Toxic positivity

Positivity and wellness versus reality

By: Tylie Dibene, a senior majoring in justice studies and a Student Success coach

Thanks to the world of social media and wellness influencers, we as a society have created a very specific idea surrounding what wellness and positivity should look like, and the steps we need to take to get there. 

We have heard it time and time again: “look good, feel good,” “you are your own worst enemy,” “manifest your future” and the list goes on.

Although this mindset may work for some, what if it doesn’t work for you? 

Here is the truth that we all need to hear: Reality is not an Instagram caption, and it truly is no one's business what your wellness choices are. What you post to your social media does not define you and posting how you’re practicing wellness doesn’t invalidate the wellness you practice offline. Practicing wellness is individualistic and as the era of social media continues, we have forgotten the beauty of genuine human experiences. Now don’t get me wrong — if posting to your social media makes you happy and you want to do it for you, then who am I to tell you that that isn’t your form of wellness? The point is, it is important to make sure you are making decisions that are important to you

This was something that I struggled with a lot recently, especially going into my senior year here at ASU. I felt as if I needed to do all the wellness things in order to be successful and happy with myself. I became so consumed by the mainstream idea of wellness that I failed to recognize I was not being well or true to myself at all. It was only when I understood this and accepted that I don’t need to follow a strict wellness lifestyle that I actually started to feel better about myself.

Wellness and positivity are great characteristics to have, but only focusing on how they should look based on what is trending could lead you into a very dangerous and toxic thinking trap.

So back to my original question. What if the classic “live, laugh, be well” solutions aren’t something you can get down with? What are your alternatives? 

  1. Do what makes you genuinely happy. This is so incredibly important when it comes to your overall wellness. If you are doing things just because you feel like you're supposed to based off of what you saw someone else do, not necessarily because it brings you joy, are you doing what is healthiest for you? For example, if an influencer posts that they are following a strict dieting routine and promoting “magic gummies” that are supposed to help you be well, how many of us are tempted to try it without researching the product? This not only helps feed into the potentially toxic side of wellness, but it fails to realize that not everyone may take well to the product that is being promoted and it could produce unrealistic expectations. 

  2. Look into your campus resources. ASU has an abundance of resources that can be personalized for you. Some of our resources include ASU Counseling Services and the Student Success Center. Both are offering virtual and in-person appointments, and any ASU student has access to meet with a counselor or coach. Additionally, if you are wanting to find wellness in a more physical sense, tap into the Sun Devil Fitness Complex for both on-campus and virtual experiences. 

  3. Be kind to yourself. Once you’ve realized where your wellness is at and the areas you want to improve, know that it is OK to want to keep bettering yourself. No one is perfect, and I will be the first to say we all struggle with our wellness journey. The most important thing is to remember to be kind to yourself, even if you don’t reach every goal or milestone you set for yourself. The fact that you’re doing your best and caring for yourself is what matters. 

Your wellness journey does not need to look like an Instagram story — be your own wellness influencer and recognize when you're scratching the surface of toxic positivity.

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