Being Positive is Not for the Faint Hearted by Lea Waters at TEDxMelbourne (Transcript)

Lea Waters

Here is the full transcript of Lea Waters’ TEDx Talk: Being Positive is Not for the Faint Hearted at TEDxMelbourne conference.


I want to start by sharing with you two events that radically altered my life 12 years ago, and really are the reason why I’ve become a professor in positive psychology.

The first was giving birth to my son, totally life changing. I went from spending my days at university writing a book, to spending my days at home wiping a bottom, and I loved it.

The second event is a bit confusing, really, because, unlike giving birth, it wasn’t really the kind of event that you would classify as life-altering. It was just watching the news. I was so tender-hearted from becoming a new mom that when I watched the news, I burst into tears. And you know these really messy tears where you get the red, swollen, puffy eyes and where your nose turns into an instant snot factory? I’m talking those kinds of tears.

And I’m a psychology researcher, right? So when I have these unexpected reactions, I automatically start to analyze myself. And I’m sitting there thinking, “Huh, why am I crying? It’s just the news”. But then this other question bubbled up, and I thought, “Why haven’t I cried before?” And that’s when it hit me. I’ve been manipulated by the media corporations. They’ve desensitized me, and I’ve grown to accept a news corporation’s version of human nature.

The meaner, darker version I thought, this is wrong, this is not the version of human nature that I want my son growing up to believe in. Because, actually, the vast majority of us are good and decent, that’s why we refer to ourselves as a ‘human-kind’. And it got me thinking, “What would happen if the news decided to show more stories of the positive qualities in human nature, and what impact would this have on my son’s life?” That question was transforming for me because the minute I asked that question of myself, I knew I had to be part of a solution. I had to start doing something that was creating a more positive life for my son and for all the young people in Australia.

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And there is so much good news to share. For example, did you know that since 1990, we’ve lifted 11 billion people out of poverty? That’s more than three times the population size of the United States of America. And in that same time frame, we’ve provided clean water services to 26 billion people, more than the combined population of China and India.

The world is becoming a better place, but you’re not going to hear about that on the nightly news. Let me ask you a question: Would you let someone come into your house every day, and tell you that the group that you belong to are greedy, selfish, violent, and murderous? This is exactly what the news corporations do to us on a daily basis, and we believe what we’re told about ourselves. The labels that other people give us, we internalize those labels, and they shape our identity. So whether you know it or not, the news is shaping your identity. It’s infecting you.

12 years ago, I decided to stop watching the nightly news, and you may well do the same, but even if you are not actively seeking out the news, it is still having a negative impact on you because the media corporations are everywhere. You walk down the street, you’ll see the newspaper headlines plastered to the shop windows. The news is on the phone, it’s on your radios, it’s on electronic billboards at the side of the road.

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