Toxic positivity: Overcoming the dark side of good vibes

I think you can all agree that the best place to ‘air your dirty laundry’ is in the laundry and not in the workplace (or on social media).

In Part One of this series, I shared with you the pitfalls of an environment where positivity is overly championed and the expression of authentic emotions, particularly negative ones, is not encouraged.

You discovered that there’s a fine line between genuine optimism and toxic positivity.  

The key lies in finding a balance, both in how you process emotions and how you express them.

In this edition, I will explore insights into how you can strive for a state of mental calmness and composure, where you acknowledge and honour your emotions without being overwhelmed by them, or overwhelming others with them.

Enter your superpower, equanimity.

Understanding equanimity

Equanimity is a state of mental and emotional stability and composure, especially in difficult situations, characterised by calmness and even-mindedness regardless of external circumstances.

It involves maintaining emotional balance, clear thinking, and acceptance of reality as it is, without excessive emotional reactions or attachments to specific outcomes.

When we consider toxic positivity, with its relentless focus on maintaining a cheerful facade, it can lead to emotional suppression and a lack of authenticity.

On the other hand, toxic negativity, characterised by a constant state of pessimism and cynicism, can breed a sense of hopelessness and despair.

Cultivating equanimity helps individuals respond to life’s challenges with resilience and clarity, fostering a sense of inner peace and wellbeing.

It involves embracing both positive and negative experiences without becoming attached to or defined by them.

Equanimity is not about suppressing negative emotions or pretending to be positive all the time.

Instead, it’s about cultivating a balanced perspective that allows us to respond to life’s ups and downs with grace and resilience.

Equanimity in action: workplace setback

Imagine you’re in sales or property management, working hard on a significant deal.

You’ve put in countless hours, and everything seemed to be going well, but at the last minute, the deal falls through.

It’s natural to feel disappointed and frustrated.

In this situation, a response rooted in toxic positivity might be: “Just stay positive! Everything happens for a reason. Look on the bright side, and don’t let this get you down!”

While well-meaning, this response can dismiss your very valid feelings of disappointment and frustration.

In contrast, an equanimity response involves maintaining mental calmness and composure, especially in difficult situations.

An equanimous response to the same situation might look like this: “It’s okay to feel disappointed and frustrated about losing the deal. These feelings are natural. Let’s take some time to understand what happened, learn from it, and then decide our next steps.”

Benefits of striving for equanimity

Research has shown that practicing equanimity can have positive effects on mental health, including reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.

Cultivating a balanced mindset promotes a sense of inner peace and contentment.

When you strive toward equanimity, you cultivate many life skills that can assist with mental fitness and relationships with others.

These include:

1. Emotional resilience: By cultivating equanimity, you develop the resilience to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease. Rather than being thrown off course by setbacks or disappointments, you can maintain a sense of inner stability and adaptability.

2. Authenticity: Embracing equanimity allows you to be authentic in our emotional expression. You don’t feel pressured to put on a happy face when you’re struggling, nor do you wallow in negativity. Instead, you can honour your feelings without judgment or shame.

3. Increased empathy: Striving for equanimity fosters empathy towards ourselves and others. You become more attuned to the full spectrum of human emotions, allowing you to connect with others on a deeper level and offer genuine support and understanding.

Tips for cultivating equanimity

One of the best ways to cultivate equanimity is through regular mindfulness meditation, which can help train the mind to observe thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them.

Further, it assists in taking a balanced perspective by acknowledging both the positive and negative aspects of all situations.

Rather than seeing things in black and white, strive to find shades of grey.

Finally, if things don’t go to plan, you can practice self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness and understanding, especially during difficult times.

It’s all about balance

Equanimity allows you to navigate setbacks without falling into the trap of toxic positivity.

It encourages a balanced approach, recognising and accepting negative emotions while maintaining a calm and composed mindset.

By applying equanimity, you can address challenges constructively and grow from the experience, rather than simply glossing over difficulties with forced positivity.

This approach not only respects your emotional truth but also builds resilience and fosters genuine growth.

Next time when you are confronted with a challenging situation, strive to approach it with equanimity, a growth mindset, and throw some light on the dark side of good vibes.

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