Why Positive Thinking is not Enough | Cheryl Thompson | TEDxUTSC

Is positive thinking mandatory for success? Success is often cloaked under the banner of positive thinking. My talk proposes that the secret to success lay in self-questioning. While positive thinking makes you feel good and appears to be motivating if (and when) we become aware of our negative thoughts, and start asking self-questions, negative thinking can create a pathway toward success. Positive thinking, I argue, is an affirmation of the “feel good” culture we live in. Catchphrases that describe positive thinking – “keep your head up,” “keep it positive,” “have a positive mental attitude” do not speak to a plan of action to tackle one’s problems but instead remain at the level emotional affirmation. My talk outlines three principles of self-questioning that I believe lead to success, and which challenge the rhetoric of positive thinking. These principles distinguish positive thinking from optimism; negativity from negative thinking, self-questioning from self-loathing.

Dr. Cheryl Thompson is a Banting Post-Doctoral Fellow (2016-2018) at the University of Toronto and the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). Dr. Thompson is also an instructor in the Department of Visual Studies at UTM and the Canadian Studies Program, University College where she teaches visual culture and the politics of identity, North American consumer culture, 1890-present, and Black Canadian studies.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

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