Toxic Positivity

What’s the difference between being the bigger person and allowing people to treat you unfairly? 

Some have suggested that I subscribe to “toxic positivity”. This is the idea that if you are treated poorly or unfairly or someone hurts you, you should just see the sunny side of life, find the silver lining and get on with it. 

So I dug into my “five” side and I did some research. “We define toxic positivity as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. ”

I don’t think that applies to me and/or my opinions. Just ask anyone who’s heard me lash out in a cursing fit or met me on a day when my ego got bruised. I think the key word here is “ineffective”.  

“Control what’s within your circle of influence!”

“Pick your battles.”

“Ask yourself the Question Behind the Question.”

I’m not telling you that your emotions aren’t valid. Or that what is happening to you is okay. What I’m saying is that people suck sometimes and so does life. Reading some Pinterest quote about positivity and sending you on your way is absolutely ineffective. So is getting pissed and waiting for someone else to step in and fix it. 

What I mean when I say, “be the bigger person,” is that you have to choose the relationship over being right. You don’t have to be disgustingly happy about it. Honestly, you don’t even have to do it, but I promise getting mad, drowning your sorrows in wine, quitting your job, or going to your manager isn’t going to fix the problem of the human condition. We’re all broken, we’re not perfect, and we do dumb things that ultimately hurt other people. 

Two different approaches

Maybe this is all just me being positively toxic but let’s take two coworkers at the same facility. Both work with an incorrigible scourge of a human. This person name-calls, is lewd, rude, and repulsive. They backstab, they belittle, they brown nose, they tattle. They harass, they bully, and they make the workplace absolutely miserable. 

Personal Accountability

One coworker controls what’s within their circle of influence, practices self care, and surrounds themselves with people who support them, who play devil’s advocate. This person pushes themselves to focus on the work, not the person. This person digs deep for empathy when they would rather not. They cry when they get home from work out of sheer emotional exhaustion from working alongside this person. This coworker probably applies for other jobs, but are determined to make the best of the one they have regardless. 

Quest for change

The other coworker tries, but always ends up more focused on the hurt and the pain that bully is inflicting. This coworker reports the bully to management, it gets worse. They consult with lawyers, call HR, there’s mediations, there’s temporary relief, but they become targets. Retaliation starts to happen to this employee and they report that to no avail. They try to be the best employee they can be, but they struggle. The only option is to work to avoid the scourge. Eventually they quit. 

Circle of influence coworker stays, puts money in the trust bank with management and continues to work hard. When the time is right they have the crucial conversation and the bully gets their walking papers. In situations like this it’s possible that the bully starts to change because they’re approached in a mature way.

Same workplace, same jerk, two different approaches. I do not believe either coworker deserves what they are handed and neither is wrong. The coworker who focused on what they could control was not suffering from toxic positivity however. Their approach was effective. It wasn’t overgeneralized and it wasn’t excessive. It was realistic, and hard. 

I don’t think that’s toxic positivity. I think it takes strength to take responsibility for the situation you’re in even when it’s not your fault. Don’t agree with me? Do you agree with Will Smith? 

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