tone death.
The receiver of your ‘positive vibes’ comments may even start to feel bad about feeling bad. The last thing they need.
When we deny unpleasant emotions, we tend to make them bigger. Avoiding all negativity also reinforces the idea that we need not pay attention to it. This leaves it unprocessed in our psyche.
We slowly forget that emotions are not inherently good or bad but rather a guide in how we should make sense of things.
Signs of Toxic Positivity
These are some common experiences of toxic positivity to help recognise them in yourself and others.
Trying to ‘snap back to reality’ by saying (e.g., “it could be worse”) instead of validating their/ your emotional experience
Telling someone off for expressing frustration or anything non-positive
Hiding your true feelings and wanting it to be ‘over asap’
Attempting to “just get on with it” by dismissing strong emotions
Feeling guilty/ angry for feeling down.
Responding to people’s experiences with “feel good” quotes or statements about positivity
Detoxing The Toxic Within Us
“To stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge — that is the path of true awakening.” Pema Chodron
It is easy to accept the pleasant people and situations of life. However, being able to accept the difficult people and situations is the path of spiritual growth. We find a place for deep healing and peace within ourselves.
Here’s what we can do for ourselves.
Give yourself permission to feel negative and positive emotions.
Journal about the emotion or sit with the emotion (if you can!).
Slowly uncover the cause and see what can you do to support yourself better in the future.
Talk to friends about it unreservedly.
Take a walk in nature to breathe in the fresh air
Detoxing the Toxic Towards Others
Being a lover of excel tables, this is a cheat sheet to help improve the ways we talk to others having a bad time. Being an “ex-serial toxic positivity promoter”, this table saved me dozens of time!
No one can be a bursting ray of sunshine every day and every hour. Accepting that it is only human will help you acknowledge the setbacks faced by yourself and others. Paying attention and processing negativity will help you better understand yourself and those around you.
*A popular Singapore term for encouraging others in difficulty
Memorise the chart of toxic positivity and avoid the traps you might fall into
Do not be afraid to acknowledge the negative emotions within you!