fbpx

♥ Let’s End Toxic Positivity ♥

 

Pregnancy is amazing. It’s an incredible time in your life, and leads to the most precious gift of all: your baby. It’s also messy, painful, and at times downright miserable. These facts are not mutually exclusive. You can love your baby and be grateful for their existence without enjoying the aching hips, the inability to keep food down, and the mood swings that make you cry at how cute something is, then want to smack your partner for trying to give you a compliment because you’re absolutely certain they said it sarcastically and think you look like a beached whale that’s been tarred and feathered. Toxic positivity can make you feel ashamed for these valid feelings that are completely normal during such a tumultuous time in your life.

What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity is a sugar-coated form of gaslighting. It is a way of invalidating a person’s genuine feelings and making them feel shamed for them. It is the belief that a person should maintain a positive mindset regardless of their circumstances, and that any voicing of negative emotion makes them responsible for those emotions’ very existence.

A Phenomenon on the Rise

Lately, I have been seeing an increase in the number of pregnant moms hurting because their family or friends have invalidated their feelings for the umpteenth time. One mom said that her grandmother told her that she had a miserable time when she was pregnant with her oldest daughter, then later that day, told her she needed to “stop complaining and just love her baby” when she tried to vent about how tired she was feeling on her own personal facebook timeline. Another told of her aunt who would tell her she needed to stop being ungrateful and “suck it up” every time she heard her mention anything not 100% positive about how she was feeling. I have heard the anguished cries of loss mamas, shamed into suffering in silence by toxic positivity, unable to seek support from their friends when they needed it most, as they went through their pregnancies with their rainbow babies.

Every Mama’s Feelings are Valid

This treatment is not okay. Just because she is having a hard time does not mean she doesn’t love her baby, and we as a society need to stop pretending it does. I love my girls with all of my heart and soul. They also drive me up the walls at times. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make me an ungrateful mother to wish they were able to see things from my perspective once in a while. I would never dream of telling another mama that she didn’t love her children just because she didn’t always love their behavior.

The Double Standards Need to Stop

Have you ever been so incredibly annoyed by something your partner did, but still loved them anyway? Unless you live in a fictional world or have never loved anyone, you probably have. Why can the same principle not be applied in parenthood as in relationships? Would you tell a woman she couldn’t possibly love her husband if she felt hurt that he chose to go out for an impromptu drink with his friends while she was at home puking her guts out after having to cancel plans with her friends because she felt so sick? Maybe you can see it from both sides, and think maybe he just thought she wanted to have some peace and be alone, but he should have asked her if that’s what she wanted instead of assuming. But you probably wouldn’t tell her “You should stop whining and be glad you have a husband!” or “It isn’t good for your marriage to get so stressed out over everything, you need to calm down!”

Trauma Is Not Healed By Positivity

A growing number of women suffer from trauma of one kind or another during pregnancy and birth. Many more have experienced it prior to pregnancy, and will experience it after. Some of us will even develop PTSD from our experiences. Being positive does not erase the trauma. The only way to heal from it is to process it. Yes, therapy is extremely important, especially in cases of PTSD. But support from your friends and family is, too. Shaming or shunning someone because they have unhealed trauma might make your ego feel better about your own trauma, or allow you to wrap yourself in a bubble to avoid facing it altogether, but it can be incredibly damaging to the other person, and can serve to deepen and reinforce their trauma. If the goal is to help them develop a positive mindset, this is entirely counterproductive, not to mention cruel.

A Positive Mindset Does Not Exist in a Vacuum

Yes, during pregnancy and immediately postpartum, it is important to protect your emotional space and try to keep a positive mindset. It’s important for success in all areas of life. Having a positive mindset, however, doesn’t protect us from all possible negative feelings and experiences. The human brain needs to be able to process the things that happen in order to move forward. To do this, we need to talk about them. Holding it all inside can foster resentment, anger, fear, and a whole host of other negative feelings. Letting it out can help to release those feelings, allowing them to be replaced by more positive ones.

 

How You Can Help

Don’t invalidate a mom’s feelings and experiences just because they are unpleasant. Empathize with her. Try to understand what she is going through and hold space for her to talk about it and process it. Allow her to speak on it and seek to better understand her through it. Let her know she is not alone. Make her feel heard and validated. Support her. If you see someone participating in toxic positivity against another (or even themselves), gently remind them that all feelings are valid and deserve the space they need to be processed. That is how we change lives and make the world a better place.

 

Are you searching for a safe place to talk about your troubles while being supported instead of invalidated? Would you like to join a community of moms coming together to educate and empower each other in healthy ways? Come join us and help us build the village we all need.

 


♥ We Need Connection ♥

 

“It hurts to feel separate. We are wired to seek connection and belonging—to feel like we are part of something larger than ourselves. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I believe it also takes one to sustain an adult. We were not built to live in isolation, hidden behind apartment doors, phone screens, and dead eyes. We thrive when we feel like part of a tribe, when the people we share space with become part of ‘us,’ not ‘them.'” ~Lori Deschene

 

Photo by Dan Meyers  on Unsplash

 

Yesterday, a friend of mine made an unsettling post. She had clearly been going through a rough time, and had lost her sense of self-worth. This was not a friend I knew well, but something in me felt this was a cry for help. I took some time to look through her recent posts and made a few supportive comments, hoping it would help uplift her.  Later that evening, a mutual friend of ours (whom I had never really spoken with directly either) contacted me and expressed concern for her because her profile had been deleted. He didn’t remember anyone else that was on her friend’s list, and only remembered me because I had been the last to comment on her last post, which he still had up on his screen.

 

I spent the next several hours reaching out to people I remembered were mutual friends. I contacted the two people I knew who lived in the same area as she, and asked if they knew her. It took several hours for either to respond, during which time I was trying to find a phone number that might belong to her so that I could try calling her. It was getting late, and I began to struggle with worrying I may be bothering someone at/near/after bedtime if I called, and worrying that my friend may not be safe. I started thinking maybe I should call the suicide hotline or local police and ask for a well-check to be done on her instead, but then what if that caused CPS to get involved and remove her kids because they considered her a threat to THEIR wellbeing, and suddenly I’d have destroyed the life of the person I was trying to help?
 
Thankfully, one of my friends in the area responded as I was wrestling these competing worries, and told me she knew her and would reach out. I felt immense relief, and trusted that I had found the right person, and that my friend would be taken care of. My other friend local to her responded a few hours later, in the middle of the night, and reached out to her immediately as well. 
 
It took until morning for me to find out for sure that she was okay. I also now had several other friends worried and waiting for an update. 
 
Did I do the right thing by getting so many people concerned? Did I go too far in considering calling this person I called friend, though barely knew, and had never spoken with face-to face? Was it ok that I stopped when I received a response from someone who knew her? Will our friends that know her in-person be able to provide her with the support she needs?
 
I don’t know the answer to any of these for sure. I don’t even know if my friend will be ok emotionally long-term. But I know she is alive, and I know she now knows that many people care about her enough to worry about her late at night. I am a firm believer in following your intuition, and mine had been trying to tell me all day that something was wrong and she needed intervention.
 
If it were me, I would probably be embarrassed, but I would also feel touched to know so many people went out of their way to check on me and were worried for my safety.
 
She might have been ok if we had not come together to inquire for her wellbeing. Or she might not have. I would prefer to feel guilt for action rather than inaction. I would have felt far worse to have woken up a week from now to a tragic announcement and wonder if I could have done something to prevent it. Who knows? It still might happen. Emotions and mental health are unpredictable and difficult to stabilize at times. Humans are complex creatures. But I’m never going to let that stop me from trying to help a fellow hurting human.
 
If you see someone who is struggling, please take the time to stop and support them. Clicking “care” isn’t enough. If you’re close enough to support them in-person, please reach out to them. Don’t wait for them to ask for help. Most people won’t. Send them a message, leave a kind comment, ask them questions that help guide them to see their situation from a healthier perspective. Listen to your intuition and act when you hear warning bells going off. Don’t ignore their suffering because it makes you uncomfortable. 
 
“Good vibes only” can lead to a lot of people losing the support they so desperately need. Yes, it is important to protect yourself from the negativity of others, especially if you feel it is taking a toll on your own mental health. But if you are someone who has the good fortune to be resilient and always look for the goodness in things, consider that maybe you have been given these gifts in order to be able to help those who cannot help themselves. Don’t shut out everyone who shares their struggles, as I have seen many do. Invite them in, and share your goodness and happiness and resilience with them. 

 

That is how we change lives and make the world a better place. 

 

For free resources when you need someone to talk to, you can dial 211 for the United Way (within the US), which can connect you with local free or low-cost mental health resources or even just for someone to listen to you. 
 

If you or someone you know show signs of suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) from within the US, or visit their website. Even if you don’t feel that you are at immediate risk of suicide, they can also help connect you to local free or low-cost mental health resources.