If you’re an optimist, you’re naturally in opposition to most media and a lot of rhetoric. If you check out comments sections on positivity posts (not on my site, but on more mainstream publications), you’ll usually see lots of things like this, in fact, I’ve pulled these from actual comments sections and then added my own responses:
“Optimism can go too far – optimists are more likely to stay in an abusive relationship because they are always trying to find the good and looking for a bright side.”
“Scientific studies show that pessimistic people actually live longer than those foolish and naive eternal optimists….like the author of this silly article.”
“To believe that life should be a 24/7 happy party is just not real.”
“I find that many optimists are just willfully blind – they simply ignore possibilities (and facts) that they might not like. The good part is of course that they never reflect on their failures, they just pick up and start again with the same naive notions. They stay happier, but never actually succeed at anything.”
“If you don’t know what is happening in the world out there it is going to bite you on the arse one day when you least expect it.”
First of all, optimism and intelligence are not mutually exclusive. The way negative people respond to articles about positivity really showcases how they see the world, they take the advice or outlook to a hypothetical extreme, and then only discuss the potential negatives that MIGHT happen. It’s kind of hilarious if you think about it!
The idea that optimism will result in your eventual demise (or a total lack of success) is absurd. Sure, if you blindfold yourself, and walk into traffic, because you’re “optimistic” that you won’t get hit by a car, you’re in for a rude awakening. I would argue that these actions do not describe an optimist, but an idiot. Optimism is not synonymous with a total lack of personal responsibility and cognitive functioning.
No matter how optimistic I am about a pursuit, if I get feedback from objective industry professionals who say it isn’t working, if family and friends don’t respond to it, if it fails to do well in a real world venue, I take those facts seriously and immediately reassess what I’m doing. For example, I started small things good as a recipe blog, but you know what? Very few people were responding to my recipes, so I did some research. I realized just how many people out there had food blogs, and how much better many of those people are than I am, at both developing recipes and taking breathtaking food photos. So, I started branching out, and I found that what people really seem to respond to is my photography, and my writing about happiness, life, and saving money! Who knew?!
The difference between an optimist and pessimist isn’t that optimists refuse to accept criticism or see obstacles (that’s narcissists you’re thinking of), it’s that optimists see a setback as a challenge and an opportunity for something positive, even if that means going in a totally different direction. Pessimists, on the other hand, see a setback as a failure and/or a generally negative and crummy part of life. I would argue that optimists are actually better equipped to handle negative feedback than pessimists, because optimists are more accepting of all types of outcomes, seeing every possibility as an opportunity of some kind.
Here are some other comments I pulled:
“Does living in your own self-absorbed bubble make you have a better life when you need the help of others? Does ignoring the plight of millions of people throughout the world make it a better place? No, it doesn’t.”
“I’d rather be aware of the pain and suffering in the world than just bury my head in the sand and ignore everything that’s unpleasant.”
“It must be nice to be so selfish and optimistic that you refuse to believe anything bad ever happens. This is privilege plain and simple and people like that need to open their eyes and think about others for once.”
*SIGH* So, this is a very common sentiment among anti-positivity people, and it’s just plain ignorant. Just like the first set of comments, these people are taking things to a hypothetical extreme, and looking at the world in the most negative and destructive way possible.
I actually think people get a false sense of involvement by being “aware”. By reading and watching and repeating all this negative stuff, they feel really justified in their anger, and like they’re on the side of the “good guys”. They share articles on social media that shed light on the latest struggle, tweet about it, talk about it with friends and co-workers, and revel in their own outrage. Unfortunately, they’re just spreading negativity.
I am all for setting aside time and researching specific inequalities in depth, IF it is with the goal of working towards a solution, getting involved, or bettering ourselves by becoming more sensitive to the issue of others, otherwise, it’s no different than slowing down on the highway to get a good look at a car accident.
Optimism is not about burying your head in the sand, as some people suggest, it’s about maintaining a high level of emotional well-being so that not just you, but everyone around you, benefits. Positive thinking is about looking at what you can control and taking charge of your life by accepting full personal responsibility whenever possible; it is neither naive nor defeatist. In fact, I’d say optimism is downright efficient: Exert total domination over everything that is in your control, and let the rest slide off your back. Delving headfirst into mainstream news and social media, and sifting through the nastiest details of life doesn’t produce anything positive. In fact, there’s a fair amount of research that shows that consuming negative news on the regular results in feelings of defeatism and depression.
By contrast, maintaining a positive outlook has actually enabled me to help other people more effectively than if I drowned myself in negative ideas and events. Donating time, expertise, or money to causes that really matter is a far more efficient way to change the world than priding yourself on being a super informed “realist”. Being kind all day, every day, to everyone you interact with, giving respect instead of making people earn it, being compassionate towards everyone equally, reacting with forgiveness instead of anger when faced with ugliness, and being grateful in our own lives; these things can change the world.
When I choose to do something or not do something, I always ask myself, “If everyone in the world reacted the way I am reacting, would the world be a better place or a worse place?” If everyone ditched the horrendous news and just did what they could to improve the world in their own little spheres, I think we would see humanity change right before our eyes. Getting involved might be as simple as working on our own anger issues so we don’t cause others harm, as extravagant as giving millions of dollars to international charities, or something in between, like volunteering once a week.
Optimism and positivity are not a fool’s elixir, they are potent tools that return power to the individual and provide a realistic approach to living life to the fullest!