So recently, I had a discussion with a good friend of mine’s about the difference the optimist, the pessimist, and the realist.
With his idea being that the optimists are just naive hopeful believers in the power of positive thinking.
Pessimists being, more cynical with negative mindsets that are always believing the worst case scenario is what will inevitably happen.
And realists being, the more measured approach between the two. As those are people who step back and look at the situations carefully and ‘objectively’. Using past experiences to determine if a particular scenario will work out in a positive light or a more negative one.
It was an interesting breakdown, that actually made a lot of sense. So I looked up the actual definitions and those thoughts weren’t far off. Optimists are “those who are hopeful or confident about the future of something”. Pessimists are “those who tend to see the worse aspects of things or believe that the worst will happen.” Realists on the other hand are, “a person who accepts a situation as it is and deals with it accordingly”.
What I find most interesting when it comes to many ‘realists’ I know, is that although they claim to be objective and to look at the situation for what is, that argument is always applied to the negative. Rarely do I ever here a realist lean toward potential positive situation or outcome. Apparently that point of view seems reserved of idyllic optimist. But, realists often seem to be on the lookout for the negative, aka, ‘the other shoe to drop’.
This isn’t a bad thing though, as the definition clearly says realist accept situations as they are and deal with it accordingly. The issue then becomes, is there a difference between dealing with what is, in the best way you can and expecting/preparing for the worse case scenario?
And therein lies the problem, if you are expecting and preparing for a potential negative outcome, that isn’t dealing with what is, the best way you can.
My friend would go on to demonstrate how past scenarios inform him on the potential outcome of what is currently going on. How he is just seeing what has happened before and preparing for the likelihood of it happening again. But, this isn’t accepting a situation as it is… this is more aligned with seeing the worse and believing that means the worst will continue to happen.
That’s a pessimistic perspective, especially when you only see the negatives of what happened before and make no effort to balance that by acknowledging the positives that have happened and the positive possibilities that may lie ahead. Should you choose to deal with what is, the best way you can.
Now, my friend clearly see’s me as some sort of dopey eyed naive optimist always looking for silver linings, and defines himself as a true realist, because he takes a measured and ‘objective’ perspective. However, I like to think of myself as more of an ‘optimistic realist’ and think of him as being much more pessimistic than realistic.
Perhaps there’s a gray area where he can be considered a pessimistic realist, but I believe there is just as much fallacy with seeing shadows around every corner, and expecting an inevitable bad to happen, as there is with constantly dancing around with rose-colored glasses on, seeing only silver linings everywhere.
While I do lean towards optimism, I’m very aware and familiar with just how bad things can get. I was born with a debilitating hereditary disease that hospitalized multiple times a year in my childhood. My mother was heavily addicted to drugs while growing up, single parent household, with abusive stepfathers coming in and out my life. I grew up poor and in the hood, even spending nights in shelters and parks, etc. the definition of disenfranchised. I struggled with my health into adult good, having just recently suffered a stroke only 2 years ago! While trying to work my way through school! And that’s just some of my sob story. Yes!! I am all too familiar with how bad things can get. But… and this is a big BUT I am also keenly aware of how great things can get and the power we all have to make our lives better.
I’ve seen my mother go to rehab, get a degree, get her masters, become a Psychologist and turn around to try to help other disenfranchised, with similar struggles. I’ve seen myself get healthier, going from being hospitalized 4 times a year in childhood to just once and year in adulthood. I’ve fought through complications like a stroke, to finish my degree, relatively on time. I’ve gone from stroke to no hospitalizations in that time… my first time ever not being hospitalized in 2+ years. I’ve seen myself grow from being poor to being blessed with a beautiful home, a beautiful family and in the position of starting my own business building a platform on something I am passionate about… that being, building up men, fathers, and the fatherhood community, here at Culture of Dad!
I share all that to show the huge gamut of experiences I have had throughout my life. With plenty of reasons to be a cynical pessimist, yet despite that… having the strength of mind to maintain balance and still see the possibility of positive outcomes.
While I do have a healthy bit a skepticism when it comes to things, this is my natural way of not getting overly carried away with my rose-colored optimistic lenses. It allows me to look at things practically and discern the possibilities on both sides of the coin. To take the actions I believe will create more and more good in my life. While avoiding potential negatives. This is why I consider myself an optimistic realist — or perhaps a realistic optimist.
But for most realists, the tendency is to look at the negatives and go from there. You never here someone being positive and say ‘oh, I’m just being real, I’m a realist’! Its usually while being negative and justifying it, they say ‘I’m just being realistic, I’m a realist’. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem.
The term ‘Realist’ is often used by pessimists or someone being pessimistic at the moment, as a way to not own that their mindset on the issue -or in general- is negative. It’s used as a cover-up, and a way to deflect from having to look at that possibility.
While I believe there is nothing wrong with looking at the reality of things or even preparing for the worst, it’s important to be mindful of the possibility that one could just be stuck in that negative zone. That dark place where everything looks like it’s leading to the bad… and momentum is just building in that direction. Increasing more and more negative in one’s own life. I’ve been there, I know from experience, it’s not a pleasant place.
So I caution all my fellow realist out there to be self-aware of who you are and how you are being. Because although you may claim to be a realist, you could, in fact, be a pessimist in disguise.
Be good to yourselves ya’ll, you deserve it.
Peace and blessings
Zay from #CultOfDad