Optimism does not entail oblivion


Pessimism is known as many things – cynicism, negativism, doubtfulness – and not all of these are entirely inaccurate. But when people refer to pessimism as realism, they are no longer describing it accurately.

People act as though optimists are ignorant souls fantasizing the world as they want it to be, rather than viewing it for what it is. That’s called overly optimistic. Being overly pessimistic is really not all that different. Instead of dreaming about an ideal world, an extreme pessimist sees only a world of nightmares.

Optimism is not about being oblivious to or even ignoring the negatives. It’s about choosing to focus on the positives despite the unsatisfactory situations that may occur.

An optimist, who would say the glass is half full, is no less accurate than the pessimist who says it is half empty. Neither is the pessimist less accurate than the optimist. So why, then, do people consider pessimists to be realists?

Children are raised in a society in which their parents are constantly warning them of the dangers that lurk about. They are raised with the idea that the world is filled with evil and are rarely given a more positive perspective. Although a parent’s intention is only to prepare their children for the “real world,” they end up giving them a one-sided viewpoint.

While being aware is not a bad thing, over-concern can be. To be so guarded that you never allow the opportunity to explore and to take reasonable risks for fear that something bad will come out of it- that limits your ability to expand your capacity of happiness and the potential that optimists focus on.

Look at it this way. Two people have lived in the same place all their life and have had limited opportunity to go anywhere else. The pessimist looks at the situation and says, “Year after year, I keep hoping that I will go someplace new, but I am never able to.” And the optimist says, “There are still so many places that I have yet to experience!” Both statements are true, but, rather than focusing on the setback, the optimist focuses on the potential and is therefore more likely to be ambitious and to fulfill these ambitions.

Despite what John Kenneth Galbraith, an economist and author, said about how “we all agree that pessimism is a mark of superior intellect,” I will wholeheartedly disagree.

Optimists, who can simultaneously be realists, reveal a mark of greater intelligence. They are the ones who have managed to successfully prioritize their time. And I don’t mean that they organize everything into carefully numbered lists, I mean that optimists are able to utilize what time they have and use it to its full potential of enjoyment and productivity.

This is not to say that becoming an optimist automatically makes you a genius nor, on the other hand, that being pessimistic makes you ignorant. Because neither of these are true. But if thrown into a situation, which undoubtedly will happen at one point or another, being optimistic is generally more beneficial.

Now I’m not denying that being able to see faults is a respectable- if not necessary- quality. Perhaps all Galbraith meant was that sometimes optimists struggle with this and that it is better to be a pessimist with an accurate realization of the world than to be a blind optimist.

Yet despite this view, pessimists are just as adept to be deceived as optimists are, and it is nearly impossible to be merely a realist. Realism is nothing more than perceiving the world as accurately as possible. It is nothing more than a subconscious, intuitive state of mind.

The terms pessimism and realism are virtually incomparable. They are in two completely different realms of the mind. While one is subconscious, the other is a chosen perspective.

Optimism versus pessimism is like choosing between a white sock and a black sock. But when you try bringing realism into the equation, the analogy is dead.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email