Toxic Positivity: Why being positive isn’t always enough to make your business successful

Taylor Ellwood
Mar 13, 2018 · 4 min read

When I owned a business and would take classes from business gurus, something I saw a lot of is what I call toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the belief that if you just stay positive it will allow you to power through whatever obstacles you encounter.

“Stay positive” you’re told.

If you display any sign of discouragement or unhappiness or doubt that what you’re doing isn’t working, you’re told that you’re not trying hard enough, that the problem must be you as opposed to what you’ve learned from them.

If you ask for a refund, you’ll get it (in the appropriate time frame) but you’ll be labeled as a whiner, as one of those people who didn’t work hard enough, didn’t do everything you were supposed to do.

“Stay positive, keep trying, and if its not working, its got to be you, not me or my techniques.”

And you’ll see these same people talk about how important it is to be positive, how important it is to keep trying even when everything isn’t working out. And they’ll talk about how they got through some hard time because they stayed positive.

What they don’t talk about is how sometimes it doesn’t matter how positive you are…things just won’t work. Sometimes you need to pay attention to what isn’t working, and instead of just trying to make it work, you need to take a critical look at what you are doing and make some changes or rethink everything you’re doing.

Being positive without being grounded in reality is liking walking off a cliff without looking around. You’re going to fall and its going to hurt.

I’m not saying there isn’t any place for being positive in your life. Being positive can be helpful in tough situations. It can help you find the silver lining in tough situations or take a different perspective. But when you are positive to the point that you can’t acknowledge the problems or you blame yourself for not working hard enough, instead of looking at everything else, it becomes toxic positivity.

And this toxic positivity doesn’t just harm you, but also people in your life. Your told that people who raise concerns or make observations that point out problems with what you’re doing are people you shouldn’t be friends with anymore. You’re told they don’t appreciate what you’re doing and are getting in your way.

What you’re not told is that actually those people do care about you and that they’re concerned because they’re seeing changes in you that don’t fit who you are. They see you becoming this different person, and its not necessarily a good change that is happening.

Toxic positivity creates situations where you’re so focused on trying to live up to this ideal that you ignore how its changing you and you block out any constructive criticism or concern that’s directed your way. It creates situations where you lose friends and end up alone because you’re so intent on filtering reality that you can’t see what you’re losing.

So how do You counteract toxic positivity?

The first step is to recognize it for what it is. You do that by taking a good hard look at what is and isn’t working, but also at the messaging of the people you’re learning from. If they are telling you anything of what I’ve shared above, they are trying to isolate you.

And you ask yourself if being so positive is really just hiding your own fears from yourself. Sometimes we focus so much on being positive because of the fears and anxiety we feel. And the only way to counteract that is to stop running and be present with the fear and anxiety. Recognize it for what it is, which is a way to warn you of the problems you’re facing.

You don’t need to be positive all the time to be successful. You need to know when to use being positive to help you discover a different perspective or see an opportunity, but you also need to know when to give it a rest and pay attention to what else is going on around you. Because sometimes what’s going on around you will have an effect on your business and can help you avoid a disaster before it happens, but only if you’re grounded enough in reality to see past the toxic positivity.

If you can do that, then you can counteract toxic positivity and see the people who are telling you to be so positive for what they really are: Con people using you up for everything they can get out of you.

Taylor Ellwood is currently on a journey to discover what’s next.

Taylor Ellwood

Written by

Author, Experimenter, Eccentric Entrepreneur on a journey to see what’s next

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