Is Optimism a Choice?March 2, 2016
Many years ago someone said to me “You’re always so pessimistic.” Frankly, it took me by surprise. After all, I’m a Sagittarian, and by nature, we’re pretty darn optimistic.
To make matters worse, this was a Virgo (notoriously one of the most pessimistic signs in the Zodiac) saying this to me.
I remember my response to being called a pessimist. It was something like “Well, if I’m too optimistic, I’ll be devastated when bad things happen. If I think the worst, then I won’t be so disappointed.” Wow. It must have been almost thirty years ago that I said that.
Pessimism: A tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future.
I realize now that what was going on was less about pessimism and negativity and more about FEAR. Or, perhaps that’s the root of all pessimism.
According to Ayurveda, anxiety and fear are the curse of the Vata-type person. They can take over our lives. I knew zip about Ayurveda back then and for most of my life I battled to keep the anxiety and fear demons at bay.
I worried about everything – losing people I loved, losing things, getting sick, dying, change, the weather. You name it – I worried about it.
Eventually, I found yoga, energy healing, and meditation and everything changed. I’ve talked about the melting away of my anxiety and fear after starting a meditation practice many times before. It was a profound shift for me.
Whatever your constitution, it’s not difficult to fall into a pessimism trap in the world we live in today. Things look pretty bleak, right? But pessimism, fear, anxiety, negativity, and lack of hope all seem so heavy and dark, and an unfulfilling way to go through life.
So, I wonder – is optimism a choice?
I don’t think anyone today would call me a pessimist. I live my life very much in the moment. There is nothing that could be taken away from me anymore that I don’t feel I could handle. I have experienced grief in many different forms and have survived the sorrow to come out on the side of optimism. Hope, light, a joyful way of living.
I’m not even sure if this has been a choice or if it’s just been my own life’s journey and I’m lucky to have arrived at this state of being. I attribute a great deal to the fact that I no longer suffer from crippling fear and anxiety.
It could also be age-related. I’m in my wisdom years and perhaps it’s easier for me to let go of expectations and live my life more simply.
But I know lots of pessimistic 60+-year-olds. Bitter, fearful, and unable to let go of the past.
And I know lots of optimistic young people who, despite the state of our planet, are able to live from a bright place of optimism.
You could be homeless but filled with peace or you could be wealthy and so miserable you want to take your own life.
I don’t judge others for where they are on the optimism/pessimism scale. We all came into this life with a different set of circumstances, different personalities, and a unique reason for being here.
But wouldn’t it be the loveliest world if Optimism could tip the scale and drive pessimism away. Our world would be so much lighter and brighter.
For me, on days when I feel pessimism creep in, I get out in Nature, listen to music, ride my bike, and meditate. It’s amazing how things can shift.
I’d love to know if you think Optimism is a choice.