A few weeks ago I had plans to take my kids to a wedding in Leavenworth, WA a couple of hours away from where I live. On the day we were to leave, my stomach hurt. I chalked it up to a deli sandwich that I’d eaten the day before and loaded the kids into the car anyway. My only concession was to bring a can of Ginger Ale to calm my stomach but I judged my ability to go and take care of two young children was fine because that was as bad as I was going to feel.
I’m a congenital optimist. That is to say, I don’t work at having an optimistic attitude and it took me at least 40 of my 53 years to figure out how deeply my outlook is colored. And even that is an optimistic estimate because I’m still working it out. There are a few things that my optimism has categorically gotten wrong:
- Dating: Nothing in common? No problem, I just figure that makes it interesting.
- Traffic: Despite living in a metro area with consistently bad traffic, I always go with the low end estimate of travel time.
- Weather: When it’s raining, as it does often in Seattle, I think it’s great because that means it going to stop when I want to go out for a walk.
The Ancient Greeks inscribed “Know thyself” at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. I’ve found that self-awareness to be a powerful tool to help correct for my inclinations. Specifically, to help me peel back the rose colored layer that my mind adds to pretty much every scenario. It helps me to add 15 minutes to my travel time, dress appropriately for the weather and realize that I don’t need to sign up for every date.
Even as I’m optimistic that I’ve learned how to adjust for my optimism, life presents me with new opportunities to be self-aware. As I traveled on that trip with my kids out of town, my stomach pains got worse and I had a couple of sleepless nights crammed in a hotel room with my 2-year-old and 6-year-old. Now I realized my optimism had told me that how sick I was when I first got the symptoms was as bad as it was going to get. Oops!
Fortunately, it wasn’t all that bad and I just needed to power through getting us home safely. And since optimism has signed me up for a lot things I think are going to go great and turn out to require a lot of resolve (I can think of at least 2 mountain climbing trips in this category), I am plenty experienced at powering through.
Mark Twain said, “There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist.” Maybe that’s because if optimism hasn’t killed us before we reach old age, then it’s poor form if we haven’t figured out that it’s all a trick of the mind. I don’t think my optimism is going to ever go away but when I see it now I laugh and say, “Hi, Old Friend!”
How have you become self-aware? Are an optimistic, realistic, pessimist or somewhere in between? Has your outlook on life changed as you aged?
For more posts like this – a little story-telling mixed with philosophy, please visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com or follow me on Instagram @wynneleon
(featured photo from Pexels)
30 thoughts on “Rose Colored Glasses”
Self-awareness is the quality we think of as lacking in nearly everyone around us, but somehow we possess!
My wife likes to say that her “punishment” for those people she finds wanting is “one minute of self-awareness.” Any conjecture about how we might react if we saw ourselves from outside, as other’s see us?
Oh wow, that’s an interesting thought! Do we get to choose whether it’s the others that love us or those that disagree with us? Thanks for weighing with this really fascinating comment!
Thanks for sharing another great post, Wynne. I hope that the stomach upset was over fairly quickly!
Thanks, Art! Stomach was fine by the time we got home. 🙂
You’re welcome! I’m glad!
Indeed, they’re not fun ever, let alone at a wedding, and doubly so when you have 2 little ones dependent on you…
I’ve not heard of that Mark Twain quote before, thank you for sharing it! It does remind me of the Oscar Wilde one: “A pessimist is somebody who complains about the noise when opportunity knocks.” There’s something to be said about optimism: so while it’s good to be self aware, and not blindly optimistic, I hope you never lose that beacon of optimism that shines from you!
That is SUCH a great quote from Oscar Wilde, EW! I love it!! Wow, you have the best quotes!
I think I’m pretty safe to say that it’s not likely I’m going to lose my optimism – it feels like such an old friend by now. 🙂 Thanks for reading and adding so much to the conversation.
I’m an innate naturally positive optimist too
I love hearing this from you! It’s taken me a long time to see how it affects me but I wouldn’t have it any other way! So glad you are in the same camp! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
Unfortunately I tend to be not that positive, I should change attitude, I think. Thank you for the interesting post, Wynne!
Isn’t the trick just to know where we are at and not take it too seriously? I think you get a lot done, Cristiana and are wonderful just the way you are!
Great post, Wynne.
I am an eternal optimist and believe that optimism has helped me survive life’s trials.
However, what I find difficult is how to transfer my optimism to someone going through a rough time.
I am empathetic, listen attentively, and help actively, then say gently, “I know you will come through this.” The person suffering may not be receptive to my optimism or may not be ready to see “the light at the end of the tunnel.” I may believe in my positive words but how do I convince someone who is hurting so much?
But I know that being consistently positive around a close young family member going through a horrendous time helped her slowly but surely see the light. It wasn’t easy or quick but working together with professionals and holding on to the positive thought, “I will get better”, she did it.
What a great question and story. I think you are right – it’s hard to know what to do when people are having a rough time. Maybe that’s regardless of our outlook? But your formula of good listening and offering help along with your belief that things will get better is powerful. I’m sure you were a great comfort and strength for your young friend. And very inspirational to me!
Optimists are forever being disappointed while pessimists are constantly pleasantly surprised.
The key to bad times? “This too shall pass away.”
You aren’t wrong about the disappointment, Fred. But then in the disappointment there’s always something good to find too. 🙂
Love your quote about bad times. Indeed!
Paraphrase of Mark Twain.
What a thought provoking post Wynne plus interesting comments!
I like to think of myself as a pragmatic optimist – I love your ‘glass refillable’ rather than half full or half empty. Unrealistic optimism can be dangerous as can a constant pessimistic approach. But sometimes we need space to voice and work through our pessimistic thoughts to be able to see the optimistic view. That’s me unfortunately!
I love the Oscar Wilde quote – is it ok to pinch that? – and yes, as Fred says nothing lasts forever 🙂
I was often told when a child not to look forward to things as I would only end up being disappointed! Think I prefer the opposite way round – look forward and risk it. A work in progress as always 😊
Love this comment, Margaret. I think we tell our kids things so that they won’t be disappointed – because we don’t want to have to witness it.
And I so agree with you about the comments – the most interesting parts. I love that Oscar Wilde quote too — and all the wisdom people share. Just like yours. Thank you so much for weighing in!
Wynne, an interesting anecdote, and a familiar topic. I think I tend to be quite a lot like you, the eternal optimist! It isn’t that I am oblivious to possible negative outcomes… 🙂
I love hearing that I’m in good company in the optimistic camp, Cheryl! Right, the possible outcomes become easier to see. That must have been what Twain was getting at… but still the optimism perseveres!
I love that Twain quote and was unaware of it. Also loved the post: as someone who actively struggles to be optimistic, I think your naturally positive outlook has served you quite well.
Ah, Jack, you should have met my dad – he was someone whose energetic and enthusiastic wake was so big, you could just follow behind and surf it. Thank you for your lovely comment – I suppose the challenge is just to accept who we are and make the best of it!
I would’ve loved that!
The optimism pessimism debate is an interesting one, I think, on balance, it’s better to be an optimist although you can end up disappointed a lot of the time. Still, I suspect the experience of looking at the world through rose coloured glasses is more pleasant than thinking everything will end in disaster (even if you are pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t). I tilt towards pessimism myself but try hard to be a realist. For me that means recognising that things aren’t as bad as I’m making them out to be. Ultimately I think life is best when we drop our expectations altogether (where possible). Great post Wynne 🙏
It is wise to see the half full part of the glass, as well as focus the spotlight of mindful attention on it. But it is also wise to see the emptiness in the glass. This is where equanimity lies. Thank you Wynne!
Great post, Wynne. I tend toward pessimism, but I like to think of myself as a realist. I agree with AP2 that our expectations are often what cause us the most stress. The Twain quote is classic and accurate in my opinion. Perhaps a little Aristotelian moderation is key. Just enough expectation to be excited about the new adventure, but enough hesitancy and caution to keep from being harmed should it go awry.