Since the dawn of social media, encouraging and optimistic motivational quotes have cheered us up whenever we need them. Our Instagram and TikTok feeds do their best to raise our self-esteem by telling us: You got this! You’re amazing! Seize the day!
But, do you think this trend always succeeds in spreading positivity? In some cases, those inspirational quotes might actually over-generalize the problem and stop us from feeling any negative emotions. This is when, instead of motivational, they become toxic. It’s important to think critically about the things you read online – the world isn’t only black or white. What are some toxic quotes you should never follow? Here are 4 of them!
“If you really love someone, never let them go!”
In the sea of love advice, this quote seems to resurface quite often. And if we were in a rom-com, it would sound like perfect advice! Just think of your favorite romantic movie… Two main characters, madly in love, go through some hardships and fight for their love! They never let each other get away and continue living happily ever after. But… the real world might not be so romantic. There may be some cases when the two lovebirds simply don’t go well together. When that happens, not letting someone go even if you’re clearly not compatible makes your relationship toxic and codependent.
Codependency is defined by the American Psychological Association as “a dysfunctional relationship pattern in which an individual is psychologically dependent on or controlled by another person.”
In a romantic relationship, you may commit all your time and efforts into this relationship, feel like you depend on each other for happiness, and lose a sense of self. Licensed psychologist Dr. Renee Exelbert said for VeryWellMind that “this dynamic has also been referred to as a ‘relationship addiction’ because people with codependency often form relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, or abusive.” And even if deep down both of you know it’s toxic, you just can’t do what’s best – let each other go.
“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best!”
Everyone has their bad sides. It’s normal to not be a perfect partner 24/7. But after the bad days are gone, it’s our responsibility to work on ourselves and correct the behavior that we know is wrong.
Well, not everyone is ready to admit their mistakes and fix their bad behavior. That’s where the quote “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best” comes to play. Do you think that this quote encourages those who say it to avoid taking responsibility for their actions?
This might be a sign of narcissistic partners. According to a 2021 paper published in the journal Psychiatria Danubina, people with narcissistic personality disorder “believe they are superior and unique compared to others, and they expect to be recognized and treated as such”. They think they’re the best, perfect partners. They might be reluctant to admit their flaws, but even if they do, they don’t believe it’s such a big deal. So, if someone says you should tolerate them at their worst… you might want to rethink that relationship.
“Don’t take no for an answer!”
Persistence is, naturally, important for success. Would the Harry Potter books ever have been published if JK Rowling took no for an answer and gave up trying after getting rejected by publishers? Probably not! But when it comes to relationships, romantic or platonic, some may take this quote a bit too far – right into the territory of crossing people’s boundaries.
Psychotherapist Sharon Martin wrote on her webpage that boundaries are imaginary lines that separate you from other people. They separate your feelings, needs, and responsibilities from others and also ensure that others know what’s acceptable to you. And when someone won’t take no for an answer, they are actually stepping over your boundaries.
A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, found that these people are often in positions of power, like our superiors, or people with narcissistic personalities who often manipulate and control others. This shows clear disrespect for others, so when it comes to their boundaries, no should probably be taken as a definite answer!
“Positive vibes only!”
Would you say you’re an optimist? If your glass is always half full, you might think “positive vibes only” is a great advice to live by. And if it works for you, that’s awesome! But in some cases, the emphasis on only allowing yourself to be positive, and completely ignore the negative vibes, might be detrimental to your mental health.
Sadness is an emotion that has been around since the beginning of our species – it is one of the primary emotions that makes us human. Everyone gets sad sometimes, and suppressing that sadness might not be the best idea in the long run. A 2018 study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that even if some emotions aren’t really pleasant, we still need to feel them and deal with them openly and honestly. That’s what brings us closer to acceptance and psychological health.
So when we’re bombarded by a “positive vibes only” attitude, we’re actually met with toxic positivity. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Specialist Kendra Cherry wrote for VeryWellMind that this approach to life not only discards all negative emotions, but also denies you the support you need to cope. So remember, negative vibes are not so bad from time to time!
So, do you agree that these quotes might be toxic in certain situations? Or maybe you know some other phrases that make you roll your eyes as soon as you see them on your screen? We’d love it if you shared your thoughts in the comments! And if nothing comes to mind, check out this video for 12 MORE phrases that are actually toxic! Thanks for reading and remember: you matter. Until next time!
APA dictionary of psychology. (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://dictionary.apa.org/codependency
Bulger, C. A., Matthews, R. A., & Hoffman, M. E. (2007). Work and personal life boundary management: Boundary strength, work/personal life balance, and the segmentation-integration continuum. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12(4), 365–375. https://doi.org/10.1037/1076-8922.214.171.1245
Cherry, K. (2020, December 31). Why toxic positivity can be so harmful. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-toxic-positivity-5093958
Ford, B. Q., Lam, P., John, O. P., & Mauss, I. B. (2018). The psychological health benefits of accepting negative emotions and thoughts: Laboratory, diary, and longitudinal evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115(6), 1075–1092. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000157
Gould, W. R. (2020, August 31). What is codependency? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-codependency-5072124#toc-signs-of-codependency
Martin, S. (2018, April 24). What are boundaries and why do I need them? Live Well with Sharon Martin. https://www.livewellwithsharonmartin.com/what-are-boundaries/
Stranieri, G., De Stefano, L., & Greco, A. G. (2021). Pathological narcissism. Psychiatria Danubina, 33(9), 35–40.