The Casting Dock

Authentic Optimism: An Oxymoron?

I wish I was a more decidedly positive and optimistic person.

I really believe that positivity and optimism are mysteriously powerful and contagious; something about that strength of character and will to see the best in yourself, in others, and in tough life situations is a profound form of resiliency that uplifts, encourages and inspires others while simulataneously healing oneself. I believe that our thoughts and mind significantly impact us, both emotionally and physically and I don’t think we lend enough credit to the mind-body connection or the popular saying: mind over matter. That being said, I wish I was more optimistic. I think it’s a highly valuable trait. I’d like to think that I’m generally a glass-half-full, let’s-make-lemonade kind of person, but I wouldn’t consider it one of my strongest traits. I wish I more intentionally sought to find the positive in a situation before complaining about the negative and I really wish I sought to find the redeeming qualities in people before judging the less-than-desirable ones. It’s a paradigm shift that I truly am going to work on.

But here’s where I run into trouble with it: I value and desire positivity but I equally value authenticity and sometimes those things are less than complementary. In fact, sometimes they feel downright mutually exclusive. I don’t know what the balance is–how to keep the integrity of both when they feel like opposing forces. Most of the time this isn’t really a problem, right? I mean, being positive usually just involves choosing to see the good in something and focusing on that even if strong negatives are present as well.  It’s mostly an attitude change.

But in certain situations, I think it’s a very thin line between genuine positivity (impressive and hard to come by) and inauthentic, cherry-glazed false positivity where people refuse to acknowledge problems or frustrations and instead choose to insist that “everything’s fine” (annoying…and a form of denial). One of my biggest pet peaves is when people are unable to admit and articulate that something or someone bothers them, that things aren’t fine. It speaks to either a lack of awareness or a lack of vulnerability to share how you really feel and what you really think. Or both. And I think it shows a lack of trust and depth in their relationships.  

So I want to be an upbeat, positive, find-the-best-in-others-and-in-situations kind of person, but never to the detriment of being honest and authentic. I want to be able to recognize and appreciate the positives in others and in hard life circumstances while still acknowledging the pain, the frustrations, and my true thoughts or feelings about it.

I want to be both positive and authentic. I’m just not sure of the balance sometimes though.

4 comments

1 Noche { 02.02.11 at 1:27 pm }

I agree the balance is tough. I think acknowledging the negative of a situation is necessary to be “real” or to stay in “reality” (as opposed to la la land). It also validates the pain of the hard situation. However, once acknowledged, you have to decide what can be done to deal with the situation in a positive way; one that will keep you moving forward. That’s where the seeking the good (glass 1/2 full) from the situation comes in.

I used to say, “Life is hard.” Now I say, “Life is hard, but God is good.” It refocuses me to the positive.

Good topic Lissee

2 Rhonda { 02.02.11 at 2:58 pm }

I think the paradigm shift occurs as we take on more and more the mind of Christ. The key to seeing the good in people and finding good in even hard scenarios is allowing God to transform our mind to be in more in line with who He calls us to be. Pretty tough to do this in the flesh. I personally find it difficult to not be critical as my first reaction. In time, a more positive outlook arises, but I would love that to be my first response. The good news is that God is continually doing a work in me and one day, I will look back and realize that the shift actually took place.

3 k&c's mom { 02.02.11 at 5:18 pm }

Argh. I wanted to gripe about having no electricity in my classroom when it was 18 degrees at school today (kids loved it; I did not find the half-full perspective) and then I saw Rhonda’s comment above mine. Darn. She is right and I’ll hold my personal opinion on schools that don’t close when they are very cold and very dark.

4 bryan { 02.04.11 at 1:22 am }

Knowing when the glass is half full and when it’s a half-empty glass…

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