Toxic Positivity in Entrepreneurship and What You Can Do About It

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Most of us are aware of how toxic negativity can be. We know to avoid people who suck the life out of us and unfollow social media accounts that anger or drain us.

Positive thinking is good for us. Looking on the bright side is good for our physical, mental, and emotional health so we load up on positivity like it’s the magic elixir that will make everything okay.

As entrepreneurs, we are our brands. If we present ourselves as miserable, overwhelmed and fearful human beings, we may very well repel potential clients, so we make it a point to focus on the positive. We hire the coaches, we listen to the podcasts, we fill our offices and our social media feeds with motivational quotes. ‘Good Vibes Only’ becomes our mantra.

So, why do we feel so crummy?

Why is it that the more positive we become the more alienated we feel? Why are we looking around at everyone else’s life or business wondering what they do to be so happy and successful? Why does it feel like your exhaustion, your fear, your worries, your frustration, and your anger are dirty little secrets not to be shared with the outside world? Why is there shame around admitting that entrepreneurship can be lonely? When you’re told you are supposed to sparkle all day long, where do you shove the feeling that you’re failing if you struggle with grief or self-doubt?

In some entrepreneurial circles, you can risk being pushed out or alienated if you dare to radiate anything but positivity and happiness.

You can easily be shamed into acting like everything is just great at the cost of dealing with your true feelings. Always being positive can force you to silence your voice when you’d like to speak up.

When someone is shamed for not choosing to be happy, they can come to question their own feelings, wondering what’s wrong with them for feeling down or angry or dejected.

This is toxic positivity and it is making us disconnected, cheerless, and sick.

It’s true. Being positive at all costs is not only making us depressed, but it is making us sick. While positive thinking can pull you out of the dumps, being positive at all costs disconnects you from your feelings. Avoiding negative feelings can allow you to sidestep opportunities to develop courage and resilience.

A steady diet of ignoring or avoiding feelings can make someone unable to trust themselves.

Self-esteem thrives when we are able to trust ourselves. Pushing away ‘negative’ feelings eats away at self-trust. This is no good for life and certainly no good for business.

Being told, ‘just be positive,’ when you’re struggling through a dark time personally or professionally, makes you feel like you’re a burden. When you’re told to ‘get over it’, trauma or grief cannot be resolved in a healthy manner.

When you find yourself overcompensating with a guise of sweet cheerfulness so as to avoid your true feelings, it eats away at your soul, leaving you feeling alone and misunderstood.

You are meant to feel a whole rainbow of emotions. Remember those big boxes of crayons you wanted as a kid? You are meant to use all the colors, not just three!

Allowing yourself to feel ‘negative’ emotions such as anger, loneliness, grief, confusion, or panic isn’t just healthy, it is essential.

‘Negative’ emotions can be used as powerful data. Negative emotions can give us clues about what isn’t working in our businesses. They can help us better understand what direction we need to go. Dealing with ‘negative’ emotions give us the chance to have difficult conversations. They give us a chance to grow, to speak up, to learn from failure, to feel connected with ourselves.

Ignoring these emotions can leave you stuck in relationships you’ve outgrown. It can force you to tolerate bad behavior from others, including clients and employees. It can keep you from dealing with trauma, or make you sick. It can rob you of useful data that might take your life, your health, and your business in a whole new, healthy direction.

Here are 4 ways you can tell if toxic positivity is taking a toll on you and what to do about it:

1. Scroll slowly, with intention.

Notice how you feel as you scroll. Does an account make you feel wrong to not have a perfect life? Does it make you feel less-than? Does it make you feel like your business isn’t good enough? Like you aren’t as successful as someone else?

2. Notice how these forced positives make you feel.

Do you find yourself wondering why you can’t be as positive as someone else? Do you think if only you could have their life, positivity would be a breeze? Do you beat yourself up for your inability to banish worry or fear or pain from your thoughts?

3. Do your business circles include people who avoid negative emotions?

Do you follow people who tell you that having negative thoughts, doubts, or fears will only attract more negativity into your life? That you can never find true happiness if you aren’t anything but high vibe?

This could put you into toxic positivity cycles. It’s never healthy to ignore your emotions.

4. Do some of these social media accounts enforce a “no negativity” rule?

Do certain accounts or people infer that you will never get what you want in this life if you don’t have positive thoughts only?

If you find yourself answering ‘yes’ to any of these questions, do this immediately:

  • Hide or unfollow the accounts. You can follow them later if you choose, but for now, get them off your feed.
  • Face your emotions. Learn to see the rainbow of emotions as the powerful clues they are. If something or someone makes you feel bad about yourself, rethink your choices. If you have been avoiding conflict, deal with it. If you need time to grieve, do so.
  • Find someone you can confide in. It isn’t healthy to be cheerful all the time. Others are feeling the same way. Sharing your feelings with trusted friends can spark connection: ‘You’re feeling that way? Me, too!’
  • Know that your thoughts did not bring about unfortunate circumstances. Trust that feeling down does not mean you will never find happiness in the future.
  • Set a timer. If you are just having a bad morning, set a timer for five minutes and wallow in your self-pity or anger. If you are dealing with something more painful, set a timer for a longer period of time, a week or a month or a year depending on the severity. When time is up, you can will yourself back into action mode whether it be to get counseling or reemerge from your dark room.

A ‘good vibes only’ lifestyle is toxic and crushing for your business. Instead, choose to feel the rainbow of emotions. Working through all the emotions you feel, not just the shiny, glittery ones, is the healthiest way to be positive in the long run.

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