I’ve called myself optimist for as long as I can remember; for me, though, striving to be an optimist has always been rather a defiant act, and an outlook that I feel like I have to constantly defend. It’s been my experience that people tend to get a bit sneery about the concept of optimism.
Pessimists often call themselves realists, and claim that optimists must never experience suffering, depression, or any of the darker realities of life that many people struggle with. And yet, I still called myself an optimist when I was in the worst throws of post-natal depression; I think it is entirely possible to be a “depressed optimist”.
So many people that I admire, people like Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Viktor Frankl, and Martin Luther King Jr. who have suffered some of the worst of what the world has to offer, lived lives that were deeply rooted in hope and optimism. It seems to me that it’s incredibly hard to get anything done without dreaming big and trusting that there’s still good in the world, even in the face of great adversity.
People often say that being courageous doesn’t mean that you live without fear, it means that feel afraid but do brave things anyway. I believe that the same principle applies to optimism, hope, and positivity; it’s not about feeling happy, or ignoring the bad things, it’s about feeling whatever you’re feeling and acknowledging the bad—even the evil—around you, but making choices from a place of hope rather than fear and cynicism.
I was so happy to be introduced to the German concept of “heiter”, which means “cheerful” by Heiter, a lovely bi-lingual magazine for the first time last year; their concept of finding and fostering #heitermoments in the every day was so fitting with my #diariesofanoptimist Instagram project that I wrote an article in celebration of optimism for them the other day. Read it to find out why I think we can—and should—strive to be optimists, regardless of how we feel or what circumstances we find ourselves in.
Do you try to be an optimist? If so, have you ever felt like you’ve had to defend your outlook in any way from the cynics of the world?