By Geraldine Hughes
I heard a phrase used during the week that made my heart sing. It spoke to me and the frustrated part of my personality (getting bigger by the day!) and it’s an issue I have sort of struggled to put a name on over the last year. The phrase was Toxic Positivity.
It perfectly sums up that irritated feeling you get when someone persistently puts a positive spin on a negative situation. Unknown to themselves, my parents were masters in the art. If you told my mother that a woman had got knocked down by a bus, and was rushed off to hospital (hopefully wearing matching underwear), she would shake her head in wonder and say wasn’t she so lucky she wasn’t killed?!!
Now, while I understand that the poor woman in question could be in a worse state, isn’t the fact that she got hit by a bus and hospitalised not deserving of some sympathy at all, or should she really be lying there making out a gratitude list, thinking about how fortunate she was?!It must’ve been the thinking of the time because my Dad was no better – if he heard any of us complaining about not having something we wanted, his saying of choice was that He complained he had no shoes until he saw a man that had no feet! I’m certain that the man with no feet had a host of issues he needed attending to, but lack of shoes was not one of them since they were of sod all use to him, so my (very valid) argument was that my Dad absolutely had a right to complain about no shoes. Anyway, we all knew he definitely had shoes because he reminded us frequently that as a child, he had to put cardboard into the holes in the soles in order to walk the 75 miles to school.
They were unwittingly the pioneers of Toxic Positivity, insisting that there was a sunnier side to whatever life threw at you, no matter how uncomfortable, painful or tragic that might be. We all know that no matter what shows up in your life is an opportunity for growth (large eyeroll! I eyeroll so much that I swear one of these days my eyes will roll right off the top of my head) but before you get to the growth bit, you have the right, and maybe even an obligation to yourself to have a tantrum, kick something, cry and take a deep dive into your pity pot for a really good wallow without anyone trying to make you see how much worse it could be. Have a duvet day, eat the wrong food and don’t tolerate anyone that won’t wallow with you.
I actually think with enough padding, I could make Toxic Positivity into a self -help book. I even have a working title ‘Stop Putting Lipstick on a Pig’. A little offensive to pigs but I feel it gets the Right to Feel Bad message across…!