Reflections on Optimism

by Orly Wahba

Oftentimes people associate optimists with blind idealists who fail to see reality and instead put their heads in the sand. I have to disagree.

“Every day may not be good, but there’s good in every day” ~Unknown

When looking through various quotes about optimism for this month’s Kindness Flash, this one stood out above the rest. Oftentimes people turn to me and ask, “Orly, how are you always so happy and optimistic?” I always laugh when I hear that because no one in this world is free from having a bad day. We all face challenges in our life, some different than others, but challenges all in the same. We all question our worth at times, feel like giving up, get knocked down, feel beat. An optimist isn’t someone who doesn’t experience these things; an optimist is one who combines strength of heart and strength of mind to seek out the good in the seemingly bad. An optimist understands that failure exists but refuses to accept the fact that those failures should stop them from making the attempt to climb higher.

Optimism vs Pessimism. There are so many cliches around these terms but the one that stands above the rest, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” We are told that a pessimist sees the glass as half empty and an optimist sees the glass as half full. But there is much more to this than meets the eye. An optimist doesn’t ignore the fact that there is an empty space in the glass, but rather sees that empty space as opportunity for growth. The pessimist doesn’t ignore the full space, but rather sees the full space as weight of the failed attempts to succeed.

I’ve always believed that a pessimist is simply an optimist in disguise. While you may disagree with me, that’s your call, but perhaps you’ll hear me out. Believing in your dreams, shouting them from the rooftop amongst the myriads telling you can’t achieve them is no easy task. It takes strength, courage and confidence. What if your dreams are never realized? Or even worse, what if you attempt to achieve your dream but fall flat on your face? There is a tremendous amount of risk associated with believing, striving and hoping. On the other hand, if you continuously bet against yourself and down play the fact that you can achieve anything of value – the fall to the ground has much less impact and therefore hurts much less.

We all start off as optimists but sometimes the hard hits we face in life squeezes the strength to believe, to bet on ourselves, to bet on humanity. And so a person is left with a far easier choice. I won’t expect anything from myself, I won’t expect anything from this world and I will seek out all of the things that happen in this world to further prove my theory. However, deep inside the heart of a pessimist is the greatest sense of optimism; the hope that one day someone or something will come along to prove them wrong, to beat all odds. It’s just too painful to consciously bet on something they are uncertain of time and time again. You see a pessimist is an optimists who has been hurt so many times and has created a protective layer around their heart.

So why is pessimism so dangerous? The greatest danger lies in the fact that a pessimist can eventually forget that their disguise is just that – a disguise. Eventually negative thinking will penetrate their mind, their heart, their actions and overtime they will forget that their core is seeped in optimism. What they stop betting on isn’t simply humanity – it’s themselves. We can’t always explain success – there is no perfect formula. Success itself requires one to believe in the unbelievable. After all, for a person to succeed at something so many are attempting to achieve, one must think out of the box and focus not on the failed attempts but the opportunity present in those same failures.

So while many label optimists as idealists sticking their head in the sand, I see it quite the opposite. An optimist sees the dangers, understands the possibility of failure but their reason for taking a leap of faith outweighs the cuts, scratches and bruises they may get if they stumble.

An optimists strength isn’t that they see the good in the world, but rather that they never cease to see the good in themselves. So get out there, love yourself more, cherish your failures and recognize that they are a part of what makes you you! Look at your scars in the mirror and pay a bit more attention to the collateral beauty. You just may inspire a hidden optimist to shed their disguise.