Toxic Positivity

Danielle DuskaPsychotherapy

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
“Look on the brightside of things.”
“It could always be worse.”
“Focus on the positive.”
“Don’t worry, you can do it.”
“Other people have it way worse.”

Like the above quotes, most of us have received or provided a positive response to a less-than-positive situation. When used appropriately, positivity can be an adaptive strategy for navigating difficult experiences. However, it’s important to be mindful of when positivity shifts from a helpful and supportive response to an invalidating one. 

What is toxic positivity? Toxic positivity refers to a pervasive need to suppress or ignore uncomfortable, unpleasant, or difficult feelings. Additionally, toxic positivity is everywhere, from our working environments to our social media platforms, toxic positivity encourages us to “stay positive” and “smile, it will all work out” in a way that dismisses the reality of our experience.  

What can we do about toxic positivity? One of the most effective ways to combat toxic positivity is to approach a difficult experience from a place of empathy. Empathy allows us to validate the experience without minimizing feelings, thoughts, or behaviours in the way that toxic positivity does. So, next time you find yourself or someone else struggling, instead of saying “don’t worry about it, just stay positive” try to offer empathy, such as “I can see how hard this for you.” 

If you are interested in learning more about toxic versus adaptive positivity, developing empathetic skills or navigating feelings, thoughts and behaviours you can book a complimentary consultation at or by calling (403) 454-7600.