Presenting Day 3 of Cultivating Care and Reaching Out In Kindness, brought to you by the Office of Student Life and Office of Wellness and Mental Health!

Over time, we’ve all been conditioned to say things to others that can be defined as “Toxic Positivity.”  Toxic Positivity phrases are blanket statements that are not helpful to the person going through a life issue.

Toxic Positivity Definition: “Toxic positivity is the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.”

“Just like anything done in excess, when positivity is used to cover up or silence the human experience, it becomes toxic. By disallowing the existence of certain feelings, we fall into a state of denial and repressed emotions. The truth is humans are flawed. We get jealous, angry, resentful and greedy. Sometimes life can just flat out suck. By pretending that we have “positive vibes all day,” we deny the validity of a genuine human experience. “ (Quintero & Long, 2019)

It’s okay to not be okay!  In life we should get to “experience the rainbow of our emotions” and be able to learn from them. While it’s okay to be a cheerleader and try to motivate your peers and friends, it is imperative that you examine your message to make sure that it is helpful and not full of toxic positivity. Having a positive attitude is not necessarily a bad thing and can be welcomed in appropriate situations, but it is also possible to overdo positive messages! Overdoing it can cause resistance and unintended stress in the receiver and make it less likely that they will consult you in the future for advice or even to just let you know what is going on with them in their life struggles.

Toxic Positivity Statement Non-Toxic Acceptance & Validation Statement
“Don’t think about it, stay positive!” “Describe what you’re feeling. I’m listening.”
“Don’t worry, be happy!” “I see that you’re really stressed. Anything I can do?”
“Failure is not an option.” “Failure is a part of growth and success.”
“Everything will work out in the end.” “This is really hard. I’m thinking of you.”
“Positive vibes only!” “I’m here for you both good and bad.”
“If I can do it, so can you!” “Everyone’s story, abilities, limitations are different, and that’s okay.”
“Delete Negativity” “Suffering is a part of life. You are not alone.”
“Look for the silver lining.” “I see you. I’m here for you.”
“Everything happens for a reason.” “Sometimes we can draw the short straw in life. How can I support you during this hard time?”
“It could be worse.” “That sucks. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.”

(Quintero & Long, 2019)

Quintero, S. and Long, J. (2019). Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes Retrieved from

Want more resources? The Office of Wellness and Mental Health can help. Visit to learn more.

Check out this video:  Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes

As a reminder, you can participate two ways:

  1. Take a moment to anonymously share a few words of gratitude here, which will be displayed on a “virtual bulletin board” and become a video to be released on Nov. 11.
  2. Complete and email the “Kindness Card” to someone you really appreciate or someone who could simply use some extra words of encouragement at this time. The link to access the card is here.