Therapist Explains The Important Difference Between Support And ‘Toxic Positivity’ In One Simple Chart

Positivity is extremely powerful, but do you think popular positive sayings can be counterproductive?

You probably have that one friend who tries to cheer you up by saying” Don’t worry- just be positive” whenever you feel distressed too. If you do, you know well that this effort to support you fails in the instant it is said.

Being able to always look on the bright side of life is great, but it is also critical to acknowledge our emotions, even when they are not pleasant.

In some cases, people are just asking us to confirm that their negative feelings are OK.  Before they decide to do so, we cannot make others be positive. Therefore, we need to accept reality first, before we repeat some popular positivity mantra, if we want to help.

We reached out to Lindsay Meegan, a psychotherapist from Colorado that is holding an online therapy practice for adults, to give us her professional opinion of the toxic positivity. Lindsay Meegan said: “I completely agree that it is essential to acknowledge and allow ourselves to experience our full range of emotions, including the unpleasant and uncomfortable ones. When we go to others for support, it is frustrating when our concerns are minimized or dismissed by a response that encourages us to just be positive. Having someone else acknowledge and validate our difficult emotions can be very powerful and comforting.”

Psychotherapist Whitney Hawkins Goodman, LMFT, owner of The Collaborative Counseling Center, shared a chart that makes the distinction between ‘validation and hope’ versus ‘toxic positivity’ on her Instagram account called @sitwithwhit:

Psychotherapist Whitney Hawkins Goodman created a chart to show people the difference between validation and ‘toxic positivity’ 

Goodman claims that people who are facing some challenges in life can be harmed by the ‘toxic positivity’ sayings from Pinterest.

She wrote:

“I’ve realized people HATE the word toxic. I hear ya’ll. Got a lot of comments on “never give up.” Decided to keep it. There are relationships, life goals, plans and situations that is OK to give up on. Not everything needs to result in completion. Sometimes it is safer to give up. We owe each other the space to discuss the options.”

Her chart went viral and her followers think this was a very important lesson to learn

Online Therapy by Lindsay Meegan, LCSW, RYT 500


Updated: 11/21/2022