Toxic positivity among the youth

Posted by watchmen
March 2, 2024
Posted in Impulses, OPINION

By Herman M. Lagon

In a society where social media often sets the standard for emotional expression, the growing phenomenon of toxic positivity is pervasive and concerning, especially for youth. In a culture where uncomfortable emotions are habitually minimized or disregarded, our children’s mental health is gravely endangered.

Poisonous optimism stems from the belief that happiness is a state that should be constantly pursued and that any deviation from this emotional zenith is a failure. Teens navigating the turbulent waters of puberty are particularly vulnerable to this. They are continuously inundated with messages that, despite their emotional state, espouse an unwaveringly optimistic viewpoint. The well-intended but often detrimental phrases “Just look at the bright side!” and “Don’t worry, be happy!”

The ongoing focus on positivism obscures the actual struggles and psychological suffering that children go through. It gently suggests — and rejects — that their feelings, which include depression, dread, and frustration, are signs of weakness or personal failure. Because they believe that everyone else is always happy and content, this could make people feel isolated and like they are the only ones going through hard times.

Teens from our country, where joy and tenacity are highly valued, could experience additional pressure to maintain this standard of unwavering happiness. A method grounded in discernment and reflection offers a more comprehensive perspective. It teaches us to accept and cherish the complete range of our emotions as a fundamental part of the human experience, cultivating a more real and compassionate knowledge of ourselves and others.

Poisonous optimism is not only an emotional suppressant; it also has other detrimental repercussions. It may cause long-term psychological issues like depression and anxiety. Feeling compelled to live up to this unachievable standard of unwavering happiness can cause teens to internalize negative emotions. Adverse effects of this internalization include increased mental health issues and a decline in self-worth.

Parents, family, teachers, tutors, mentors, and formators are crucial in addressing this problem. Rather than perpetuating the detrimental positivity loop, they can offer safe spaces that promote honest and transparent communication. It is essential to support teenagers in expressing their true feelings without fear of rejection or condemnation. Acknowledging their feelings, providing support, and mentoring them through challenging times can all help to foster resilience and more harmonious emotional health.

Similarly, therapies, mindfulness practices, creative and artistic endeavors, and group narrative sharing are beneficial substitutes for toxic optimism. These approaches teach kids how to identify and manage their emotions healthily and promote the acceptance of all feelings, happy and sad. Some professional-assisted therapies emphasize a balance between acceptance and change, which helps teenagers realize that “it is okay to be okay,” “it is fine to feel sad or anxious,” and that these emotions do not lessen their value or worth.

This balanced point of view is critical in schools and communities where the emphasis is often disproportionately placed on achievements and success, often at the expense of emotional well-being. Creating an environment that values emotional honesty and resilience above a constant facade of cheerfulness can have a vital impact on the mental health of young people. Programs and activities that highlight emotional intelligence, empathy, and mindfulness should be incorporated into school curricula to produce a generation of students who are more emotionally healthy.

Toxic positivity has risks when it comes to social interactions as well. Because social media constantly shares the best parts of people’s lives, children are sometimes encouraged to believe everyone else’s life is perfect and problem-free. You can feel more inadequate and alone as a result of this impression. Teaching young people how these platforms are edited and always approaching what they see cautiously is the solution, rather than blaming social media.

While optimism has its advantages, it is unrealistic and sometimes harmful to place an undue emphasis on getting rid of negative emotions. We are encouraged to go above and beyond in fostering a culture that values the whole range of human emotions and acknowledges the complexity of human emotions as members of a vibrant, ever-evolving community. By doing this, we can help our children traverse their emotional terrain healthily and genuinely, which will help our society become more compassionate, understanding, and emotionally robust.



Doc H fondly describes himself as a “student of and for life” who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with./WDJ

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