When does a good attitude become toxic positivity?

Being upbeat is one thing, but if you're supporting friends through tough times, glossing over challenges with cheeriness can make those who are struggling feel worse.

(CNN)Between sleepless nights, diapers and feeding times, having small children at home could leave Priscilla Goins feeling exhausted. She loved her kids, but it was a lot.

"I would sometimes say 'I just want a minute to myself,'" Goins, of Knoxville, Tennessee, said. "People would be like: 'Oh, you'll miss it when they're older.'" And that made her so mad.
It's not that she disagreed. But in those moments, Goins wasn't looking for a reality check. Instead, she wanted acknowledgement that the exhaustion she was going through was legitimate. Her friends' responses sometimes left her feeling bad for wanting that alone time.
    "I still want that minute to myself," she recalled feeling. "But now I think that's wrong."
      A focus on upbeat thinking, while shunting challenging and difficult experiences to the side, is what some experts call "toxic positivity." Goins came across the term recently and was curious if others had similar encounters.
      She tweeted out a simple question in late August: "Y'all ever encountered toxic positivity?"
      With observations about parenting, writing and daily life, Goins' tweets generally garner a handful of favorites. This one got more than 201,000. For many people, it seemed, her question struck a raw nerve.
        Maybe it's the pandemic that has come to define 2020, ushering in lockdowns, job losses and some serious mental health issues. People around the world are struggling right now, which experts say is a natural, healthy response to these extraordinary times.
        And the last thing someone in crisis wants to hear is that it's all for the best.

        What's wrong with being positive all the time?

        It's not that being cheerful is a bad thing. A positive attitude can be a gift to those around you, said Jamie Long, a clinical psychologist in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but it shouldn't take the place of listening thoughtfully to others' experiences.
        "When you are choosing to look at situations from one perspective — in this case a positive perspective — you are very likely to dismiss or minimize an authentic experience," Long explained. That's toxic positivity, which is what Goins received when she was looking for a bit of commiseration about the challenges of parenting young children.