Self

My Own Toxic Positivity Destroyed The One Relationship I Thought Was Unbreakable

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smiling woman

Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset.

I had no idea what this meant for the longest time. It sounded negative. I refused to believe I was toxic positive — until I looked up the definition and realized it describes me perfectly. I didn’t mean to be a person who emitted toxic positivity — and was actually quite sad society had a negative term to describe people like me. 

"Why can’t people just see that everything is going to be okay?" I would delusionally think.

Little did I know. 

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I blew sunshine up people's butts for years. I did my best to convince people not to worry about tomorrow. Don’t fret over today’s troubles. Stay positive. Have a faithful mindset. Don’t worry. 

I'd even get annoyed when people refused to follow this simple, yet effective (or so I thought) "no worries" practice. Your problems aren’t going to go away if you are angry and negative. You won’t be able to deal with them or handle them. 

Just smile and have faith. 

But life wasn’t all about blowing sunshine and “just smile and have faith.” Apparently, I was pissing off a lot of people. I had no idea. 

I started noticing that more and more people were getting annoyed by me. A close relative suggested that I learn to shut up and listen instead of breathing toxic positivity all over the place. 

As hard as it was, I listened instead of spoke and learned to offer a simple, “I’m sorry you’re going through this. I’m here if you need someone to talk to," rather than spewing unsolicited advice.

That’s all people wanted: Someone to talk to. They didn’t want answers or solutions and they sure as fuck didn’t want someone blowing sunshine up their ass during their difficult time. 

Over time I got really good at just listening and offering a simple “I’m sorry.” I realized I had to be more mindful and respectful of people’s feelings, pain, and struggles. 

Because the truth is: I had become annoying and toxic.

No one wanted to share their pain with me.

No one wanted to listen to my pixie dust philosophy on life. 

I got the message — but not entirely. 

There was still a small part of me that kept saying, “But wait. Can you at least just give positivity a try?” 

I couldn’t give it up entirely. 

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You’re my number #1 fan

I was always the favorite aunt. The cool aunt to all my nieces and nephews. I wore this badge proudly. They were all so happy to see me, and I, them. I loved them all like they were my own. 

One particular niece, Emily adored me all her life. I was her idol. She looked up to me and practically worshipped the ground I walked on. As she became a young woman and then a wife and mother we grew apart slightly. 

She had her own views on life, her own struggles, and her own demons. I never understood why she never reached out to me when she needed help. Surely, if she would have just taken a minute to listen to what I had to say, her troubles would have been few, and her worries less, right?

Until one day it all blew up in my face and she unleashed a fury on me unlike any I had ever seen before. 

I knew Emily was going through some mental health issues but I didn't know how bad they had gotten. If only I had been more compassionate. If only I had “just shut up and listened.”

Facebook is a great place for sharing fun things, recipes, and precious life moments, as well as not-so-fun things, like your secrets and struggles. It’s an online forum where, unfortunately, so many arguments start, and friendships and relationships are lost and gone forever. 

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I had always used Facebook for good. You know, the toxic positivity stuff. 

However, many people just like to spew darkness and negativity. I get it. That’s cool. I'd usually just ignore it and block you from my Newsfeed. No big deal.

But one day Emily was spewing and it was ugly. Really ugly. It broke my heart into a million pieces to see her vent and spew her frustrations so publicly like this for everyone to see. 

I gently pleaded with her, in all my toxic positivity-ness, please stop Emily. 

She then unleashed on me and made sure everyone reading knew how toxic I was and how hypocritical I was and that I was a liar and she went on and on. It was ugly. This was all coming from the sweet innocent girl who once adored me to the moon and back. 

She blocked my phone number, and blocked me from Facebook, and haven’t spoken to her since. That was 2 years ago. 

She’s not the first family member I have lost due to my toxic positivity and I’m sure she won't be the last.

It's taken a toll on me, but I've learned a few things along the way:

I have learned that it’s important to have compassion and respect for other people’s feelings and that not everyone is exactly like you. 

I have learned that we all deal with pain differently and it’s important to respect how people deal with their particular brand of pain.

I’ve come a long way and though I’m still learning to just shut up and listen, there will always be a part of me that will whisper, “please just try my way of positivity once.”

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Iva Ursano is a Canadian ex-pat living her best life in Guatemala. Her passions lie in inspiring people around the world with her stories.

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