- Everything happens for a reason.
- You should be happy.
- Stay positive.
- Things could always be worse.
- Look on the brighter side.
- Failure is not an option.
- You should be happy for them.
- Your dreams should scare you.
- God never gives you more than you can handle.
- Just don’t think about it, and it will happen.
You’ve heard the statements. And, like me, you’ve probably used them and still do. You thought you were doing well by the person, giving them hope, and alleviating their pain. The irony is you may not have even believed the statements but said them out of social norm and habit. After all, you meant well. I meant well. We all meant well.
The absolute worse experience of my life is losing my daughter. There were words of comfort and support all around me during that time. Yet, I remember being bothered by the statement that everything happens for a reason.
This season of my life has been full of unlearning; blood ties of tolerating a person’s toxic behavior because they are family, cultural expectations of how I should talk and act as a black woman, and societal bias that says I should celebrate another woman’s pregnancy but doesn’t give permission to be sad for my loss simultaneously. I am unlearning false doctrines and ideologies, which caused me to question whether God punished me when I kept losing my babies.
In sum, I’m unlearning toxic positivity.
What exactly is toxic positivity?
This belief forces us to pretend we are okay or that a situation has to be for our good. Telling someone everything happens for a reason after something terrible happens doesn’t always bring comfort. In fact, it can leave one confused and feeling guilty because the statement did the opposite of its intended purpose.
Here are seven truths.
- The stages of grief are real, and they hurt.
- Everything that happens won’t always have an explanation.
- We can’t always win.
- Even if things could be worse, it doesn’t minimize the severity of your current situation.
- You can be happy for others and still feel sad for yourself. That doesn’t make you a bad person.
- You don’t always have to find the good in every situation unless you choose to.
- If you do discover a positive outlook, it doesn’t minimize the horrible experience.
As previously mentioned, I genuinely believe that many of us mean well when we’ve uttered what we thought were words of comfort. This blog is in no way to call out the people who said this statement to me in love or shame someone for having a ‘look on the brighter side’ type of energy. It doesn’t mean that you should wipe these statements from existence, either. Let’s be clear if you’re the person who finds beauty in messy situations that doesn’t make you toxic. It is when you place expectations on others that it becomes problematic.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.