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Navigating the Balance: Toxic Positivity vs Genuine Optimism

What is the difference between being happy and being fulfilled?

By Li-Li 📓Published 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 4 min read
Genuine fulfillment is acknowledging & embracing emotions with a realistic approach.

I've been reflecting more lately about ways to be more intentional with my energy, and live my daily life with more purpose and productivity. In the midst of reflecting on this, I realized how important it is to really know the difference between toxic positivity and genuine happiness. I don't want to be disingenuous to myself, and pretend I'm all about being positive if I'm not feeling it. I choose to feel all of my emotions and go through the process of being human instead of giving myself trigger phrases like "You've got this!" and "Life's too short to be sad!" I get it, these are great messages to hear and tell others, but personally, I feel they just aren't 100% realistic.

I had been told before by someone in my past that I was "not positive enough." At first I thought what does that even mean? Then I realized that this person was a victim; they believed that everything they saw on social media was TRUE. I felt bad for this person - did they really think the perfectly polished pictures on Instagram reflected genuine happiness? I mean, I know some captured moments do, but in the superficial world of social media, the pictures they were looking at were clearly of people who looked very "staged" and #fakehappy.

In a world that often emphasizes the importance of staying positive, this concept known as "toxic positivity" has emerged, raising questions about the authenticity of such an approach. While cultivating a positive mindset is undoubtedly beneficial, I believe it's essential to distinguish between genuine fulfillment and the potentially harmful effects of toxic positivity.

What exactly is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity refers to the tendency to dismiss or invalidate genuine emotions by promoting an overly optimistic outlook, often in an attempt to avoid discomfort or difficult conversations. While the intention may be to uplift others, the impact can be detrimental. I'm reminded of the meme where a person expresses that they're sad. Another person tells them "Well, just stop being sad, have you thought about that?" and gives them a high-five. It makes me laugh, but I feel like this is a great example of what toxic positivity can often sound like to a person who just isn't feeling it, and/or is living with depression. It's not always easy to flip a switch and "look on the bright side" or tell yourself that "things could be worse!" Suppressing genuine feelings and stifling your natural ability to go through the motions, and feel how you feel, can lead to a sense of disconnection, isolation, and even other underlying mental health issues.

When we feel compelled to mask our true feelings, we may find it challenging to address underlying issues and experience authentic personal growth.

One common aspect of toxic positivity is the pressure to always be happy and grateful, regardless of the circumstances. This expectation can create an unrealistic standard that fosters a culture of denial and avoidance of genuine emotions.

Genuine Fulfillment

On the other hand, genuine fulfillment involves acknowledging and embracing the full spectrum of human emotions. It recognizes that life is inherently complex, with both highs and lows.

Genuine fulfillment doesn't shy away from challenges but rather encourages individuals to confront and navigate them with authenticity.

True fulfillment is rooted in self-awareness and the ability to find meaning in life's experiences, both positive and negative. It involves a holistic approach to well-being that considers emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects, promoting a deeper understanding of oneself and others.

So, how can we navigate the balance?

Balancing positivity and authenticity requires a nuanced approach. Instead of dismissing negative emotions, it is crucial to validate them and explore their underlying causes. We certainly should try not to dwell on negative circumstances, but our approach should be a realistic one. Allowing yourself time to process and even grieve is just an important part of the human experience. This process allows for personal growth, resilience, and a more profound connection with oneself and others.

Encouraging open and honest communication is fundamental to fostering genuine fulfillment. Creating a space where individuals feel heard and understood promotes emotional well-being and allows for constructive discussions about challenges and triumphs.

A Few Practical Strategies

Mindful Awareness: Cultivate awareness of your emotions without judgment. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation, can help develop a non-reactive awareness of thoughts and feelings.

Healthy Expression: Find constructive ways to express your emotions, whether through journaling, exercising, building, making art, or talking to a trusted friend or therapist.

Supportive Communities: Surround yourself with individuals who value authenticity and encourage open conversations. Building a supportive network can make it easier to navigate life's ups and downs.


While the pursuit of positivity is commendable, it is crucial to recognize the potential pitfalls of toxic positivity. Genuine fulfillment comes from embracing the full range of human experiences and fostering authentic connections with oneself and others. By striking a balance between optimism and authenticity, we can cultivate a more meaningful and resilient approach to life's journey. ~

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About the Creator

Li-Li 📓

Just a modest woman living in a modern world, writing about what I know while embracing life’s simple pleasures, & finding solace in the rhythm of words and the unconditional love of my dog.

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