Monday, March 5, 2012

The Optimism/Pessimism Spectrum





Every day on my lunch break at work I eat with the same woman.  And every day I listen to this woman complain and nit pick and gossip and place blame and whine and whine and whine.  She is one of the most pessimistic people I've ever been forced to spend time with.  The negative energy oozes out of her, and it takes all of the mental strength I can muster to shield my generally optimistic self from her pessimism. 



Pessimism is contagious.  And I don't want to catch it. 


Optimists are the rays of sunshine who typically expect a favorable outcome. Pessimists are the sour pusses who see all the bad in the world. Of course, there are varying degrees of optimism and pessimism, but we all fall somewhere on the Optimism/Pessimism Spectrum.


I can't say that I see sunshine and rainbows all the time, but I definitely lean more toward optimism than pessimism.  I try not to excessively complain, I try to see the best in even the worst people, and I try to see the good in every situation.  I think being a military spouse has helped my optimism in a way.  After all, most of the time we mil spouses don't have much of a choice in certain matters that directly affect our lives, and if we don't try to make the best of the hand we're given, we'd fall apart.


I think being a teacher has also helped me to be more optimistic.  Oddly, one of these lessons in optimism came when I was knee-deep in my first round of report cards.  I had no trouble assessing my students and assigning them grades.  It was the comments section that killed me. 


"Remember the sandwich," a co-worker advised me.  "Always sandwich a negative in between two positives." 


For some students, coming up with positives about their work ethic or academic strengths or behavior poses no problem.  But there are always those students who really make you think, who challenge your instincts to label them as the trouble-makers or the daydreamers or the bullies or the chatty Kathies.   Sometimes, when you're forced to find the good in someone, even if it's only one good thing, that's all you need to see them in a different light.


Our position on that Optimism/Pessimism Spectrum affects so many aspects of our lives, including our behavior, the people we attract, our interactions with others, our overall mental health, and our general perspective on life.  I think of my co-worker, how I avoid her at all costs in the hallway, how some days I would prefer to eat alone in my car than share my lunch break with her, how depressing her life must be when she can't seem to find the good in almost anything, and I'm thankful that I've taken up residence at the opposite end of the spectrum.



Pessimism is contagious.  But I'd like to think that optimism is too.  Maybe my co-worker will catch my optimism one day.  In the meantime, I'll continue to build up my immune system to fight off her pessimism.  I'll also enjoy the yummy food she always brings to the monthly potlucks.  (See, I can find the good in anyone!)


Where do you fall on the Optimism/Pessimism spectrum?



6 comments:

  1. I'd like to think I fall more toward the optimistic side of the scale too and I too get drained by some negative energy people! I do the best I can when around them but it does wear me out! Maybe you can spread some of your optimism to her at lunch and she can temper her pessimism.

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  2. Gotta love those whiners and complainers...mine is actually retiring at the end of this school year so I've been able to find all sorts of good in her :) That wasn't a very nice comment, was it? But I tend to fall on the optimistic, glass half-full, world through rose-colored glasses end of the spectrum. Drives my husband nuts at times :) But I have my negative moments too, where I throw my little fit and vent and then I'm over it and back to bright side again. The dark side has never really worked for me, I much prefer the happy little world I've created :)

    Report card comments are brutal, but you're right, a very good lesson in finding the good in someone :)

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  3. Optimism is infectious. I love that. What an important reminder.

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  4. I think I fall somewhere in the middle, although I am known to throw a good pity party every now and then.

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  5. I used to be really pessimistic, but I think now I'm much more optimistic. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, though, and I've spent a long time thinking about our nature- almost like the nature vs. nurture argument. Because of my thoughts and researches into all this on several different topics- like being born with the tendency for panic attacks, for example- I believe that negative people are born that way and positive people are born that way. I've always been the negative while my sister has always been the positive person- she was adopted. That's no excuse- I think you can choose to try to become better and more optimistic, but I do honestly believe we are born leaning to one side or the other.

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  6. Typically I fall under the optimistic category though right now I am a little blue, so I may be viewed as a little pessimistic, but hopefully that doesn't make me unbearable to be around. lol

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