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How to Embrace “the Wall:” An Antidote to Toxic Positivity

Here come the New Year’s resolutions! Prepare to see them stream across your social media. Not only that, prepare for the emergence of your own lofty goals and high hopes, too. It’s a time of reflection and expectations. In general, the holidays embody our society’s love of a positive attitude and “can do” spirit, but our obsession treads dangerously close to toxic positivity.

In most cases, toxic positivity comes from a lack of understanding about how to respond to difficult or uncomfortable situations. It may even be an honest effort to make yourself or someone else feel better, but ultimately, it dismisses legitimate emotions instead of affirming them. Similarly, it dismisses legitimate barriers and obstacles.

What if we traded “Anything is possible” for “Anything worth having is worth fighting for?” What if we learned how to expect and embrace the wall that most of us hit when February rolls around — that first obstacle that destroys so many resolutions. If we could do these things, we might have a better chance of diffusing toxic positivity and moving toward our goals. 

How to Embrace “the Wall”

  1. Don’t ignore it: When the obstacle appears, no matter what it is, look directly at it. Even if your resolution is falling apart at the seams, acknowledge the problem. Otherwise, you’ll keep running headlong into the same issues. 
  2. Identify your emotions: “Bad” emotions are just as valid and important as positive ones, and there is power in naming them. Try writing down how you feel; there’s no wrong answer. 
  3. Give your inner critic a partner: Humans are walking contradictions, and just as we have an inner critic, we have an inner wisdom as well. To live a meaningful life, you need both. Even when the obstacle appears, these partners allow you to acknowledge it, feel the discomfort, and when the time is right, step into the light.

It’s OK to not be a shining beacon of positivity every moment of every day. In addition to annoying your peers, you’ll hinder your chances at real positive change. Instead, embrace the walls, even if they’re closing in, and remember, authentic positivity is on the other side.