We were watching a tv show recently and one of the characters, in a counselling session, said that optimists suffer more disappointments than pessimists. I found that such an interesting thing to say and it is an idea that set me thinking.
So, is it true? Does an optimistic outlook almost set you up to be disappointed, because often life is unfair and people don’t behave in ways we expect?
On one hand, optimists, I would think, even in the face of disappointment, would still be optimistic, thereby proving that statement false.
But on the other hand, being an optimist – speaking as one who suffers from the terrible disease that is optimism – does not necessarily make you immune to disappointments in life.
I love hearing pessimists say, when speaking to optimists, “Oh, it’s okay for you, you’re an optimist.” I am simultaneously amused and annoyed by this sort of comment. It indicates the belief that you are born one way or the other, and that is what you are; that there is no chance of change or room for movement.
When I was 14, we moved to Queensland from Tasmania. Somewhere on the journey up, travelling alone with my parents in a car was a bit boring and I guess I had ample thinking time, I made a decision.
For the last 14 years I had been a painfully shy, quiet, reserved girl and I decided I didn’t want to be that person anymore. So I stopped. I decided to just act as though I was outgoing and talkative and before I knew it, I wasn’t acting anymore.
Apart from the obvious differences that the decision made in my life, it also gave me a greater appreciation for and understanding of how much control we actually have over our behaviour and character.
The flip side is, it also made me a little intolerant of people who whine and whinge about their own personalities. Granted, the older we get, possibly the harder it is to change who we are. Also, granted, there are still aspects of our genetic make-up that we may have more trouble changing.
But, generally speaking, we can change personality traits if we have enough determination. Specifically, a pessimist can be more optimistic. I think it’s fair to say then that an optimist can be disappointed and not necessarily see the ‘good’ in a situation immediately.
So, in answer to the original question – do optimists suffer more disappointment? I would say possibly yes by sheer fact that they are more often looking for the good, so on an odds basis, will be disappointed more.
Being an optimist is a choice, even when you have a natural tendency towards it. An optimist still has to choose to look on the bright side and conversely, a pessimist actually chooses to see only the negative in a situation, whether they are aware they are making that choice or not.
How about you? Are you a ‘glass half full’ person or a ‘glass half empty’ sort of person? You are in charge of your personality to a large degree. You can choose to continue to blame genetics/upbringing/life experiences/luck/fate or you can choose to make some changes.
What will you choose today?