5 Dangerous Signs You're Overly Positive

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Dangerous Signs You're Overly Positive

The image above is funny, right? Published in the webcomic Gunshow by K.C. Green, the picture above became a viral hit. However, it also discusses a serious problem everyone faces today. Positive thinking is a valuable tool in work and life. You can feel more energized and motivated when you look on the bright side. Too much positive thinking is just as wrong as being pessimistic. In the picture above, the dog is clearly in a bad situation. Saying “this is fine” won’t change that.

It’s not just the dog that faces this problem. Toxic positivity happens to people in all lines of work. It occurs when someone is so fixated on thinking good thoughts or happy feelings that they neglect or ignore real problems. What’s worse is that toxic positivity is often confused as legitimate. A survey of 233 people found that 74% did not even hear the term beforehand. Yet, that same group immediately recognized it when someone explained how toxic positivity works.

It’s a dangerous mindset, and falling into it can cause severe problems at work and in life. The good news is that you can spot these problems before they get worse. Here’s what you need to know about toxic positivity, what it means to be overly positive, and its various telltale signs.

What is toxic positivity?

In an article by Healthline.com, clinical psychologist Dr. Jaime Zuckerman defined toxic positivity as “the assumption, either by one’s self or others, that despite a person’s emotional pain or difficult situation, they should only have a positive mindset.”

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2. Lack of discipline and commitment

Dr. Ferrari of the American Psychological Association said that 20% of the U.S. are chronic procrastinators. According to his research, they delay home, work, or school tasks, and they procrastinate their way of life out everything. This is an unfortunate number coming from a nation of “doers” when a huge chunk of the population is actually “waiters” and “laters.” Delaying a task may give short-term satisfaction, but it has a long-term cost on health, finances, work performance, and well-being.

Simply put, it’s using positive thoughts as a reason to ignore negative feelings or situations. Rather than being optimistic, they overcompensate by being overly positive. For example, people who’ve worked multiple night shifts might try to smile away their exhaustion and lack of sleep. Doing so not only neglects their health but tricks them into believing that all will be fine if they look on the bright side.

Toxic positivity doesn’t only happen to an individual mind. It can also spread and attack friends or coworkers who’ve asked for help. Have you told someone, “You’ll get over it when complaining about feeling tired or unhappy? That’s another form of being overly positive. By trying to overlook or undermine their concerns, you make others think that they are silly for having problems. It’s almost like pretending that you aren’t human.

In an interview with PureWow.com, therapist Shannon Bruin noted that excessive positivity can “create environments of doubt and distrust, which can ultimately harm relationships and leave interpersonal challenges unaddressed.” If left unchecked, uplifting quotes can appear ignorant of a person’s genuine problems. In short, being overly positive can affect how someone perceives their issues or the issues of friends and loved ones.

The drawbacks of being overly positive

As you can see, being too optimistic isn’t a good idea. If you resort to it, you’ll neglect the reality of your problems and concerns. Perhaps you’re wondering exactly how it can be troublesome later on. Here’s how toxic positivity at work is detrimental to you and your colleagues.

It makes you ignore your valid feelings.

First, toxic positivity makes you ignore your feelings. People often define sadness, anger, and fear as “negative emotions.” The truth is that these are legitimate feelings one can have.

For example, the movie “Inside Out” portrays the emotions of happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, and anger as adorable creatures in our minds. Joy, the main character, is obsessed with keeping memories as happy as possible. It affects the human, Riley. by forcing her to ignore her homesickness. Doing so causes her to lose confidence and eventually try to run away from home.

Similarly, being overly positive puts a false narrative in your mind. You imagine that you are unbothered by any personal issues. Imagine you lost your pet but go to work the next day without admitting your pain. By ignoring what’s hurting you and keeping it hidden from others, you force yourself to avoid or neglect the problem. Doing so will only make it grow and grow until you can no longer ignore it.

It can cause self-esteem issues.

When you reflect on your thoughts, toxic positivity can also cause self-doubt and anxiety. When people try to stay happy, they might be annoyed or upset when they still think about sad or bad things. Avoiding the issue leaves the problem unsolved. In the end, you only get angry at yourself for not being overly positive.

It sets unrealistic expectations.

Being positive can help you hope for the best outcome in any situation. It’s what inspires fans to cheer their favorite sports teams or athletes. Unfortunately, toxic positivity can cause people to have unrealistic goals.

For example, first-time writers might expect their first draft to be perfect. That means they want clear grammar, detailed plotlines, and adoration from everyone that reads it. Imagine how upset they’ll feel when the editor tries to give constructive feedback. 

Because these writers only want perfection, they’ll feel insulted or unworthy when they fail. Enjoying success is normal, but being preoccupied with success can make you feel foolish and pathetic.

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5 telltale signs of toxic positivity

Now that you know how toxic positivity can damage your mindset, it’s time to uncover its signs. You might wonder if you or a close friend suffer from toxic positivity. To find out, here are five key behaviors to watch for.

1. You overthink a lot.

It’s normal to have negative thoughts or unhappy feelings. It’s also typical that you’d want to ignore them sometimes. However, actively avoiding any negative thoughts is a sign of toxic positivity. You might notice that you can’t stop overanalyzing every little detail and trying to find ways to make them essential.

For example, if someone laughs at what you say, you might become conscious of how you speak or your words. You then overthink their reaction, wondering if they laughed at you instead. Positive thinking, ironically, can make you hyperfocused on finding all flaws or problems, even if it’s to avoid them.

2. You downplay problems and conflicts.

Look again at the dog in the first picture. Notice how it’s in obvious danger but downplays the fire by saying, “This is fine.” Toxic positivity at work can cause you to understate and undervalue issues.

For example, you might laugh off being late to work. However, your boss and colleagues will be annoyed if you’re consistently tardy and you act like nothing happens. Furthermore, you’ll come off as uncaring or irresponsible. By trying to be overly positive, you end up looking insensitive or ignorant.

3. You mask your emotions.

Like the example before, toxic positivity makes you pretend all is well. You might smile even when you’re hurt or upset. While smiling can be helpful, it’s not a reason to pretend that you’re okay.

Those suffering toxic positivity might harbor a lot of resentment and frustration that they can’t let out. Bottling up one’s emotions can cause them to explode in the worst times. In other words, someone who tries to be overly positive will most likely be a ticking time bomb of frustration and anger.

4. You isolate yourself.

People might think everything is fine when you hide your pain and put on a happy face. They might also wonder why you’re keeping your distance from everyone else.

In truth, toxic positivity can cause you to avoid being with others. You might be ashamed of your pain or afraid of being seen as “negative.” This mindset causes you to keep silent or walk away from personal conversations in and out of the office.

Because you focus on being overly positive, you end up trying any chance of “bad feelings” popping up. However, instead of trying to stay optimistic, you end up just running away from reality.

5. You use ultimatums frequently.

Do you or your friends say, “Failure is not an option”? Toxic positivity can fool you into believing that an all-or-nothing mindset works. You devote yourself to working as hard as you can for perfection.

This mentality also makes you furious at any mistakes or slip-ups. You become obsessed with having the best result to losing your temper if you fail. How you say, or issue orders could come from toxic positivity, which can ruin your colleagues’ trust in your judgment.

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4 ways you can curb your positivity

Being overly positive is difficult for anyone. However, there are methods to keep your positive thoughts at bay. These four tricks can help you curb your optimism and help you better at work and in life.

1. Reflect on your emotions and embrace them.

First, people often think that sadness or negative thoughts are dangerous. However, they can stem from a genuine problem or concern. If you’re worried or unsure, reflect on why you feel that way. 

By understanding what is upsetting you, you can start to voice your feelings better.

I recommend writing your thoughts down in a journal. It allows you to examine your emotions and find possible reasons why. Perhaps you’re still hung up on someone you broke up with. You might also feel burdened by incoming taxes and mortgages. All these issues are valid, and you should treat them as such.

Once you learn to accept them, you can better love yourself and find true inner strength. Remember, it’s not healthy to be overly positive when you try to avoid your problems. Don’t be ashamed of the struggles you face. Everyone has them. That you have them only shows that you are human.

2. Accept that mistakes and problems exist.

Similar to the previous tip, accepting your mistakes is a good way of tempering your positivity. Failure is a part of life; I believe it’s the best way to learn.

Look at a toddler and see how they walk. They haven’t mastered how to use their legs at all. They’ll stumble and fall, sometimes getting hurt. However, that’s part of learning. These kids are discovering what to remember and avoid when walking, and they haven’t even formed solid memories yet.

Look at a toddler and see how they walk. They haven’t mastered how to use their legs at all. They’ll stumble and fall, sometimes getting hurt. However, that’s part of learning. These kids are discovering what to remember and avoid when walking, and they haven’t even formed solid memories yet.

So, don’t beat yourself up if you made an error. Take time to realize what went wrong. Once you do, you can find out how to better yourself later.

3. Be honest with yourself and others.

Once you recognize your emotions and your flaws, you can open up to other people. Toxic positivity at work can make you suspicious or fearful of another person’s judgment. You might lose confidence or feel unsafe because you expect them to be hostile or to see you as a pessimist.

Instead, be honest about who you are and how you deal with others. Don’t be afraid to admit if you feel out of place at times or unskilled. There are those in the office willing to listen and lend a hand. It’s also OK to ask for help. After all, no one expects you to do a perfect job. Another perspective can help you find the correct answers when you feel unsure. Instead of being overly positive, you end up being more aware of your situation.

Also, take the time to validate others’ feelings. If they’re upset or stressed, try to see their point of view. You might realize that they are asking for your help and support. Don’t neglect their worries by saying, “It’ll be alright.” Tell them that you understand and you have their back. Those words could be all they need to start the day with renewed vigor.

4. Be patient.

If Rome wasn’t built in a day, then why should you expect the same for every other city? People often look at their idols or heroes as perfect role models. They often ignore that it took time for these heroes to reach stardom. For example, award-winning actor Robert Downey Jr. spent years in rehab before restarting his acting career. It took him a long time to become both a renowned actor and an inspirational man.

You might be holding the exact expectations for yourself. You might think that every project should be clean and pristine. Here’s the reality check: it’s never going to be perfect. You won’t have a complete 100% score for any endeavor in life. While it’s okay to be hopeful of your odds, it’s not healthy to be overly positive; that means you shouldn’t expect a masterpiece with every attempt you make.

However, you can learn about what is right and wrong in your line of work. The more you take the time to learn, the more you can discover what it takes to win. All that you have to do is be patient. Be willing to learn and understand the process of your job, even if it takes years to master. You might be surprised by how fun it is to improve yourself.

In Summary

Being overly positive at work is dangerous for you and your colleagues. It can set unrealistic expectations and fool you into ignoring real problems and issues. The signs of someone with toxic positivity include overthinking, downplaying difficulty, and having an all-or-nothing mindset.

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To control your positivity, you have to recognize that mistakes are normal. Being unhappy or feeling stressed isn’t something to be ashamed of. What matters is that you realize why you’re feeling that way. Once you accept that being imperfect is human, you can start to use positivity properly. In time, you’ll learn how to motivate yourself and transform into a better and more productive person.

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