With all the horrifying disasters and challenges we face amid the pandemic, not everyone can simply choose to be happy.
In the early days of the pandemic, everyone lived in extreme fear, panic, and anxiety that in fact, still resonates until the present. Scrolling through social media, we see many posts of phrases such as “we are in this together,” “stay positive,” and “it’s not been all bad.” While these may seem wholesome and posted with good intentions, the more people experience disasters and losses, either of a job or a loved one from COVID-19, the more these optimistic statements become unfavorable and insensitive. This toxic positivity oversimplifies and overgeneralizes that no matter how difficult a situation is, people can always choose to be happy. So, how to stop carrying such a destructive attitude? Here are ways to identify signs and what you can do instead to instill peace and bring comfort amid these times.
Living in challenging and painful times make it natural to get overwhelmed with awful news and stories one after the other. There is nothing wrong with staying off social media to take a break, or even sharing posts that make us smile or feel warm. However, there is danger in the continuous posting of positive quotes or statements that cross the line of invalidating the misery of the rest. While the intention is to encourage and instill hope, sometimes, these compulsively force optimism towards the upset or grieving person. This attempts to minimize internal discomfort which is in fact, harmful.
Happiness or gratitude are not the only feelings and experiences one should have. Sadness, anxiety, loneliness, frustration, despair, anger, and mourning are all part of being human. Suppressing these may cause more psychological distress. Thus, it is essential to feel these emotions and process them at our pace and in our time. We all have different ways of coping, after all. Thrusting these “everything will be fine” and “smile; you don’t own all the problems in the world” to our faces is never healthy for our well-being.
No one is extensively prepared for the tremendous impact of natural disasters and a pandemic. There will always be surprising negative effects no matter how we think we are equipped to face it. Yet even when the disasters didn’t happen to some, they continue to post their travel photos or snippets of their momentous occasions like anniversaries and birthdays with off-fitting captions, all while there are travel risks and an ongoing typhoon.
Although there is nothing wrong with being happy and celebrating special days, be mindful of your audience. There are individuals and families who underwent or currently going through a traumatizing experience of wading through a flooded neighborhood or even mourning the death of a loved one due to exposure to COVID-19. Definitely, these tragedies are no fault of those who love sharing their celebratory and travel photos. However, these become insensitive, especially in these terrible times.
Not everyone has the privilege of going out, of having access to tests and medicines when they get sick or catch a viral infection. Always remember to be cautious in posting and captioning these photos with “positive vibes” or even equating quarantine into a “prison” when you have access to your basic needs and even your guilty pleasures. You can always read the energy of the room and gauge when it will be best to post and publish with propriety.
From the destruction of homes that a typhoon or an earthquake left behind to rescue operations from a fire or flood, some couldn’t help but comment on the resilience of calamity victims. Photos of rescuing their pets, building a makeshift home, or attempting to restore their neighborhood spread around. Yet some romanticize their misery to the point of praising victims for their ‘strength’ when they are captured smiling or helping each other out.
Resilience in the Philippine context is never commendable, given our long-time despair and suffering from living under an unresponsive and inefficient national government. Rather than responding to the victims’ needs, it is easier to laud their resourcefulness and the ability to smile in the face of a calamity—so much for being the nation’s public servants.
Given all these instances, there may be a thin line between instilling hope and toxic positivity. So, what it takes is discerning our intentions and actions, keeping in mind to be sensitive and not to dismiss anyone else’s feelings. If it ever happened by accident, a sincere apology and mindful actions in the future are acceptable.