Toxic Positivity vs. Psychological Strength with April Seifert, Ph.D.

Aug 05, 2019


NOTE: This is a legacy episode from the Women Inspired podcast, before it transitioned to be the Building Psychological Strength podcast. While you will hear some mention of the Women Inspired brand during this episode, the content is highly relevant to the goals of Peak Mind, which is why we have included it here. Enjoy!

“Just think positively!”

“Why can’t you look on the bright side?”

At one time or another, almost all of us have been going through a tough time and have had someone say something like this to us.

It has become so pervasive that a term has been coined to describe it: toxic positivity.

This is when encouraging someone to simply “look on the bright side” without taking into account the circumstances they’re in becomes more harmful than helpful.

Here’s the thing: a big chunk of psychological strength involves intentional exercises that are positivity-focused or gratitude-focused.

So, is the entire concept of psychological strength just another form of toxic positivity?

Oooooh, hell no.

In this episode, I am on a serious soap box about the importance and power of building psychological strength and how it’s vastly different from toxic positivity.

I touch on:

  • TIMING: The time to build psychological strength is NOT when you’re currently in crisis. That’s akin to trying to learn how to shoot free-throws during the NBA Finals. The intentional work happens outside of the times when the pressure is on or when life is testing you. Timing is everything.

  • BIASED THINKING: One of the big issues with toxic positivity is that it’s asking you to ignore the difficulty you might be going through and pretend that everything is going well. That’s just unrealistic. In contrast, the tools and techniques that we use to build psychological strength capitalize on the fact that our minds are already biased toward the negative. And, by intentionally using mind-balancing techniques (similar to free-throw practice), we can balance out our thinking to make it more reflective of the reality we’re living.

  • TIMES OF CRISIS: I also have a special message for those of you who might be in a time of crisis or who might be experiencing one of those testing times of life. I hope these words give you comfort and hope for the future.

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