Avoiding Toxic Positivity

Avoiding Toxic Positivity

Hi team! It’s your friend, Mary, with The I in Team Series, where you can find, be, and build your positive influence. A few weeks ago, IA’s Gratitude Group discussed toxic positivity and its effects. Toxic positivity is the belief and pressure to ignore negative or painful emotions, putting a positive spin on even the hardest life events. Toxic positivity often leads to emotional repression, forcing individuals to believe that they should feel ashamed for feeling negative emotions or like nobody understands them. Avoiding toxic positivity can be beneficial for you and people around you. While it’s okay to have a positive attitude and outlook, ignoring the other side of emotions can be detrimental to your health.

Internal Toxic Positivity

Internal toxic positivity is when you don’t allow yourself to feel and accept your emotions, often telling yourself to stay positive. This is typically due to shame for feeling the emotion. Emotions are part of the human experience, so to avoid internal toxic positivity, follow these three steps.

Be Transparent

Being transparent with yourself about what you are feeling means having enough respect and self-compassion to allow yourself to feel. When you’re honest with yourself about your emotions, you make it easier to get rid of those emotions. Additionally, you can also weaken their hold the more often you are honest with yourself about them. By acknowledging their presence, you avoid emotional repression.


Knowing when you are feeling emotional is typically easy, but classifying those emotions isn’t always easy. For those who have been repressing their emotions, emotional identification becomes more difficult as they are typically classified as the highest-ranking emotions (anger, sadness, happiness). Additionally, it’s always possible there are multiple emotions present at one time. This can, again, make it even more difficult for those repressing their emotions to categorize the emotions they feel. One tool that can be used to aid in validating and identifying emotions is an emotion wheel. Emotions are valid, but the more you understand them the less power they have.

Have Empathy

Empathy and self-compassion are imperative to avoiding toxic positivity. You may feel both grief and happiness at the same time, and that is normal. Having empathy for yourself means realizing that emotions are part of the human experience and that you are allowed to have them. Empathy encompasses validating, identifying, and understanding your emotions, but with yourself.

External Toxic Positivity

Avoiding being toxically positive with others may be difficult if you are toxically positive with yourself. While you work on being less toxic with yourself, consider using those same (or similar) tactics with others. Below are three steps to avoid toxic positivity when interacting with others.


While being transparent with yourself requires you to listen, you also need to listen to others. By listening to others when they are describing their emotional state, make them feel acknowledged, heard, and validated by repeating back to them what you hear. For example, “I hear that you are experiencing immense grief right now,” or, “It sounds like that event made you feel very angry.” Don’t offer unsolicited advice, but if you want clarity on what they are looking for, ask them if they want advice or someone to empathize with them.

Have Empathy

Empathizing with others is a lot like empathizing with yourself. Showing empathy means being able to understand other’s emotions and demonstrating that understanding through some kind of support. Having empathy for the bad parts of being human is okay. Yin and Yang come from ancient Chinese philosophy and methodology, representing complementary forces, like good and bad. The symbol for Yin and Yang denotes there is some good in the bad and some bad in the good. Having empathy for others (and yourself) means accepting this fact.


To avoid toxic positivity, you have to change your language. Toxic positivity often sounds like, “good vibes only,” “everything happens for a reason,” or, “it could be worse.” These are invalidating statements that can make people feel shame for feeling emotions. Emotions are not something to be shameful of. Replace these phrases with, “all vibes welcome,” “life is full of peaks and valleys,” or, “you aren’t alone in this experience.”


While positivity serves us greatly in many regards, when it becomes toxic positivity it becomes detrimental to our mental health. Overcoming toxic positivity and emotional repression is not an easy task, but it is possible. It takes willpower and habit building to rewrite your mind’s natural way of thinking. To continue spreading your positive influence, you must have compassion and empathy for the spectrum of human emotions, both with yourself and those you influence. Once you do so, life will, ironically, become more positive.

The Influence of a Simple Gesture

The Influence of a Simple Gesture

Hi team! It’s your friend, Mary, with The I in Team Series where you can find, be, and build your positive influence. I have a question for you: Are simple gestures a thing of the past? I’m thinking handwriting a thank you card or note for someone you haven’t seen in a while, leaving an encouraging letter on a co-worker’s desk, holding the door open for a stranger, or even simply smiling at someone on the street. It seems that some individuals have forgotten the positive influence a simple gesture can bring. If you want to be a positive influence, consider bringing simple gestures back into your life after reading the below.

Slow Down

One of the easiest justifications for not performing or creating a positive act for another person is that we are simply too busy. Life is fast paced. We become caught up in our own worlds and next thing you know we’ve missed someone’s birthday or an important milestone. Being a positive influence through simple gestures never has to take a lot of your time, but it will require you to slow down and be more present. Do you understand the influence that small actions have on the overall perception of who you are as a human being

When you slow down just enough to spark positivity in someone else’s life, whether you know them or not, you increase your positive perception in their minds. You may have a perception of yourself that is positive, but the perception you hold of yourself is rooted in your world view. Others perceive you quite differently; that’s why some people love you and others dislike you. Furthermore, if you spark positivity in someone’s life, you are giving them some of your energy to be used elsewhere. Your influence ripples out from you. If you set the example, slow down, and offer sincere, positive, simple gestures, others may follow you. This creates a chain reaction of positive events, something we need more of.

Positive Influence

By becoming the catalyst for positivity and overall positive influence, you create a reputation for yourself. Not only do you create a reputation for making others feel good, but they will most likely want to be around you and develop a relationship. When you can uplift others with your positive influence, you not only show others who you truly are but you, again, set the standard for behavior. While not everyone is the same, meaning not everyone’s positive influence looks the same, this still sets the precedent that we should try to instill positivity in others’ lives, whatever that may mean to us and however we may do that. Using simple gestures to demonstrate positivity takes minimal time and energy out of your day and means the world to others.

Don’t Take Others for Granted

Often, when we forget about simple gestures, like saying please and thank you, or hello and goodbye, people may feel taken for granted or forgotten. It’s easy to take things personally, and others may not be so easy to let you off the hook for making them feel undervalued. Taking others for granted, whether it be the tasks they perform, the energy they bring, or even their daily routine, can cause negative influence. Respecting others’ time and the value they bring to the team can only bring positive influence and make them feel like they belong. Remember your influence when the fast-pace of life tries to force you to take those around you for granted.

Simple Gesture Ideas

simple gesture ideas


We could all use a little more positivity in our lives, and one way we can do that is by performing simple gestures. Don’t mistake this as a giving only exercise; by giving positivity to others and seeing how your positive influence affects them, that brings you back positivity, too. All that is needed to create a positive experience for yourself and your teams through the use of simple gestures is to slow down, remember your influence, refuse to take others for granted, and choose one thing per day on the list above. Can you imagine a world where people slowed down just enough to care about how they influence others? I can, and it’s a much more beautiful world. We can create that together. It starts today, with you. Are you ready to be a positive influence?

Take the High Road

Take the High Road

Hi team! It’s your friend, Mary, with The I in Team Series where you can find, be, and build your positive influence. This week, I want to focus our attention on what it means to take the high road. Taking the high road is subjective to each of us; at The I in Team Series, we believe the high road is when you take the path that helps the most people and hurts the least amount of people. Sometimes taking the high road means leaving someone or something behind so you can continue to grow in your positive influence. It can mean swallowing your need to speak when the timing isn’t right or being patient while you give someone an extra five minutes of your time. Taking the high road is always taking the right road, but you must understand what that path means and how to find it.

Finding the High Road

The high road is always the right road, but sometimes finding it can be difficult. First, you must weigh the paths you have in front of you. Ask if these choices, and subsequent decisions, influence anyone other than you (most decisions do), and then ask which choice will produce the most positive influence. When taking the high road, remember to put yourself first if the decision will influence you the most. We believe that in order to give people your most positive influence, you must live life for yourself and put yourself first. Some may find this selfish; some will say this is taking the low road. Taking care of yourself so you can have a positive influence is anything but selfish. So, when considering the high road, you will need to take yourself into account first, and then evaluate which decision will positively influence the most people.

Making decisions can be difficult when you don’t know what the outcome will be, but you have to trust yourself to weigh the pros and cons and analyze the information you have. Be diligent and seek out more information and trust your instincts. Ask people you can trust for their opinion if you need an external source to weigh in. You may find that one day, you are walking on what you believe is the high road, but you may find yourself standing alone.

Walking the High Road

Walking the high road can be a lonely road, as most people find it difficult to take the high road. You may become unpopular and shunned by peers for the decisions you make in life, but if you know that it is your high road then you must stay true to yourself. Let’s digress to a story about a man named Nicolaus Copernicus, who was a mathematician and astronomer in the 1500s, and the first to suggest that the Earth and all the planets revolved around the sun, rather than the Earth being the center of our solar system. He made several great strides in astronomy, including correctly hypothesizing why planets go into retrograde.

However, this was at a time when everyone believed that the Earth was the center of the universe and that everything moved around a stagnant Earth. Copernicus was utterly rejected by society, thrown in prison, denounced by his faith, and all but killed for his ideas (which, most, were later proven to be true). At no point did Copernicus waiver from his findings, and he spent his life trying to help others see the truth about our world. He died being mocked and shunned by society and faith. We now know that the Earth does in fact revolve around the Sun. This is one of my favorite stories of human strength and will. It would have been easy to retract his statements to be accepted by society and his church, but he refused. He knew what was right and he died trying to teach others. There are high roads that you will walk alone, but you must keep empathy in your heart for those on the low road.

Observing the Low Road

Choose curiosity over judgement. Do not judge those who cannot see the high road, be curious as to why they can’t or why they refuse to walk it with you. Having empathy for those who are walking the low road is another form of taking the high road. Like Copernicus, the best you can do is speak what you believe to be true from your perspective. Educate others and encourage them to be curious. Do not view others as being judgmental when they ask questions in a tone that questions your position; appreciate that they are looking for knowledge and view them as curious, even if they can’t control their tone. Being on the high road means holding empathy for those who are not with you, whether they choose not to be or don’t know how. Just because others haven’t joined you on the high road yet, doesn’t mean they won’t. Taking the high road is the mark of a leader.


Taking the high road is always taking the right road. Whether it is to benefit yourself or to help others, your high road is always right. When faced with an opportunity to take the high road or the low road, envision your hands with one up and one down; the one up is the high road, the road that will bring the most positive influence to you or others, and the hand that is down is the low road, the road you take when you are not your best self (most likely to induce feelings of guilt later on). Taking the high road may seem scary, difficult, or impossible at times, but if Copernicus could do it in the 1500s, you can do it today.

Prepare for the Future, Focus on the Now

Prepare for the Future, Focus on the Now

Hi team, it’s your friend Mary! During one of my meditation sessions to help alleviate anxiety, my guide discussed the importance of staying in the now and focusing on the present moment. She said that if we focus on the now, we will always be ready for the future, stating that most anxiety comes to us as we anticipate the future or review the past. This has helped me immensely and my hope is to explain how we can slow down and get into our now. As Brian wrote in Find the “I” in Team, “Live in the present; the most important moment in your life is the present moment. It is in the present that all things are learned, lost, and forgotten.”

The Past

The past only serves to teach us. Reflecting on the past is encouraged but becoming trapped in an illusion of reflections doesn’t help you learn or grow. The past can trick our minds into believing we are reliving the experience again, coupled with the same emotions we felt as the memory occurred, but it’s only a reflection of what once was. Don’t let your mind fool you into thinking this is real again or that you have to observe the memory in the same state as it occurred. You can observe memories from afar, detached from their emotions, in order to learn and grow.

The best way to avoid this trap is to get ahead of it. When you start to feel your emotions rise as a memory comes to you, immediately question those emotions. Questioning the emotions tied to the past serves you by helping you learn from the experience in a more pragmatic way. Only you have the power to retrain your brain, but you can only do so if you do the work and that means getting ahead of your reactionary thoughts. Question what your mind tells you is reality because your mind is the only reality you live in. Your mind is the only trap you have, and it’s excellent at trapping you in negative or untrue thought patterns. What you tell yourself is what you will see. This is your reality and you’re in control.

The Future

We cannot control the future; we can only influence it. Dreaming of the future, planning, and being strategic are not the same as fretting about what is to come. If you are being deliberate in your thoughts, whether they be past or present, time is not wasted. However, concerning ourselves with how others will react to us, what others will think, or what may or may not happen to us or those around us in the future is time wasted when it causes unnecessary anxiety. We fret about the future because we fear we may not be ready to handle it. I promise you, that if you stay in the now, you will always be ready for the future. The future is now.

The Now

Yes, the future is now. And now. And now. And so on. Time is a social construct we use to stay organized and to make sense of this rock that we are on. There is no future. The only future is in your mind. There is no past. The only past is in your mind. There is only now. The future and past do not exist now, but the future and past can only exist now if you allow it to in  your mind. You only have the now, the present moment, to hold onto and view as reality. We easily become trapped in our minds with thoughts outside the present moment, but that isn’t real. It’s only real to us because we live inside our own created realities.

One of the best ways to focus on the now is to get out of your mind and into your body. Move your awareness to your heartbeat (that never stops, without you asking), your breath (that continues without consciously thinking “take a breath”), your blinking eyes, feel your extremities and wiggle your fingers and toes, or feel the roof of your mouth and taste what’s going on in there. Take long, slow, and deliberate deep breaths as you focus on moving your awareness from your mind down into your body. This feeling, this stillness, is your present moment. This is your now. Your only opportunity in life is to seize your now, whatever your now may bring.

Slow Down

Slowing down is something that we discuss redundantly at The I in Team Series, but it’s the most useful tool for any situation. We know that, in the heat of the moment, slowing down may seem impossible. To be honest, retraining your brain to stay focused on the now is difficult, but not impossible. You have to slow down, be deliberate with your thoughts and actions, and put effort towards slowing yourself down and being present.

Learn More: The Benefits of Slowing Down


I’ll be honest, staying in the present moment really isn’t easy. I’ve been working on this for five years and I can say with certainty that I’ve made progress, but I’m not yet where I want to be as I still deal with crippling anxiety and depression. It doesn’t help that we are coming out of a devastating pandemic that increased anxiety and depression fourfold in our country (USA). I will promise that staying in the present is worth it. Every time you interrupt your engrained thinking patterns, every time you pull yourself out of your mind, every time you TRY you are making progress. You can absolutely change your life and your way of thinking, but you need to give yourself permission. Encourage yourself and others to live in the present moment.

Dealing with the Communication Debt

Dealing with the Communication Debt

Hi team, Mary here! After almost a year of living in the pandemic, many of us are still finding ourselves burnt out, exhausted, and maybe even unmotivated. I’ve been asking myself how I can be feeling more burnt and stressed out than when the pandemic began, when I read an article discussing the communication debt. Communication debt isn’t a new concept, but it’s become much more severe as we have all entered working spaces that are far more digital than they once were.

Communication debt is, essentially, the negative emotions you feel when you are unable to respond to communications, whether they be emails, texts, direct messages, or even group chats. “Communication” refers to the various types of communication you receive throughout your day, and “debt” refers to the growing mound of responses you have to get to at some point. This can usually create feelings of anxiety or avoidance and can cause issues in productivity. Dealing with your personal communication debt will take some time, practice, and willpower. Below are our top tips for dealing with your communication debt.

Put the “No” in Notification

By this, I mean, turn off your notifications (I just couldn’t resist the catchy sub-header). You don’t always have to keep your notifications on. For me, it really disrupts my deep thought work if I see a message bubble pop up on my screen from Microsoft Teams or I hear an email come into my inbox. We discuss the issues of multitasking a lot on The I in Team Series, but even if you’re not intending to multitask you can experience the same issues of multitasking because of the communication debt. If you become distracted by a group thread, either on your phone personally or one you are included in at the office, that line of communication is forcing you to multitask as you either think of a way to respond or worry about having to respond to that later (adding a task to your to do list).

The best way to combat this issue is to silence your notifications! Utilize the technology you have to work with you and not against you. If you have children or those who depend on you for emergencies, set a special ringtone for them to go off only if they call you (and set this expectation that calls during business hours are for emergencies only). Use Do Not Disturb on your phone and anywhere else you can (I love DND on Teams). You don’t have to be available for everyone 24/7 and you shouldn’t be! This is where communicating healthy boundaries comes in.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting boundaries so that you can deal with communication debt more easily is better for everyone. When you set boundaries, you protect yourself and ensure you are getting what you need to be your best self. One example of a set boundary that is universal is the closed door. When someone’s door is closed, you know they are in Do Not Disturb mode. However, we don’t have the luxury of closing our door when we are all working from home and connected solely via technology. One way you can offset this is by either blocking time for yourself to answer emails and only answer emails during that time, or by blocking time for yourself to do deep mind work and then alerting everyone to those times. Be sure that if you block time for yourself to do deep mind work that you also set reminders for when that time block will end (or, ask someone to get you at a certain time).

Again, set the expectations you have with those around you. Healthy individuals will respect these boundaries and work with you to ensure all needs are taken care of on everyone’s terms. Sometimes you might have to sacrifice a little bit for the sake of your own comfort, but that’s okay! As long as those around you are doing their best to respect and acknowledge your boundaries, you are in good company. Plus, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is always encouraged to promote personal growth!


You might already have a system for tackling your communication debt, like zeroing out your inbox or unsubscribing from junk emails, but you’re always going to have more communications to respond to. Therefore, you need tactics to lessen the severity of the negative influence of the communication debt. First, you need to know yourself. Who are you and what do you need? Second, you need to love and respect yourself enough to set boundaries, including saying no to notifications. Finally, practice self-love. The world around us is becoming increasingly more demanding as we all work harder and longer days to keep up with that demand. If you practice self-love, know your worth, and strive to have a positive influence, you can tackle the negative effects of communication debt.