By December 15, 2021

5 Ways To Avoid the Toxic Positivity Trap as a Programmer

avoid toxic positivity programmerWhen working with other people, programmers, and most, if not all, software engineers will face a scenario called a toxic positivity trap that leaves them feeling like their work is not good enough. Toxic positivity is a term that describes how people view a happy and optimistic state as an always good thing.

Positive thinking can be used as a self-help tool, but it can also go overboard. When positive thinking turns into forced optimism, that's when problems start. The inner thoughts become clouded by this positivity, forcing people to see only the good in things and pushing away all negativity, which prevents looking at things objectively.

When in front of managers or clients, a programmer may tend to speak positively about everything related to their work even when something is wrong because they are afraid that if the client finds out the truth, they will lose trust in the programmer or could cause the programmer to lose their job. The intention is not always to be misleading, but the need to show only what is working can lead to a toxic positivity mindset.

In this article, programmers will find a few tips to deal with such toxic positivity that can affect their mental health and the whole job, in general. But first, let’s explore what toxic positivity is in a bit more detail.

What Is  Toxic Positivity?

Having positive thoughts is essential, especially when things aren’t going well for programmers to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, positive affirmations are not always relevant and don’t necessarily reflect reality. Learning how to let go of your ego is essential in order to learn from your mistakes instead of dwelling on them for eternity.

The feeling of needing to always feel positive is then referred to as toxic positivity. Toxic positivity forces you to ignore all negativity in the world and only see the good things.

However, positivity can be harmful when the person’s energy has overflooded with positivity in a way that isn’t natural, often causing more harm than good. Toxic positivity lets you over-generalize every situation through a happy and usually too calm perspective.

Positive thinking can go wrong when the actual situation needs a more realistic perspective than simple so-called motivational words. Forcing yourself to stay sunny during trying times can also have emotional repercussions—it’s OK to not always be cheerful.

So when people develop the tendency to be overly optimistic, they can be in denial. They will then invalidate their true feelings when facing challenging times, which derails them from taking action in solving the problem.

Now, on to those tips for how to avoid finding yourself stuck in the loop of toxic positivity.

Five Tips To Deal With the Programming Toxic Positivity Trap

1. Be Conscious of Your Emotions

Your emotional state can affect how you observe things happening around you, so stop what you are doing, take a deep breath, and become aware of your emotional state before reacting to anything or making any decisions.

The first way to deal with a positivity trap is to realize how you feel. When giving your opinions or educating others about a project, consider how you think about your working process and what could be improved. By thinking deeply before speaking, you might discover that sometimes it isn’t always about technical problems.

Sometimes, even when you are doing your work perfectly, your teammates don’t see it the way you do. There may be criticism and feedback along the way. What you need to do is not to be defensive when someone offers feedback.

You may also need their criticism to help you improve your work. Remember that everyone has their blind spot; only others can see it thoroughly. So be open with those suggestions, and embrace everything sincerely. After all, it’s all just business. Don’t take work-related feedback personally.

For example, if someone criticizes your work, it doesn’t mean that they’re attacking you. Look at it objectively, and ask yourself whether they have a point. You may need to embrace the negative aspects of your work to improve it.

2. Take Criticism Positively

avoid toxic positivity programmerReceiving feedback, constructive or not, from colleagues or senior developers is a common experience for programmers who practice coding. Feedback should be taken positively so that you can learn from it. There are a few things to remember when receiving feedback:

  • Feedback is given to help you improve, not to criticize you.
  • Feedback should be specific and actionable.
  • Feedback should be reviewed and considered objectively.

If you can keep these in mind, then you’re on the right track to accepting feedback. It’s very easy to get defensive when any kind of criticism is given; it’s natural for someone to get offended by negative comments. But don’t let your ego take over and stop you from listening to feedback. Remember that people are giving their opinions because they want you to succeed in what you’re doing.

A positive perspective of criticism can increase your skills and give you a fresh idea for your work. For example, if someone criticizes your work, you can think of it as an opportunity to learn what not to do in the future. Remember that everything is done for a reason; don’t blame anyone or yourself for it. Instead, be conscious of your feelings. Understand that nothing is personal at work.

3. Don’t Aim for Perfection

Of course, we should strive for perfection and have high standards for ourselves. But we can’t expect everyone to have the same expectations of quality of work. Aiming for perfection can be very demotivating for people, especially if they don’t meet your high standards.

This is where toxic positivity comes in and ruins everything. You set impossible goals for yourself and get upset when you don’t achieve them. It’s essential to be realistic with your goals and expectations.

Don’t aim for perfection, but aim for improvement. You will get more satisfied just by doing your best work and striving for improvement, which comes from your inner motivation to build something meaningful for society rather than getting perfectionist with your code.

4. Don’t Think Negatively

One of the major reasons developers feel unhappy while they are working on projects with other team members is negative thinking about other people or things around them.

If you find yourself in a negative thought pattern, try to work through it and understand where these feelings come from. Remember that developing software doesn’t mean building within your own world but collaborating with programmers and building on ideas and concepts together. So how do we do this?

Just present your idea to other team members, discuss with them and find ways to use their concepts for your own world. Meaning, it is not the time to show off your ego, but instead try to learn something out of other people’s experience or knowledge—this is a good time to also remember to be conscious of your emotions. The collaboration will increase your efficiency in a short period of time, since you can incorporate the discussions you had with others into your own work/projects.

5. Surround Yourself With a Healthy, Positive Energy

There’s a saying that every programmer should be thinking about quitting their job. Most companies are toxic environments that may drain the life out of a good programmer. There is no point in dying slowly at a place that doesn’t make programmers happy while providing a salary.

However, quitting may not be everyone’s solution. If you’re currently struggling with a toxic work environment, it’s essential to surround yourself with healthy and positive energy. This could be friends, family, or other programmers who can provide a positive outlook on life.

It’s hard to find the motivation to keep going when working in an unhealthy environment. But if you can find people who will support you, it’ll be much easier to get through tough times.

In the end, toxic positivity can be very harmful to your career. It can lead to unrealistic expectations, negative thoughts, and lack of motivation. If you can avoid these things, you’ll be on the right track to having a successful career.


Toxic positivity can affect everyone, including programmers. It’s a common topic among developers, and many people have faced this issue at some point during their career. The best thing to do when dealing with toxic positivity is to surround yourself with healthy energy to keep you motivated.

Toxic positivity causes problems for programmers because it makes them lose their motivation, and they become unrealistic about their work. It’s important for programmers to stay motivated and have a realistic perspective on their work.

Surrounding yourself with positive people is the best way to avoid the negative effects of toxic positivity. In the end, it’s essential to be happy with your work and avoid letting toxic positivity take over.

About the author

Andre Oentoro

Andre Oentoro is the founder of Breadnbeyond, an award winning explainer video company. He helps business increase conversion rates, close more sales and get positive ROI from explainer videos (in that order).