Optimism or pessimism? That is the question.
Maybe Shakespeare could have something to say about that, or maybe he would agree with me. Anyway, it’s important to underline that the way we look at reality strongly affects who we are, who we can become, how we deal with difficult situations.
So I’m here to tell you the benefits of being optimist people. I don’t intend to convince anyone that optimism is the way to success in life, although it is.
As Albert Einstein said: “I’d rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and a right”.
It’s a simple matter of perspective. Everybody’s life is full of both beautiful moments and difficult ones. All depends on how we face them! So, according to you, is the glass half-empty or half-full? Optimism is an attitude which manifests itself in the way a person thinks, acts or lives. But we must be cautious in classifying it simply as a distortion of reality, because it is not. It is a lot more than that, indeed.
According to positive psychology, we have to distinguish between Pollyannaism (Pollyanna’s Optimism) and Realistic Optimism. These terms derive from a classification made by Professor Martin E. P. Seligman. So, when we consider that being optimist it’s like to keep the rose color on our glasses and ignore the actual facts, we are deceiving ourselves: that is Pollyannaism.
Most of you should know the novel of Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter, shouldn’t you?
The title character is a young girl who, after both her parents have died, is sent to live with her aunt. To everyone she meets, Pollyanna explains “the glad game” that her father taught her before he died. He believed that no matter what happens, there’s always something to be glad about. The glad game shields her from her aunt’s stern attitude: when Aunt Polly puts her in an ugly attic room with no pictures, rugs or mirrors, she is glad for it and thinks that, if she had a nice bedroom, she probably wouldn’t notice the beautiful trees outside the window. When a man breaks his leg walking down the street, Pollyanna reminds him that he should feel glad that he only broke one leg and then the story ends with the accident in which Pollyanna’s legs become paralyzed. A very sad affair, honestly. I think Pollyanna’s attitude to life is exaggerated, that’s why when we speak about “Pollyannaism” we intend something dangerous, foolish, the so-called obtuse optimism.
I think Voltaire himself has considered optimism improperly in such a way, according to what he has written in his masterpiece, “The Candide”. Not for nothing Kant didn’t approve his ideas and it wasn’t only a matter of religion and faith. In response to him, Kant wrote “An Essay on Certain Considerations Concerning Optimism” between 1759-1760.
What we have to understand is that optimism is not an exercise in fantasy, but a reality-based belief system that leads us to be active and effective in our lives, working towards good outcomes! That is Realistic Optimism.
Realistic Optimism is the capacity to consider actual facts in an objective manner, trying to see the positive side of every situation without denying its negative aspects. In fact, the slogan of realistic optimists is not “all is positive” but “that is how things stand…nevertheless with the right extent of commitment I’ll be able to arrange them to the best, by learning to do what I don’t know how to do yet”. In the case of the half-full or half-empty glass, realistic optimist does not fight for showing that is truer the positive aspect than the negative one, because they are both true! Though, he will attempt to maintain a positive view since he is confident he can handle it.
Life is not easy. Often it is cruel and difficult, but what we have to do is not surrender, be strong and fight. When you see a friend of yours die, you break off an engagement, you lose your job or house, people treat you badly and your dreams go to pieces, what you have to do is to face the reality and to roll up your sleeves.
By being pessimistic and complaining, you will lose a lot of opportunities. And that’s all you’re going to get !
Written by Franny.