6 signs your positive mindset might actually be toxic

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We all want to be happy and no doubt adopting a positive mindset can help.

The research shows that positive thinking can improve well-being, reduce stress, boost our immune system, help us to better cope with life, and even make us live longer.

In many ways, it pays to take a glass-half-full outlook on life.

But as we all know, you can have too much of a good thing. That goes for positivity too.


Because it’s just not a realistic reflection of real life. The truth is that we all have down days and deal with hard times too.

If you are using your positive mindset to try to ignore, minimize or invalidate these, you can be setting yourself up for problems.

1) Whenever something bad happens, you always tell people to “look on the bright side”

It’s such a fine line and one we need to be mindful of…

Because it’s natural to want to cheer someone up whenever they’re feeling down. So we may offer reminders of why it’s going to be ok, or how it’s not as bad as they think.

We may believe we’re being supportive. But if we’re not careful, our best intentions can end up making someone feel even worse.

If somebody voices their pain to you and what they get back is a cliche, it can feel incredibly invalidating.

“Just stay positive”

“Count your blessings”

“Everything happens for a reason”

“Happiness is a choice”

The message they can end up taking away is that they are wrong for feeling the way they do.

In that moment, they may simply need someone to hear them out and recognize what they are going through.

Before we move on from negative feelings, we need to give them a voice, rather than dismiss them.

2) You prefer to always keep your bad days to yourself

This need to acknowledge and release our negative emotions is why this next sign on our list can be pretty toxic.

Whenever you’re feeling sad, angry, scared, etc, you say nothing. You push it down and keep it to yourself.

You might believe that ignoring it is the best way to get over it.

But either way, you mask the so-called “negative” emotions that you experience. You don’t want to let it show that you’re struggling underneath.

You may convince yourself that there’s “no point complaining” and you just need to get on with things.

Or you may feel like others rely on you to be the positive rock that keeps up morale.

So you plaster a smile on your face, even though you’re feeling down.

You’ve cultivated a ‘happy-go-lucky’ persona. So it feels really hard to show anything other than this upbeat version of yourself.

But in doing so, you’re denying the true depths of yourself that exist.

3) You feel guilty about your personal struggles because others have it worse than you

Our problems in life are always going to be relative.

Sure, putting an issue into context can help you gain perspective. We may realize that what we’re worrying about or feeling bad over isn’t such a big deal after all.

I like to ask myself whether this will matter in one years time to help me do that.

But directly comparing your troubles to someone else’s is never possible.

Telling yourself that there are starving people in the world and that you have no right to feel bad about your circumstances often leads to guilt and shame.

Rather than accept how you feel and give it an outlet, you’re merely piling on more negative feelings.


Just because there are people who are worse off than you, it doesn’t mean you have to always feel 100% happy with your own life. 

4) You are using the idea of ‘acceptance’ to sidestep problems you should be addressing

There are plenty of positive mindset techniques that we can end up getting twisted, and this is one of them:

Acceptance doesn’t mean apathy.

Deciding that “it is what it is” doesn’t mean we should fall into indifference and give up. It doesn’t mean we should just brush things off dismissively.

It just means that you don’t waste energy fighting against the current reality. You don’t add any additional suffering by wishing desperately things were different.

Peace of mind is undeniably important. It’s true that some battles are simply not worth your time, energy, or attention.

I often ask myself “Is it better to be happy or to be right?” when I can see myself getting drawn into unnecessary ego-led drama.

But that doesn’t mean avoiding all struggles at all times. Because life and growth do involve a certain amount of it.

So it’s not an excuse to:

  • “Accept” your problems rather than try to work on them
  • “Accept” injustices or wrongdoing around you for the sake of an easy life

Positivity and passivity are not the same thing, but they are all too often confused.

5) You are all about “good vibes only”

Here’s the thing:

We can still be optimistic whenever bad vibes strike, but we cannot live our lives with ‘good vibes only’.

When we try, we are merely punishing ourselves and others for experiencing a perfectly natural wide range of emotions.

Although I’ve summed up certain feelings in this article by calling them “negative” emotions, the truth is that seeing feelings as either bad or good can be problematic.

Ok, nobody likes feeling “negative” emotions — things like sadness, frustration, anger, disappointment, anxiety, grief, loneliness, etc. 

But rather than have a black-and-white framework, it serves us better to realize that we must live in the messy grey area.

Emotions are really complex.

They’re ultimately just signals, and as such, they can be equally useful regardless of whether they feel pleasant or unpleasant.

But when we start to see some emotions as bad, we make them wrong.

We dismiss a large part of what it is to be human when we try to only inhabit the sunny side of life.

6) You shame other people for having a bad attitude when they can’t stay positive

I’m not saying we shouldn’t shield ourselves from toxic or negative energy.

We all know those people who are quite frankly real downers. I call them negaholics because moaning seems like an addiction for them.

They keep themselves stuck in victimhood by constantly telling themselves a non-stop woe-is-me narrative.

But it’s just as bad when we chastise, shame, or guilt trip anyone for expressing something other than a positive outlook.

Because not all of what happens in life comes down to having a “bad mindset”.

Maybe you’ve heard some online coaches or self-professed life gurus saying things like:

“It’s your poor money mindset that’s preventing you from making sales or getting rich”.

That’s not to say that limiting beliefs don’t hold us back, or that we shouldn’t look into them.

But suggesting you can positively think your way to a million dollars in the bank ends up placing unfair blame.

Not to mention the total disregard for other success factors like the economy you’re living in, what you’re selling, your own personal background and circumstances, etc.

It’s not possible to always “keep your chin up” and it’s hella annoying to be made to feel spoilt, ungrateful, or like you’ve got a bad attitude for sharing your frustrations.

Happiness is an extreme emotion

It would be great if we could live on fluffy clouds of joy every single day.

We may chase happiness as if it’s an accomplishment to achieve or hope that with enough inner work, we can reach this endless state of nonstop ease.

But the truth is that happiness is one of many feelings that come and go. Life is in constant flux.

Yes, we can strive for contentment. But that needs to encompass all of life’s emotions, not try to exclude the less desirable ones.

So if your positive mindset doesn’t make room for both the light and shade that comes with being alive, it’s not fully serving you or others.

Lost Your Sense of Purpose?

In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.

Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.

Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.

With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.

Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.


Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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