I came across this meme a few weeks ago and thought it was pretty profound. Maybe it’s been around for a long time, and I somehow missed it. It got me thinking about optimism and pessimism.
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Maybe you’re a realist. I think realists tend to get blamed for being pessimists, but my experience has been that they are often very well-grounded individuals. Perhaps, like so many “labels” we humans assign to ourselves and others – your best answer is, “It depends.”
That’s me. I’m a “dependist” most days. And truth be told, my optimism and pessimism can waiver really quickly at times – like, in a matter of seconds, if I’m having a difficult conversation, discussing a difficult topic (like the current political climate in the U.S.) or just not feeling very well-balanced that day.
I grew up in religious circles that emphasized optimism. If I wasn’t happy and upbeat all the time, something must be “off” about my relationship with God. While my faith did allow for times of sadness, if I didn’t rebound quickly or if I was sad for no apparent reason, I was taught that I just needed to rely on my faith to make me feel better.
The truth is that I was depressed. Not only did I view the glass as half-empty, I also saw no way of refilling it. Much of my depression over the years has been tied to my weight problem. It’s very difficult to maintain a positive outlook when the message you get continuously from the world around you is mostly negative. These days, I can more honestly assess my depression and realize it’s not my fault, I can’t just pray my way out of it, and it’s OK to rely on both faith and science to help me feel better.
At the same time, I wore a mask of optimism to the world around me. Most people who know me probably wouldn’t think of me as a pessimist or even a “dependist.” I frequently hear compliments about my optimism because I was taught that it’s very important to “always look at the glass as half full, not half empty.” Unfortunately, during my down times, those words were yet another weapon that made me feel bad about myself.
This dichotomy, if you will, is why I think I found the meme so appealing. I get that there are some true optimists and pessimists out there, but I think most of us are “dependists.” Good things happen in our lives and we feel good. Bad things happen and we feel bad. Life has moments of both good and bad. Regardless of that, the glass is always refillable. How we go about refilling it isn’t always easy to figure out, and sometimes we need another person (or therapy, medication, faith) to do the pouring. That’s OK. The important thing, IMHO, is to remember that the glass, whether half-full or half-empty, is always refillable, even if we don’t see it right at that moment.