How to Prevent the Dangers of Toxic Optimism

toxic optimism

Toxic optimism sounds like a word that doesn’t make any sense.

After all, isn’t being optimistic a good mindset to have?

Yes and no, let me explain…

There is optimism on a realistic scale then there is toxic optimism that pushes us to the side of blind hope and makes us lose touch with our true reality and our current circumstances.

The reason why it is dangerous is that it doesn’t ignite within us the mechanisms needed to be able to cope with our current reality.

We also disable the same mechanisms for emotional regulation that will help us spring into positive action that could potentially help us turn our situations around.

Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘’rose-colored glasses’’? Yes, similar concept.

Toxic optimism is like wearing a pair of thick rose-colored glasses that impair our vision and insight.

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Anais Nin

Reality can be hard and at times not so kind. It is easy for us to want to view things where they could be understood or to find ways to help us cope with them better…

If we are not too careful, these acts might turn into forms of self-sabotage. Instead of moving us forward, we become stuck in unhealthy patterns.

The perils of toxic optimism

Being overly optimistic on an unrealistic scale hinders us from growth and from gaining the wisdom that could potentially help us gain insight into future situations.

Another danger is that we become so blindly hopeful that we forget that positive action needs to occur to make corrective changes to our problems.

When you are hopeful but realistic approach to your problems you become mentally and emotionally stronger.

You build ‘’a thicker skin’’ and a stronger will that will endure through hardships.

Somethings are beyond our control.

While we can’t control every aspect of our lives, we can control our thoughts and behaviors which can prove to either help us or hinder us in the long run.

What does toxic optimism look like?

Letting go of the wheel. Deciding that you will no longer pay attention to any of your problems even though you haven’t come up with a proper plan.

Lying to yourself or others to make things seem better than they are. ‘’So, what, I’m fine…’’ ‘’It’s all good, I’ll am okay…’’ While it is good not to dwell on the negative, disregarding your true emotions is not okay.

Making impulsive decisions based on blind hope. Your income limits you in extra spending, you only have enough for bills and rent.

Yet, there is a big sale at your favorite store. So, you tell yourself it’s okay to spend this money, things will work out by the end of the month…

Unfortunately, I have seen situations where people are stuck with huge loan and credit card debts because of this, what seemed a good idea has landed them in a position that has proven to be hard to get out of .

Who is prone to being unrealistically optimistic?

When overburdened with life’s struggles it feels so easy to just want to let go by thinking I will deal with it tomorrow or surely it will resolve itself out.

It is common to try to find salvation in optimism during the overbearing times in our lives.

Toxic optimism is not a diagnosis that affects only a certain group of individuals. Simply put, if you pay attention to your thoughts and behaviors you can escape the trap of falling into toxic optimism.

With that being said, those who are prone to escapism (i.e. running from their problems or tend to be in denial about certain truths) tend to kick their toxic optimism mechanisms into overdrive.

How do you know if you are on the right track and not crossing over to toxic optimism?

Healthy optimism is a blend of partaking in positive action coupled with having a positive mindset that circumstances can change for the better and knowing that you can overcome current hardships no matter how great they might seem.

Positive action + Positive mindset = Creates room for positivity to transform negative circumstances

We turn a blind eye to our circumstances, feelings, and reactions when dealing with Toxic optimism.

Sometimes passivity with a bright outlook is not enough to overcome the tough situations that we are faced with.

Passivity + Positive thoughtsPositive action = Uncertainty/Undesired outcomes

Here are some more examples of healthy vs toxic optimism.

toxic optimism
credit: tumisu

Healthy optimism

I know I can get to my desired weight. I will change my diet/nutrition and will work out at least three times a week. If I dedicate myself to making more positive changes then I can get to my desired weight quicker.

There must be something better for me. I will acquire new skills that will bring me more value in the professional world. I will actively look for employers who will fit my standard. I will strive to find the right job.

Things have not been easy but I know happiness is ahead. I will learn from my past experiences. I will self-reflect to see if there are parts of myself that I need to change or heal. I invite only positivity in my life while I will easily let go of anything negative…

Toxic optimism

Life is hard. Everyone suffers in life. That’s just the way it is… I will just get over it! I’m fine.

Everything happens for a reason. Don’t worry, just be happy. Just think positive thoughts…

Your boyfriend broke up with you? Why are you sad? Your so pretty and a lot of people would love to go out with you…

If you ever hear of advice like this or similar? You know well it doesn’t help too much.

Sometimes it makes matters worse when we hear things like this because it disregards our current feelings and emotions. When this happens, we tend to feel more misunderstood and alone.

Just because something might sound on the positive, that doesn’t mean it will really help.

Sometimes we or others don’t really know the right things to say or do in tough situations.

Not all advice is beneficial advice and not all positive intentions will turn our situation around for us.

You can’t go wrong with being optimistic, just make sure you’re still grounded in your thoughts and decisions.

Remember the previous formula…

Positive action + Positive mindset = Creates room for positivity to transform negative circumstances

Author: Anna Rose

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