I must admit that I used to be someone with “blind optimism,” a Pollyanna. I learned it from my mother. She wanted to believe that everything was “alright” even when it wasn’t. She could be dying on the vine, withering inside, but all was “alright”.
She secretly complained to friends, but she wanted to appear strong, determined, strong-willed, and capable to her kids. Not that she wasn’t… but that is not ALL she was.
She was also afraid, overwhelmed, worried, and deflated at times, like most of us. But we didn’t see that part of her much. Early on, I started adopting the same habits and thinking the same way.
But then one day, she decided to leave her marriage, leave us kids behind, and leave the remaining years of raising us to our father. I was affected but pretended not to be. I often felt lost but pretended I knew where I was going.
My first marriage ended in divorce. I can look back and think of so many times I wanted to look on the “bright side of things” and pretended everything was “alright” even when it wasn’t.
This kind of blind optimism is dangerous. And I think this partly why “positive thinking” gets a bad rap. I believe this is the reason why some people are afraid to dream big. They think that they are fooling themselves into believing something that can’t be true.
They think that “positive thinking” somehow denies reality or what is possible for them.
I want to offer you a clear distinction between optimism and blind optimism or positive thinking and denial.
Blind optimism and denial have some key elements:
1. PRETENDING that the facts don’t exist.
2. HIDING the facts so as not to face them.
3. AVOIDING feeling painful emotions – in the moment.
4. ELIMINATING any risk of failure, rejection, or embarrassment.
Blind Optimism is choosing to gloss over parts of your life in the name of positivity. Just like cynicism and pessimism, we do this at the expense of living our real lives.
Optimism and positive thinking are rooted in recognizing that:
1. We always have AGENCY and CHOICE. There is always something we can do even when that choice is not clear to us.
2. Even though we can be negatively affected by circumstances, not EVERYTHING is affected.
3. We can be PROACTIVE and pragmatic with our life choices.
4. TIME IS ALWAYS PASSING and the future will always be different than it is now.
5. We can rely on our STRENGTHS and make the best choice with the information we have.
Good thing I learned the difference.
I still tend to choose optimism but my current brand of optimism doesn’t require glossing over the hard stuff of life. What it does offer me are options. Knowing this has helped me be present through all challenges, decide how much time I need to recover, honor myself, my values, and choose how I want to move forward. It also allows me to dream BIG.
Because I can.
Because no matter the outcome, I could bet on me.
And that is not a lie.
Have an amazing weekend, my friends!