The Problem With Toxic Positivity


Every day, I come into work and see a new email from my boss with an inspirational quote. Whenever we have meetings the focus is always on our attitude. “Think positive!” In so many different formats. And yet oddly enough it doesn’t solve the problems affecting the business.

This is all the secular version of sending thoughts and prayers to a drowning person instead of throwing them a life raft. It feels good to the person saying it but to the person with a real problem it’s just insulting. This is called toxic positivity.

What’s wrong with positivity? Nothing, if it makes sense. Good positivity is “You can do it! I believe in you!” but toxic positivity is about discrediting valid emotions and frustrations and calling it a solution. This shit is everywhere. Just check out the /r/wowthanksimcured subreddit.

Call me old-fashioned but my approach to work is simply “Do your fucking job.” No amount of warm fuzzy bullshit is going to teach your colleagues how to use their email or prevent a security breech because somebody wasn’t paying attention. What toxic positivity does is the same thing as prayers; it lets people feel like they’re making a difference when they’re really not, and shut up the whiners who are annoying them. Well guess what, those whiners want real solutions and aren’t going away until some are found.

Personally I’m a big fan of negativity. Yes, it sounds awful, but hear me out. I’m not talking about complaining just to complain (unless I’m enjoying a good hearty vent, which I find genuinely cathartic and enjoyable). I’m talking about the first step in solving a problem: admitting the problem exists. You can’t fix what you don’t even know is broken and by facing that shit head on you’ve opened a door to making things better. Positivity in reverse. Real solutions. The key is to be tactful. Bring up a problem with the intent of solving it, either yourself or to pass it on who someone who can, sending it up the chain. “Don’t worry about the uncontrollables” sounds like smiling in a burning room because you’re not a firefighter. Call someone! This is not fine!

If you’re going to change your life, attitude is important. But it’s not the only thing. ACTION must be taken. It must be pushed for. Communication needs to happen even if other people find it unpleasant. That’s reality. You can’t just run from your problems, whistling past the graveyard. This is the irony of toxic positivity. While these people are grinning their asses off at their problems, those of us who aren’t afraid to face them and give them the acknowledgment they deserve are the ones actually finding solutions to them.

And pass that on to your boss, too.

Further reading:

Mirror, Mirror, Off The Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at it For a Year

Omg I can’t believe I read this so long ago but still haven’t written a word in review. Well, since my blog has been a big stagnant lately it’s worth a shot trying to remember this one.

I first heard about this book when the author was interviewed on The Daily Show. This is a sociologist who challenged herself to not look in a mirror – or any reflecting surfaces – for an entire year. A year which just so happened to include her wedding day. Now while this may come across as a nice fluffy little self-esteem booster book, the author is well-educated enough to take this subject deeper, and we’re not left without a good dose of accessibly written psychology and sociology. I can’t remember all of the points she made, but the most fascinating one to me was exploring how mirrors almost serve as a form of companionship when we’re alone. We know it’s only the illusion of another person sitting there, we’re not beta fish, but we get a small amount of satisfaction that there is either way. Mirrors also have a way of affirming our existence. It sounds silly, obviously we know we exist, but it was interesting to note how Kjerstin started to feel after some time, almost doubting that because she couldn’t see herself, she wasn’t really there. She could only see other people.

The biggest message I got out of this book though was not that she suddenly started feeling physically beautiful – she was forced to focus more on her emotions, deep within herself, and her loved ones around her, those outside of herself, as opposed to the body in between. She learned to trust those around her more because she relied on them to make sure that she didn’t, say, have a booger hanging out of her nose, and she learned to pay more attention to her emotional self-esteem rather than her appearance. She didn’t feel beautiful because she knew she looked beautiful – she felt beautiful because she felt loved by those around her, and that’s what really mattered. Her appearance still caused her anxiety, especially as she had no idea what she looked like, but she gradually learned not to care. It simply wasn’t important. I think that’s a very valuable thing to take away here. Some people are ugly. Yep. While it’s nice to want to make ugly people, or yourself, feel physically beautiful, I felt the most important thing here was to learn that it just plain doesn’t matter. It’s such a tiny part of life. What matters is your mind, and your soul, and your relationships. Looks are a thing, but they’re not anywhere near being the most important thing. We have so much more to get our validation and happiness from. And while learning these important lessons it was nice to hear about these soul-searching thoughts and every day experiences from a very educated, sympathetic, real-life person. This wasn’t philosophy, it was real. We get to read all of her insecurities, all her learning experiences, and how all her relationships evolve. It was enlightening and it was fun. This was a great book, but it was great in a way that I didn’t expect. I feel that it could easily prove to be an important book for a whole lot of us, women, men, or anybody else.

“Everybody is Just Jealous!” : Trying to Debunk Beauty

Being attractive is obviously not such a bad thing. But it’s not always a good thing either. While I strongly believe the whole “Everybody is jealous of me!” statement is a pathetic excuse not to have to look at your own flaws, there are definitely some issues here worth looking into. Like everything in life, it looks different from different angles, and having a better understanding of it can help you both navigate different social situations and avoid using it as “the anesthetic used to ease the pain of stupidity.”

Like I said, whether it’s true or not, leaning on this means that you won’t be looking at the flaws you do have, easily turning you into the sort of arrogant jerk who actually deserves such treatment. It’s for this reason that I never recommend it. Ever. If you catch yourself saying this, unless you have absolute proof (the person told you so and you took it in the CORRECT CONTEXT) know that you WILL be ridiculed later on.

Oh, and a word about that context. Someone might tell you they are jealous of an opportunity you have, or of your house, or some other part of your life, but this does not mean they are jealous of you as a person and/or your whole life. Again, keep the arrogance in check, please.

Nevertheless, this sort of thing can happen, and it’s important to know why. Women are naturally programmed to compete with each other. It’s a primitive (yes, PRIMITIVE) instinct used for snagging a man, much like the douchebags in a club who beat each other up because one of them looked at the other’s woman. It’s easy for them to see each other as a threat, even when such a notion is beyond silly. This is where we get the tag line, “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” Have you ever done this? If so, it’s important to remember the same things you might want to remember when it comes to an “ugly” person; that they can’t help it, and it says nothing about the person’s personality, intelligence, or intentions. Just because you see a beautiful woman does not mean you can jump to the conclusion that she’s going to be a bitch to you and steal your boyfriend. If she does, it’s more likely a result of her bad personality. So if you must hate someone, at least make sure it’s for a better reason than “she has prettier hair than me,” and if another girl hates you, maybe don’t assume so quickly that it’s because she just wants your shoes. More than likely, you’re coming across as somewhat unpleasant. Work on that, I promise you’ll see a difference.

On the other side of the coin, psychologists tell us that we often judge a person’s personality (I’m guessing this is more likely to be a person of the opposite sex, but not always) based on their looks. If someone looks good, we automatically assume they are a good person. You can see this theory in action on the episode of “What Would You Do?” where they have various people stealing a bike to see which of them will be confronted. Unsurprisingly, the beautiful woman was not. Instead, she was judged to be the owner of the bike who may have just lost her key. So this brings me to two points. First of all, just because you are attractive does not mean you get to be a jerk, because you assume you won’t as likely be perceived as one. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior. Beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside just equals ugly, plain and simple. The second point is that just because you’re a hot chick and guys are nice to you, does not always (Ok, it does SOMETIMES) mean that they want to sleep with you. On South Park when Bebe got boobs, the boys didn’t even know what sex was yet; they all started thinking she was “really, really smart.” I’m sure if they were older it wouldn’t have gone down quite that way, but the theory still stands. There is a good chance that they just see an attractive girl and therefor are also seeing a girl with attractive qualities. They’ll be more likely to actually want to sleep with you, and STAY with you if you try to live up to those qualities.

I guess this can all be summed up by saying that you should never jump to conclusions about a person, whether it be what kind of person they are based on what they look like, or their motives towards you based on what you look like – or THINK you look like for that matter. We are a species that judges people. If we must do this, let’s judge each other for our personalities, not our bodies.

Book Review: Goddess, The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe

I don’t normally read books this long, not because I can’t handle them but it’s hard for something to keep my attention for that long. Indeed this book lost my attention towards the end and I put it off for the following FIVE months before I finished it. I hadn’t even realized it had been that long, but it certainly explains why I so rarely venture into a book over 400 pages.
In the end, I did it because I was fascinated by the subject matter, Marilyn Monroe. She’s a one-dimensional icon, and she was a very 3-dimensional enigmatic human being. This book does a lot to scratch under the surface of her life and her psyche.
The most interesting part was one I had to wait for, in which new information and theories are given regarding her mysterious death. It goes beyond what we’ve all been hearing our whole lives and reveals some truly shocking statements from those involved, all extremely well supported with extensive research. But I won’t spoil it for you.
Above all what we learn in this book is that Marilyn Monroe was human. She had problems just as normal as the worst of us, and lead a life that was in reality far from glamorous.
It’s one of the many secrets in this book, that no matter who you are or your station in life, you’re still just human. We all have our dark and troubled sides, and we all put on a face for the camera. So maybe this is why we feel we can maybe be just as beautiful as glamorous as she was, because in many ways we already are.

The Trends of Trends

We all know that styles change over the years, over the decades, and over the centuries. We get tired of certain styles and get anxious to try out new and more innovative ones all the time. But have you ever wondered WHY certain things go in and out of style? Have you ever looked to the styles of the past and saw the reasons behind them? I’ve noticed a few trends about trends, and I’m finding them very interesting.

Big shoulder pads. Of course you’re thinking about the 80s now, the “power suit” that so represents this time. This however wasn’t the first time big shoulders were in. Before that it was in the 1940s, when big shoulders were in style partially to balance out elaborate hairstyles. Sound familiar? The other reason they were in was because at that time women were entering the work force en masse because of the war, something that can also be said for the 80s version of the phenomenon, minus the war of course. On a simplistic level, you could say that whenever women start going to work in droves, large shouldered silhouettes will appear. On a deeper level, this leads us to explore how fashion becomes an expression of our desire to be seen as men’s equals in the work force.

So, feminism and women’s rights has an influence on fashion, right? Let’s look at another example. In the 1950s it was generally considered that a woman’s place was in the home. This was a time of full swing skirts and feminine details. Later, in the 1960s, the sexual revolution began, and so did the era of the mini skirt, and the end of the girdle era. Jeans became popular for more than just the most casual of situations. Unisex hairstyles appeared. While I’m tempted to say that feminism killed glamour, it’s certainly a more complex issue than that. Let me only suggest that we can have both.

The 60s and 70s saw a huge change in clothes, and in its simplest terms you could describe this as rebellion. It was rebellion from what was previously expected and even required, and part of a huge social change. That wasn’t the first time social and style revolutions happened either. Think about the regency period. Before that, in the 18th century elaborate court clothes signified wealth and rank. Women wore huge panniers, men and women alike wore Big Hair, and there was no shortage of extremes.

Once the American Revolution, and even more so the French Revolution hit, these styles became representative of a dated monarchy. To dress this way pretty much meant you thought you were better than everybody else. Now this was a time of equals, and again, of rebellion. The regency period saw a return to simple silhouettes reminiscent of ancient Greece, and the older generation complained that women were running around “in their nightgowns”.

This happened again on a smaller scale during the recent recession. Anyone seen dressed ultra glamorous and ultra expensive was seen as being insensitive to those suffering from unemployment. Celebrities in particular were a target just as the royalty of the 18th century was. The word “recessionista” came into use, and being thrifty was finally something to be proud of.

So now it’s easy to see how major social change will influence a major change in fashion, and one fashion extreme will often lead us to the other end of the spectrum. There are many more examples. 80s glam vs. early 90s grunge, the Victorian age vs. the flapper style of the 1920s, and the simplicity of the Regency period vs. the poof of the 1840s. I could go on, if I did my research.
It’s fascinating, isn’t it? I want to go further into explaining the styles of the 20s through the 50s in another article, but for now it’s interesting to think about the social reasons why we wear what we do. There’s certainly a lot more to do with it than simply what we think looks good at one time or another. Of course we can’t really have an opinion about what looks good without there being some sort of reason behind it. Fashion really does say a lot about who we are in the world.

Girdle Zone

Being heavily into corsets, I’ve never been particularly interested in girdles. I guess I’ve just always thought of them as a lesser kind of corset, a “corset light”, if you will. Nevertheless the thought of getting one has crossed my mind. Not everyone wants to be bound down to 20 inches at all times, but that hourglass shape is incredibly addicting nonetheless. I just don’t feel right without it.
So it was when I was browsing a message board dedicated to vintage lifestyles and clothing that I found mention of this website, Girdle Zone. I had to have a look.
This site is a lot bigger than I would ever have thought a site about girdles could be. But the fact is there is a lot to do with history, romance, politics, and our senses of self as women that’s all tied up in girdles and the way we perceive them among other notable kinds of underwear. I was immediately fascinated by all the psychology that goes into girdles, and I was pleased to see that they really do hold just as much mental power over us as corsets do.
So you may find that a girdle is a powerful and extremely pleasurable and sexy expression of your femininity, a protective exo-skeleton that grants a feeling of power, or you may feel that you associate them with a repressed pre-feminist time. Either way, you can’t look into the subject without having some sort of emotional reaction. I’ll let you decide for yourselves how you feel about these charged garments.