“I’m a realist!” says the pessimists.
It is very easy to identify the optimists in the room. These are the “glass half full” people, which can be very encouraging and annoying at times (you know it’s true). Distinguishing between pessimists and realists can be a challenge, though. Pessimists will often describe themselves as realists. They will make a negative comment and present it as truth. Here’s the thing, though, negative thoughts don’t hold any value. Zero. These thoughts don’t get us into problem-solving mode; even if they seem accurate, they just aren’t helpful. This is not to dig our heads in the sand around things happening in the world, but this mindset leads to more depression and anxiety. So how do you know the difference?
- Knowing all. Pessimists expect that terrible things will happen. Doing so feels protective like you are prepping for battle when in reality, this only puts the brain on high alert when it’s not time for that to happen. It’s kind of like a false alarm going off in your mind. Realists, on the other hand, consider all the different sides that could be true, and then they present their information on what is, instead of what could be or should be.
- Realists understand other people’s opinions and beliefs and do not feel threatened when someone disagrees with them. Pessimists tend to take differences in opinions as a personal attack. This is mainly because realists don’t become as emotionally invested. They can separate feelings from facts, whereas pessimists are emotionally invested due to the strong emotional charge connected to their opinions.
- The hamster wheel. Pessimists stay on the hamster wheel. They will stagnate in their problems through avoidance, procrastination, and self-loathing. It is difficult for these individuals to execute tasks efficiently because too many “tabs” open in their brains with a worst-case scenario. Realists are good at problem-solving and moving on. These individuals don’t like to stay stuck. They figure out solutions, often asking for help (which pessimistic people struggle with).
The bottom line, our brain will find evidence for what we believe. If you believe the world is a bad and terrible place, there is a lot of evidence to support that. There is also bucket loads of evidence to support the beauty and kindness. Overly optimistic people tend to get hurt easily. Realists are quickly drained because they can see things from all angles, and Pessimists are quickly defeated because their negative assumptions are quickly “confirmed”.
All in all, it’s essential to look at what is instead of what should be. As Aristotle says, “ It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Not everything we think is true, it’s just a thought.
Life is short, and quality of life is directly connected to one’s mindset of self, other people, and the world. We have a choice over how we want to show up in life.
How do you want to show up?