A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned, in a Bourke Accounting blog, that I am going back to 2019 until 2020 gets fixed. I’ve changed my mind. I am now going back to the Mesozoic Era. And I’m not sure if I’m ever coming home.

Yesterday, the cashier at my local grocery store decided that I was the perfect person to hear her problems (I have never seen this woman before). Her husband has been unemployed for two years, her kids are running wild, she thinks her uncle is doing drugs again, it went on for a while. At the end, she looked at me expectantly. Like a talking deer in headlights, I made a few sympathetic noises and then said, “Aw, man, it’s gonna get better.” I smiled comfortingly (and invisibly) behind my mask.

“Thanks,” she said, through tight lips. “You know, that was just toxic positivity, right?” I was about to apologize, but since I didn’t know what I would be apologizing for, I accepted my receipt and left. Got to say, I was a little bummed and severely confused.

I’ve heard of “toxic friendships,” “toxic masculinity,” “toxic relationships,” “toxic chemicals,” even. But what, WHAT in the name of all things holy is “toxic positivity?” I found out.

According to ThePsychologyGroup.com, toxic positivity is the “excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state,” no matter what the situation. In English: Toxic positivity is putting on a happy face when you’re dying inside. However, you can also be “guilty” of toxic positivity when dealing with others if you encourage “people to always see the bright side, and not open up about anything bad” (TheTab.com).

When I offered that things would get better, I, unbeknownst to me, was “disallowing the existence of certain feelings” (ThePsychologyGroup.com) and neglecting to give her emotions validation. In addition, I will now be responsible when the clerk falls “into a state of denial and repressed emotions” (ThePsychologyGroup.com). Apparently, I should have said something along the lines of: This is hard, but I believe in you and I’ll be thinking of you. Instead, I, most likely, made her “feel unsafe expressing negativity” (TheMighty.com) and now she is going to stuff all of her emotions inside, forever and ever.

Obviously, we all know that it’s unhealthy to pretend that everything is always great, even when it’s not. Shrinks have warned that “suppressed emotions can…manifest in anxiety, depression or even physical illness” (ThePsychologyGroup.com). I believe this to be true, but I also believe that there’s a time and a place for everything. Maybe it’s my fear of publicly airing dirty laundry, but if I’m having a rough time in my personal life, I’m not sure that my employers, customers or co-workers really need to hear about it.

However, from all that I’ve read about “toxic positivity,” I am making the lives of those around me worse because I don’t talk about every problem. How? Since I don’t discuss every problem, I am leading them to believe that they are somehow abnormal. Yup. Because I don’t believe anyone needs to hear about a current bout of constipation, I am making them feel bad about themselves.

Who knew? I guess we should all take the advice of ThePsychologyGroup.com: If you recognize yourself as a transmitter of toxic positivity, it’s time to cut it out. Hey, guys! Did I mention constipation?   There, everyone feels better now.

Your Bourke Accounting bookkeepers and tax preparers actually need to know about messy divorces. However, as a Bourke Accounting client, you’re not going to have to make sympathetic noises as your expert relates childhood trauma. Like I said, there’s a time and a place. Maybe as you develop a close relationship with your Bourke Accounting pro, we can all share little secrets. Until then, rest assured that no one is going to accuse you of toxic positivity.

Come see us any time. Our number is 502-451-8773 and don’t forget to visit our website at www.bourkeaccounting.com. See you soon!

Written by Sue H.