Toxic Positivity – You Don’t Always Have to Be Happy!

“Always be happy, for life is too short for sorrows.” Is it?


Nhi (Nina) Tran, Mental Health Editor/Contributing Writer, Mayer AZ

The World Right Now

With everything that is going on, specifically the enduring pandemic, it is not always easy to stay optimistic despite your life situation and previous mental health state. Most of us have been quarantining/isolated for a while; the outdoor playtime has also been limited. Due to the recently started school year, some of us are struggling to adapt and strive for excellent academic achievements. Our parents might be suffering from financial issues, which may lead to other emotional and mental problems like stress, despair, and depression. In general, the situation right now in the world is not the best for everyone. Not being happy is a new norm now.

My Story

I am an odd teenager who prefers to stay indoors and enjoy my time alone. There’s nothing more appealing to me than a full day curling inside my fuzzy blanket, reading books, and having no disturbance whatsoever. Therefore, when the sedentary lifestyle became the new norm due to COVID-19, I was thrilled. I was lucky and privileged in so many ways, so I told myself to always be grateful and optimistic. That being said, any type of negative emotions were not allowed. I beat myself up when I didn’t feel okay, or when I wasn’t as productive as expected. Little did I know, always being happy is not exactly ideal, and what I’d been forcing myself to go through is Toxic Positivity, which, clearly stated in its name, is toxic. 

What is Toxic Positivity?

According to ThePsychologyGroup, toxic positivity is defined as “the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.” In simple terms, it is toxic positivity when you try to keep yourself optimistic all the time despite any ugly circumstances, meanwhile suppressing or ignoring the negative emotions in you. Check out the link above for signs of toxic positivity to see if you have it. 


Why is Toxic Positivity Toxic?

Happiness and distraction from sorrow are not the same. When you try to suppress those feelings and force yourself to be optimistic instead, the “gloomy clouds” don’t really go away. As you keep doing it over time, the “clouds” will be bottled up, and yes, it will be all filled up and perhaps explode someday. Trust me, you don’t want to see that happen. Moreover, suppressing and hiding away negative emotions usually creates a secondary feeling: shame. Not wanting to accept and embrace your own emotions could cause shameful feeling, thus it might lower your self-esteem and emotional strength. 

How to Protect Yourself from Toxic Positivity?

Having negative sensations is an essential part of being a normal human being. It is normal to feel anxious when something worries you, and there’s nothing bad about feeling disappointed when your life is not exactly how you wanted it to be. 


Don’t think that you don’t deserve to feel not happy, that what you have to suffer is nothing compare to other people. That’s like saying you don’t deserve to be happy because you don’t have it as good as others. Understand that everyone has a different life, see and feel things in different ways; thus, you deserve to feel happy with what you have, and feel unhappy with what you have to go through. 

Affirmations for You

Embracing negative emotions doesn’t mean you are weak; it only means you are a person capable of processing one’s own internal troubles, living true to yourself, and believing that there’s always a brighter future ahead. What you ought to remember is that nothing is permanent, and so do these emotions and whatever causes them. Emotions are not logics; sometimes, it just doesn’t need a specific reason to come, especially for teenagers like you and me. All you should do is don’t shove it away, let yourself feel it, process it, be mindful of it, and give yourself some time. Here is another article that I wrote on how to cope with sadness, if you would like to learn more about it. 

Some last words

Being a teenager these days is tough, a lot tougher than adults might think. Therefore, don’t make it harder by not letting yourself feeling normal human emotions like a normal human being. We all deserve to embrace everything about ourselves, both good and bad, both comfortable and troublesome. Validating even your most insecure, vulnerable bit may sound difficult, but all it takes is a little self-compassion and mindfulness. Due to COVID-19, it is hard not to feel anxious, depressed, and all sorts of unwanted emotions out there. Remember, it’s okay to feel that way, and it won’t be permanent. You, no, US, will all be alright!