Last week we discussed the role of gratitude in making changes in our lives. This week I want to touch on something that we never ever have to be grateful for…toxic or fake positivity.
First a definition…
Toxic positivity is the tendency to dismiss or invalidate negative emotions by focusing only on positive thinking and expressions. It pushes the idea that we should always be happy and optimistic, no matter what we are going through. While positivity has its merits, toxic positivity ignores the complexity of human experiences and emotions, and pushes away our pain, sadness, and struggle. This can also show up when we try to FORCE gratitude on others despite their circumstances or hurts.
Authentic gratitude allows us each the spectrum of human emotions and experiences. It does not demand that we deny negative emotions but encourages us to find meaning and appreciation even when things are shitty. Authentic gratitude makes space for growth (as discussed last week) by embracing every part of our journey, the good and the bad.
I once worked for someone who never allowed anyone to talk about the past…even if “the past” was yesterday. He would get belligerent if the team tried to think retrospectively about what had gone wrong and what could be better. He called us negative and said we were bad for the team and culture any time we tried to ACTUALLY solve problems that kept showing up…past, present, and potentially future.
Over time it became apparent that he preferred unicorns pooping rainbows over actually dealing with problems head on or navigating through learning from failure. I mean…what was there to learn? Nothing had ever been bad and there was no failure to learn from. (Delusion…party of 1!)
What was definitely true was that the toxic positivity and gratitude that he was selling never actually materialized into good decisions, deeper teamwork, or improved financials.
So…what does authentic gratitude look like?
Practicing gratitude authentically requires vulnerability—the willingness to embrace our imperfections and acknowledge our struggles. It is through vulnerability that we find real gratitude by seeing the lessons that come from our challenges. Authentic gratitude invites us to honor our emotions, allowing ourselves to feel and process them with compassion and self-acceptance.
One of the most important aspects of authentic gratitude is its ability to sustain us during challenging times. In the face of adversity, gratitude can provide solace, resilience, and hope. It allows us to find silver linings, seek support, and discover our own strength.
Where have you gotten stuck in a cycle of toxic gratitude? Are you struggling with the vulnerability it takes to look at your failures and imperfections? Can you be grateful AND honest?
Next week, we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving and talk about how to take gratitude into your daily life!