This I Believe

Sara - Renton, Washington
Entered on May 3, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: hope, question

I always thought of myself as a realist, possibly even an optimist until one fated conversation with my mother. Our conversation was a heated discussion about whether my delinquent brother would ever change. She had the ever lasting hope of a mother; I had a more realistic view and little hope. After one of my particularly sour comments, my mother turned to me and announced that I was the most pessimistic person she knew. Her comment blew my mind. Sure I thought the glass more half empty than full, but this did not bother me, it was just a fact. I was typically happy, I had more good days than bad, how could she think I was a pessimist? Suddenly it hit me—I am a pessimist. I did expect the worst, but I am a happier person for it.

I believe being a pessimist gives you better odds at happiness. Optimists bet all their chips on the brighter side of things, the mentality that there is a silver lining in every cloud, that the glass is half full. They set their standard for happiness too high. An optimist expects everything to work out in the end, it’s all for the best. When something good happens it is not a pleasant surprise, but the expected. If something negative were to happen, and this really is as good as it gets, they are shocked and disappointed. By counting on the positive, they are frequently let down.

Play it safe, actively be a pessimist. Think things won’t work out in the end; make plans for the worst. When something positive happens you will be pleasantly surprised. If things turn out negatively, at least you saw it coming and are mentally prepared. By planning on the worst, you cannot be disappointed! Positive events are unexpected but welcomed, and negative events are the norm. Plus, when things go wrong you can always get some small satisfaction from the fact that they turned out just how you expected.

This is not to say you should go around depressed and full of doom and gloom. Quite the contrary in fact, you are being prepared, you are not banking on an upturn of fate, but you are leaving yourself open to the possibility of unexpected happiness. Being an optimist is not a poor decision, it’s just a risky one. If you’re looking for happiness, your best bet is pessimism.