Life is full of ‘glass half empty’ people who seem to forever find the worst in every situation – gloomy, downbeat individuals whose negativity can be branded ‘toxic’.

But what about the ‘glass half full’ types, who insist on ‘looking on the bright side’ and always telling friends and colleagues to ‘put a brave face on’ and ‘smile through their troubles’?

Psychologists have suggested that ‘toxic positivity’ – the belief that no matter how dire a situation is people must maintain a positive mindset – could be just as dangerous. 

While intentions may come from the right place, telling someone in a difficult spot to ‘stay positive’ may minimise or brush their problems under the carpet – when it may have taken some effort to bring them to the fore in the first place.

Toxic positivity is when – no matter how bad a situation is – someone tells you to maintain a positive mindset

Discussing the impact of toxic positivity on people, Samara Quintero, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, said: ‘In denying our truth, we begin to live inauthentically with ourselves and with the world. 

‘We lose connection with ourselves, making it difficult for others to connect and relate to us.

‘We might look unbreakable from the outside, but on the inside, we’re just scared little teddy bears longing for a hug.’

To help you avoid this type of situation, here are 14 tell-tale signs of toxic positivity in the workplace or at home. 

Overly complimenting somebody for losing weight 

I think we’ve all heard this type of conversation before: ‘Oh my god! You’ve lost so much weight, you look fantastic!’

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But have we ever stopped to think whether this isn’t actually a compliment?

Congratulating someone for losing weight may make them feel as though they only look good when they weigh less and they are usually fat.

It could also make them feel like you have always viewed them as fat – even when they might not be. 

Telling someone they should be grateful for what they have 

When somebody comes to you with a problem, telling them to ignore what they are feeling to focus on what they should be grateful for in their life may do a lot more harm than you think. 

When discussing your emotions and feelings it is always best to let that person speak and explain what they are feeling.

Instantly dismissing that and telling them to focus on something good in their lives may not be the best advice. 

It could lead to someone burying down that bad feeling, which can then create further problems down the road. 

‘Everything happens for a reason…’ 

Broken up with somebody? Fired from your job? Don’t worry, everything happens for a reason…

For someone going through a difficult moment, this can be a really annoying thing to hear.

Instead of telling someone this, try to resonate with that person’s feelings and come to a solution that way. 

Telling someone that they should be grateful for what they have and that ‘everything happens for a reason’ can be potentially harmful 


Just because a person is smiling doesn’t mean they are necessarily happy. 

Telling someone to just ‘smile’ when they’re feeling down can be extremely dismissive and insensitive.

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It can also, again, make somebody bury important feelings that should be being discussed and dealt with. 

Offering unspecific help 

I think we have all been guilty of saying those dreaded cliché words after somebody has gone through something difficult: ‘Let me know if there’s anything I can do.’

While we might think we’re helping and we may genuinely want to help – asking someone what you can do for them rarely helps.

That individual may not want to feel like a burden reaching out for help.

Instead, if you know there’s something you can do which can help – do it! Don’t ask. 

‘I’m so busy!’ 

Constantly telling everybody in your life that you are so busy and you barely have the time for anything can actually make you sound self-important. 

Bringing up the fact that you’re busy may make someone feel like they’re not working hard enough perhaps, when they are. 

Or, it could mean that someone who needs your help will then avoid you as they don’t want to burden you any further. 

‘It could be worse’ 

Similar to ‘everything happens for a reason’, ‘it could be worse’ is another dangerous saying that can make people avoid addressing their true feelings. 

Negative feelings don’t have to be such a frightful thought and actually delving into what is making you unhappy can help.

Telling someone ‘well, at least you’re not dead’ ignores the real problems at hand.  

Telling someone that their job is so much harder than yours 

While you might think sharing anecdotes of problems in your life will help somebody else going through a similar situation, saying your life is so much harder than theirs and they should essentially suck it up can be extremely problematic.

Every person is different and they respond to challenges at work, at home and in their social lives differently. 

Just because you can deal with stress at work maybe or you can work longer hours doesn’t mean that somebody else can and it’s okay for them to say they are struggling. 

Complimenting somebody at a time of difficulty 

When somebody comes to you with a problem your instinct might tell you to deflect away from the issue and compliment them on something to make them feel happy. 

However, telling someone their hair looks gorgeous when they’re going through a break-up can again lead to a build up of repressed negative feelings. 

Someone who is clearly in a difficult space does not want to hear how glowing their skin looks… 

Saying: ‘Just be positive!’

Retaining a positive outlook on life is, of course, an important thing.

However, their comes a time when staying positive might not actually help the problem at hand.

Just telling someone to keep strong and be positive doesn’t allow them to explore their true emotions – happy or sad. 


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