How Hope Quickly Becomes Toxic

Brit Haines
3 min readJan 20, 2021


I know what you’re thinking, “that sounds so negative.” But hear me out.

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Hope is a desire for a particular outcome, a trust in something bigger than yourself. Having hope can help you overcome colossal strife. It worked for Holocaust survivors. Anyone with a chronic illness or severe pain can attest to hope.

But hope is both a light and dark force.

The problem is that we use the word to suggest our wishes. To have hope starts to mean you wish for something to make your life different. Like someday, you could be happy if only you had whatever you’re missing. The word loses all positive intent and becomes downright powerless.

Don’t believe me? Allow me to explain.

Unrealistic and Pointless Train of Thought

“I’ll be happy when…” is an unrealistic, dangerous train of thought.

No matter what the end of the statement is for you, thinking about your wishes and dreams like this is lazy. It’s putting off your happiness until you meet a future outcome. You could be happy now.

Hope works the same way. For example, “I hope I get a raise this year.”

In this example, I state my wish for more money this year to the universe. So if I don’t achieve said goal, I cannot be happy or fulfilled.

By hoping for change, you’re not creating an actionable plan to achieve your goals. You take yourself, your action, out of the equation. Hope makes you powerless in a sense.

Without action, it’s nothing more than a word for weak-minded and unmotivated people. What could be more pointless?

Turns into Toxic Positivity

Hope is something to wield responsibly. When hope means to wish, the word becomes toxic.

Positive words turn toxic if you remove the meaning. Taking yourself out of the equation, as I mentioned before, puts you in a vast universe with an end date. People become hopeless and helpless living this way, so they latch onto hope as a narrative to provide meaning.

In reality, you cause your world to become overly complicated. You open the door to toxic positivity.

Living in the future poisons your soul. You fixate on one avenue to fulfill your life and minimize your experience. The result is resentment, anger, and deep bitterness when your hopes don’t come true.

You stop working toward progress. Disappointment sets in deep. Some experience feelings of depression from their inability to succeed.

But many people would never expect every single wish to come true. They’re unrealistic dreams.

Mindfulness Leads to Happiness

Avoiding the now in favor of an ideal future won’t get you anywhere.

Instead, be okay with where you are right now. Happiness and hope are not destinations. They are with you right now.

It’s natural and healthy to want better in life. But hope only works this way when it’s grounded in the now.

You can work to recognize and stay in the now by practicing mindfulness. Hold onto the present moment. Focus on how you feel. Acknowledge the positive and negative. Take the time to sit with your experiences and learn from them.

Next, look at the tangible possibilities and realistic steps available to you. See the possibilities swirl over you. How many options are there? Eliminate each thought until the path seems clear.

And if the route remains cloudy, accept what is.

Replace Hope with Affirmative Action

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

There’s a time and place for hope. But it’s almost always unnecessary in daily life. Placing hope in the wrong place, like the future, makes you powerless over the present. You are not helpless, though.

The best thing, the most heroic thing to do, is to look the truth straight in the face. Keep looking. Don’t let it scare you.

Did you flinch? Try again. And again.

Practice using hope responsibly. Use action words in your speech and take action in your life. Avoid being hopeful for unrealistic expectations or false dreams. Happiness will follow.

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Brit Haines

Writer, editor, writing coach, and author-preneur. Check out my tips and free resources for better writing at