Are you a toxic optimist?

Recently, someone asked me why I am “always optimistic when some glasses are obviously half empty?” My belief in the silver lining can be uplifting for some people but suffocating for others, yet I am consistently positive. Perhaps it is my birth sign. Those who fancy astrology and horoscope would tell you that a Taurian is stable and determined.

An optimist says, “The glass is half full.”

A pessimist says, “The glass is half empty.”

An optometrist says, “You both need glasses.”

(Optimist jokes on upjoke.com)

A positive outlook on life is beneficial for our mental and emotional wellbeing. However, life isn’t always rosy. There are unpleasant events and people that cause us to be sad or angry. Denying ourselves of this sadness can stagnate growth, as it deprives us of the opportunity to face and deal with challenging situations and feelings. Sugarcoating a harsh reality has downsides.

When family and friends are experiencing severe difficulty or even trauma, we can’t tell them to look at the bright side of life. This is because such expression of optimism can be toxic, as it may divert us from the real concerns and issues. Whereas dealing wisely with negative emotions, such as disappointment and stress, can lead to changes that can result in a better situation.

Positive words and deeds that shine externally inspire people. However, pushing optimism into someone’s sore throat is a different thing. It is toxic optimism. For example, when people hold out a hand to us, it means that they are crying for help and don’t need to be told that other humans are experiencing worse.

Empathy is the magic word – the ability to understand and share the feelings of others – i.e. compassion and care. How? Firstly, by being a good listener. While doing so, we should avoid assumptions and judgment. Then, be ready to offer support and help, which may be in the form of advice, goods or services, but only after you have heard all sides of the story.

There is nothing more admirable than people going out of their way to make life peaceful and beautiful for others.

(This article also appears on my website Rolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com)