We were having a heated argument about optimism and pessimism – and it threatened to reach war-like proportions. Obviously, when you compare them, optimism has a better reputation than pessimism and you’ll hear people constantly telling you that “’tis better to be optimistic”.
But how can this be fair? How can one be better than the other? Logically, at the end of that argument, we had to conclude that optimism and pessimism are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other. You can be bullied by people who are optimistic as much as those who are pessimistic.
|Image from thousandtyone.com
They’re inseparable, really
Look at it this way: to be optimistic about something must automatically imply that you are pessimistic about the others, right? It is all relative. So if you have a choice between Plan A and Plan B, and believe that Plan A will work, you’re being optimistic about Plan A and pessimistic about Plan B.
Yet another way to look at these two buddies (yes, they are!) is to compare them to breathing – they’ve got to be as intertwined as inhaling and exhaling since you cannot do just the one. Take a debate – if your opponent is optimistic about what he believes, he’s inherently pessimistic about what you believe. And he’ll probably bully you with his holier than thou attitude and his opinion, telling you that since he likes his plan, that makes him an optimist.
How can we ignore “positive thinking” here? We can apply the same theory about optimism and pessimism to it – 🙂 if you’re positive about one thing, it implies that you’re negative about the alternative, right? It isn’t as though being positive is a virtue. You’re just stating your preference. You obviously cannot prefer everything as you have to make a choice. So it is basically a way to focus – and when you focus here, you cannot focus there since our focus has limits. Thus, while it is necessary to be positive, the question is not “should I be positive” but “what should I be positive about?
Easy to get bullied by either
Now try arguing with someone about this – and you’ll hear “at least I am optimistic”. Is that okay? The “someone” is not only undermining your ability to plan by calling you pessimistic, but being a bully and adding salt to your wound. Aren’t they being pessimistic about what you think?
But it is not just optimists who are bullies. Pessimists can also be bullies by accusing optimists of being unrealistic, head-in-the-clouds-ish and believing in magic. Sinful!
“Optimist” and “Pessimist” are not tags. They are just opinions about who is right and who is wrong – and who wins? It all depends on who pulls more moral weight.
I’d say that one man’s pessimist is another man’s optimist as they are relative concepts. They are entirely subjective evaluations, and only relative to another person’s.
It does not make sense to say “I am an optimist” or “You are a pessimist”. Both statements are incomplete without saying what I am optimistic about or what you are pessimistic about. When I say I am optimistic about finishing everything on my to-do list tomorrow. I am basically saying that I think this plan’s chances of success are much better to the alternative.
Mmm…that said – I must admit I always like to see the brighter side of things, because there’s a question of this small thing called “attitude”