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Toxic positivity

Well a lot has happened in the last seven days with regards to women and our position in society – celebrating International Women’s Day on Monday; followed by public criticisms of the Duchess of Sussex regarding racism and mental health on Tuesday; and then confirmation on Wednesday that Sarah Everard was murdered by a Metropolitan Police Officer whilst walking home one evening in South London. And indeed today is Mothering Sunday in the UK.


I’m still working through all of this, and don’t yet feel able to share coherent thoughts and feelings - other than outrage that this has all gone on for far too long, including the media’s focus on violence against white women and not all women.


Today’s blog is instead about toxic positivity, resulting from a recent conversation we had in our threegoodthings facebook community. About ten days ago, @ClairePedrick from 3D Coaching shared a LinkedIn post about toxic positivity. It got me thinking a lot about threegoodthings. Toxic positivity was a phrase I’d never heard of, however it is definitely a concept I have wanted to avoid/minimise.


It’s why, when I set up #threegoodthings, I started by welcoming new members to share their three good things however frequently is comfortable to them. I continue to welcome new members in this way because I have never wanted people to feel pressurised into posting on a set frequency (although folks are encouraged to share a #Mondaycheckin, a #Fridayshoutout and #Monthinreview posts.


What is toxic positivity?

I started googling to learn more, as is my want. The ever dependable Urban Dictionary says “Toxic Positivity is the belief that, ‘if you just stay positive, you will overcome any obstacle,’ to such a degree that you invalidate natural emotional responses and the person having those feelings.”


In a similar vein, Mary Huang, Principal Psychologist from Australia’s The Indigo Project says “Toxic positivity is an oppressive tendency to react to others' suffering and struggles with empty and reductive statements of positivity. It often comes from a good place but what it does is actually invalidate the emotional experiences of others and perpetuates the erroneous ideology that 'positivity' is the cure to all of life's problems.”


So what did the threegoodthings community think about it?

The group has a small number of regulars – some who share and comment regularly and others who comment a more than a few times a week (


including me!). There is of course a larger number who observe or are not active in the group. This seems quite normal in facebook groups to me, and I’m grateful that the smaller group of women felt able to respond to my post of the 3rd March (this was the image I shared from social media):

“I saw this today and I am wondering what you think about this. And what does this mean for us here in our #threegoodthings community? Are there things we need to keep doing, introduce or change as a group to avoid toxic positivity? Please discuss! Really would like to hear a variety of thoughts about this."


We had a great discussion about life’s challenges and how to be positive in a sincere, constructive way. Here is some of the wisdom from three members:


"I think it's definitely something to be aware of. But as [x] says, we have chosen to join. We each choose when to post and what to post. I think it's important to know that we can post on "bad" days as well as good, that the good things can be tiny tiny. I've been doing this for years and my "good" things have sometimes been little more than being happy that the day has ended and I still exist. It's a supportive group. I hope that we can all feel comfortable posting about difficult moments any day, and that it could be ok to find just one good thing if three seems overwhelming."


AND


“…we realised that we don’t fully realise how toxic something is and how you also justify to yourself that what is happening is ok or normal. I do feel sometimes that when I post here I have nothing more in my life than [my cat] and my new job. I have come from a soul destroying job and I am slowly rebuilding my life. I might not always post but I read this everyday to remind myself there are things to grateful for and one day it may not be so difficult to realise them. Your photos, your words, your own struggles make me see there is good, kindness and joy and we really are all the same, just at different stages on life's journey."


AND


“It’s essential to acknowledge difficulties as real and challenging. Alongside this finding the good things in life helps our perception and makes a heavy load feel lighter! A hopeful attitude during difficulties changes everything. Three good things is very aware of our effort to remain positive during real difficulties such as the Covid restrictions. There is no toxic positivity here!”


And what happened the next day?

Well another member shared her #threegoodthings ...

* I thought the comments on Liz’s discussion post were open, honest & supportive and it made me think what a lovely group

* Tonight’s meal was from the slow cooker- great invention! Dinner cooks itself while I’m working

* Our camellia is looking pretty which makes me happy


This. This is what threegoodthings is all about – finding moments to be grateful for, no matter how small or big, and being honest about them. As I’ve said previously, the times when I find it the hardest to find three things, is exactly the time when I know I need to find them the most for my #resilience. How do you take note of and show your own #gratitude?


PS – all quotes from threegoodthings members have been included with permission.

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