Toxic Positivity is Real: Here are 5 Examples

It is incredibly easy to come across toxic positivity in our day-to-day lives. You see it on social media, you hear from friends or family members, and maybe even “helpful” strangers on the street. It’s not always easy to recognize when someone is being toxic with their positivity, but it’s important that we do because this type of behavior is harmful to both ourselves and others. There are several different ways that someone can be toxic with their positivity:

The idea that you need to be happy all the time and anything else is wrong

group of women standing on the beach
You don’t have to be HAPPY 24/7!

The idea is that you should always be happy and positive, even if it means ignoring problems in your life or not dealing with them properly. It’s not positive at all—it can make you less healthy, less intelligent, and less happy than you might otherwise be.

It’s also a way people use language to control other people; they’ll try to convince someone else who has feelings of sadness or anger that their feelings are incorrect by telling them they shouldn’t feel this way. This can also lead to gaslighting: one person trying to convince another person that something happened when it didn’t happen at all (for example saying someone hit them when they didn’t).

Telling people to “just be happy” without acknowledging their struggles

The first way toxic positivity manifests is in the form of empty platitudes. These are phrases that feel good to say but don’t mean anything. Examples include:

  • “Just be positive!”
  • “You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it.”
  • “Everything happens for a reason.”

These types of statements are usually said without any context or explanation and are often used to respond to people who need support. For example, let’s say someone has just been fired from their job and is feeling upset about it. The last thing they probably want is someone telling them everything happens for a reason! At best, these kinds of statements can make the issue seem trivial—if this person could get over their sadness so easily by being positive then why didn’t they do that before now? (And if everything does happen for a reason then what was the point of losing my job?) At worst though? You might just make things worse by making your friend feel guilty about feeling bad in the first place!

Using the phrase “Everything happens for a reason” or similar phrases

The idea that everything happens for a reason is a myth. No one knows why bad things happen to good people, and no one can promise that there is some greater purpose behind our suffering. The phrase is used to make people feel better about their circumstances (“Maybe this happened for a reason!”), but it also makes them feel like they have no control over their circumstances (“I have no choice but to accept this and move on with my life.”).

It’s hard enough trying to process loss or pain without being forced into this mindset by well-meaning friends and family members who think the best thing they can do is just tell you “everything happens for a reason.”

Saying that everything is fine when it isn’t, especially in the face of clear evidence of pain

It is not your job to hold up a brave face and pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t. You are allowed to feel sad, angry, or scared. You should feel those things! You don’t need to put on a brave face for anyone—not even yourself.

In this day and age, we’re taught that we should always be positive and fill any uncomfortable silence with something positive instead of acknowledging the reality of our situation: sometimes things suck! Sometimes life sucks! Sometimes people suck! And sometimes good things happen too!

But if you only highlight the good in everything without acknowledging or expressing how you feel about something negative happening in your life then these toxic feelings will build up inside of you until one day they come bursting out.

Feeling like you don’t have permission to express your true emotions

But if you’re struggling with mental health issues, having people around you demanding positivity can feel like a burden. You don’t have to be happy all the time. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to express yourself in different ways—even if that includes being sad or angry from time to time.

You might think that showing your emotions makes you less of a good person, but really—you can be sad and not be a bad person at all! It doesn’t mean that you’re miserable all day long; it just means there are some days when things feel hard for no reason at all and it’s okay to say so out loud.

It’s important for those who have experienced trauma or mental health struggles in the past (or currently) to know this: You don’t owe anyone anything. If someone tries to guilt trip or shame you into acting “positive” or “happy,” stand up for yourself! Don’t allow anyone else’s toxic expectations to dictate how much pain and suffering is allowed into your life.

Toxic positivity exists and it hurts people.

Let’s be clear: toxic positivity exists, and it hurts people. But this doesn’t mean every single person who uses the term is trying to intentionally hurt you. They might be just trying to help you feel better and make your life happier, but they’re making things worse.

It’s important to note that toxic positivity isn’t the same thing as positivity or optimism. Those are all about striving towards something good; toxic positivity is about trying to force yourself into being happy all the time, even if you don’t want to be or can’t be.

The difference between these words is subtle but important—and understanding them will help you figure out whether someone else’s attitude toward happiness might be harmful to you personally.


Toxic positivity is a problem because it’s dangerous to people who are already suffering. It can be an especially hard thing to deal with because you might not even realize that the things you say or do could be harmful until someone points them out. But if you want to change your behavior, then here are some helpful tips: start by being more aware of what you say and do, listen when someone tells you they don’t want to hear something positive right now (and respect their feelings!) and try not to use phrases like “Everything happens for a reason” or “Everything will work out in the end.”

If in doubt about whether something counts as toxic positivity or not, just remember this one simple rule: if it hurts anyone else—if it makes them feel bad about themselves or ashamed of their emotions—then don’t do it!