When Did Positivity Get So Toxic?
Cosmopolitan India|March 2021
Happiness has become the ultimate status symbol, something you can show off to the world as a sign that you, unlike others, are doing just fine. But, asks Daniella Scott, is the positivity movement actually harming us while pretending to help?
I was nearing the end of a frantic day when the e-mail landed in my inbox. It was about to get chewed up with the rest in my 6pm delete-spree when my hand stopped millimetres from the keyboard. Something in the subject line caught my eye. ‘Tips for staying positive during lockdown’, it read.

It was just as newly-announced lockdown measures meant I couldn’t see my family that weekend, and just as a news alert on my phone told me we’d reached the highest number of COVID-19 cases in a single day since the outbreak began. But, you know, PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) and all.

Positivity has found itself in a place of omnipotence in 21st-century thinking. Every scroll through social media is met with #PositiveVibes, or a motivational quote etched in pastel calligraphy and flanked by peonies. The shops are full of manuals to help us ‘get over’ our struggles and clothes adorned with clichéd slogans about #Goals. But when depression, anxiety, and negative thinking threaten to swallow us whole, how helpful is the pressure to stay positive? Have we guzzled so many #PositiveVibes that we’re now greedily choking to death on factory-farmed happiness? And if so, at what cost?

For years, Ameera* woke up to the same thing every morning: ‘perfect’ women in grey joggers, with bright white teeth, touting the ‘happy life’ on every screen she looked at. It was the kind of life Ameera wanted to live. So she began emulating them, starting every day with meditation, writing in her gratitude journal, and heading to the gym, all before getting ready for work at 7.30 am. She told friends she couldn’t go for drinks because it would interrupt the routine, and she bought all the books. She immersed herself in this world completely.

“I began engaging with this type of content about four years ago when I first moved to New Zealand. Living away from home meant that I was often really lonely and down. But I felt bad for feeling this way; I’d made the decision to be here in this beautiful place. I should have been happy and grateful. I followed a lot of influencers whose content focused on happiness and mental well-being...and it spiralled from there. The people running these accounts were always there for me to absorb myself in. I thought it was a good way to spend all my time.”

Two years later, however, Ameera realised that all this positivity had begun to work against her.

“I was holding myself to unsustainable standards, and wearing myself out trying to do all these things Insta influencers were doing to ‘live their best lives’. I was burning bridges with those around me by being antisocial. Then, in 2018, I just said ‘f*ck it’. I wanted to find balance and connect with those around me. I still do the things I enjoy for my health, but not to extremes.”

She didn’t know it at the time, but what Ameera was grappling with is something called ‘toxic positivity’. It’s a term used by psychologists to explain how a person’s behaviour can be so committed to seeing the good that they don’t pay proper attention to processing the bad. To a degree, it can be a denial—a true belief in mind over matter.

Sounds familiar? Like most of us, you’ve probably followed Instagram accounts that exclusively post motivational quotes. And I’d also hazard a guess that you’ve owned at least one gratitude journal, happiness diary, or positivity planner, too.

You bought in. But, on a grey and sombre day, when you’re feeling exhausted by the state of the world, anxious about work (or the lack thereof) or just down for no reason, does scrolling through a slew of posts urging you to ‘see the bright side’ make you feel better? Or are you left feeling guilty for having a bad day, wishing you could simply ‘snap out of it’ like everyone else seems to?

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM COSMOPOLITAN INDIAView All

Good Hair Days Ahead!

Hair products can be hella expensive (but they’re kinda, sorta worth it, too!). However, if you want healthy, lustrous locks on a budget, we’ve got options that’ll do the job just as well.

7 mins read
Cosmopolitan India
March 2021

Keep Calm, and Carry On

In times when the need for some mental peace is greater than ever, many of us turn to different coping mechanisms to find solace. In this special feature, we speak to 13 strong, successful ladies on what brings them calm in moments of chaos.

10 mins read
Cosmopolitan India
March 2021

The Great Wall(s)

Cosmo spoke to four female street artists in India who are turning mundane brick-andmortar into revolutionary works of vibrant, meaningful art.

3 mins read
Cosmopolitan India
March 2021

For the Love of Local

Turning the spotlight onto our homegrown fashion labels, Cosmo spoke with six fashion enthusiasts about their favourite sartorial picks by Indian designers.

4 mins read
Cosmopolitan India
March 2021

The Influencer Trend We Are Rooting for: Real. Effing. Skin.

It’s about time we gave up on those filters!

6 mins read
Cosmopolitan India
March 2021

Decoding Your Immune System

It’s not the sexiest subject, but it is vital to our health and well-being. So it is time to get to know the body’s bouncers (oh, alright, the cells, organs, and organ systems) whose job it is to protect us from threats.

6 mins read
Cosmopolitan India
March 2021

When Did Positivity Get So Toxic?

Happiness has become the ultimate status symbol, something you can show off to the world as a sign that you, unlike others, are doing just fine. But, asks Daniella Scott, is the positivity movement actually harming us while pretending to help?

10+ mins read
Cosmopolitan India
March 2021

How Your ‘Attachment Style' Affects Your Relationship

Whether your style is ‘anxious’ or ‘secure’, it dictates how you behave with a partner. We explain the famous theory...and the different attachment styles.

6 mins read
Cosmopolitan India
March 2021

The Many Shades Of Kriti Sanon

March 2021 Cosmopolitan 000 for more great stories, visit cosmo. In Kriti Sanon has a busy year ahead of her— professionally, there are several films in the offing, and personally, she is exploring her “adventurous” side (and also has an impressive bucket list lined up). In this candid conversation, the 30-year-old opens up about her journey so far and why it is okay if you haven’t figured out your passion yet.

10+ mins read
Cosmopolitan India
March 2021

All Made Up!

Four cool guys with exceptional make-up skills create glamorous eye looks, exclusively for Cosmo...smashing gender stereotypes with their sparkly, glitter-fuelled gaze.

4 mins read
Cosmopolitan India
February 2021
RELATED STORIES

Coming Out Of The Chemical Closet

Neuropsychopharmacologist Carl Hart says most of what the public knows about drugs is both scary and wrong.

10+ mins read
Reason magazine
May 2021

Rules for Being the Age You Are

Whether you’re 20 or 120, the author’s surprise-filled guide can help most anyone live happily ever

4 mins read
Reader's Digest US
March 2021

Take A Shortcut To Happiness

Feel better in a matter of minutes with these all-natural, get-happy quick tricks with guaranteed results

2 mins read
Essentials
April 2020

Don't Waste Your Suffering

What knocks us down can also lead us back stronger than ever

4 mins read
The Good Life
March 2020

9 Tricks To Improve Your Life

9 tricks to improve your life*

2 mins read
Reader's Digest US
March 2020

Creating Your Life

As a Therapist, Educator and Positive Living Expert, Diane has dedicated her career to helping people turn their lives around and is now on a mission to help them develop a sustainable positive attitude that can actually turn one into an optimist, literally.

2 mins read
Diversity Rules Magazine
January 2020

Follow The Path Of Gratitude

"In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."_Dietrich Bonhoeffer

3 mins read
Transformation Magazine
December 2019

The Joy Of Letters

I wish that joy could fill every moment of Jessie’s life, but children, like their parents, must overcome diffiulties. Two major challenges Jessie has faced in her young life come to mind.

3 mins read
Carolina Parent
December 2019

Be Your Best Yet! Start Fresh In 2020

Your “someday” is here. It’s time to make your vision of a happier, healthier future a reality.

10+ mins read
Arthritis Today
Winter 2019-2020

*This* Is How To Figure Out - The Real You

We all love new beginnings, but a head-to-toe transformation starting jan. 1 won’t help you discover who you really are. Forget the quest for an all-new you—this year is all about the *true* you. Starting now...

5 mins read
Girls' Life magazine
December 2019/January 2020