Who are pessimists and optimists, and how do they differ?

12/27/2017 14,035 5 Reading time: 9 min. Rating:


: Konstantin Bely

Hooray, abstract topic! Optimist, pessimist, realist and indifference - these 4 personality types that I want to talk about today are very different from each other. And I propose to analyze them in more detail, identify their characteristic features, and draw conclusions about which of these types you should strive for and why. Looking ahead, I will say that drawing such conclusions is, in fact, not at all easy. But first things first…

There are many discussions and debates about these four personality types, jokes and aphorisms are even written about them, and there are many tests to determine your type. What is the difference between an optimist and a pessimist, a realist and a don’t care? This can be expressed very briefly and in simple words using a simple example:

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel. An optimist is the light at the end of the tunnel. The realist is the light at the end of the tunnel, and the train coming towards him from there. The person who doesn't care also sees the train, but he doesn't care.

Or another example. An optimist sees the glass as half full. Pessimist - the glass is half empty. The realist sees exactly half a glass of water. Nobody cares how much water is in the glass.

Here is the simplest test to determine who you are: an optimist, a pessimist, a realist or a don’t care? Just one question:

These 4 personality types project a similar vision onto a variety of situations, processes, and areas of their life. Let's look at this in more detail.

Which view of the world is better?

There is an opinion that the best way to perceive the world is optimistic. After all, who is an optimist? This is someone who never loses heart, sees only the good sides in everything, does not think about the worst, and is able to find positive aspects in any trouble.

The importance of optimists in our lives cannot be overestimated: employers love them for their ability to forgive bullying, and for the fact that they calmly treat overtime and never escalate the situation. Colleagues - for their kindness and mutual assistance. Neighbors - for a calm atmosphere in the house. Our psyche cannot stand discomfort and tries with all its might to avoid it, so an optimist is a person whose communication evokes positive feelings. While a pessimist is the type of personality that everyone runs away from like fire: a quarrelsome, bilious, eternally dissatisfied subject, capable of ruining anyone’s mood with complaints. If you characterize a person, the word “optimist” immediately tells the interlocutor a lot due to his positive outlook on life.

Negative qualities

If we compare a pessimist and an optimist, then the first option has significantly more negative qualities.

  1. Such people almost never communicate with anyone. They are extremely uncommunicative, it is very difficult for them to find a common language even with their close people, and even more so they are completely unable to create new acquaintances, so most often they remain lonely and are even forced to grow old alone.
  2. As mentioned earlier, pessimists have health problems. Moreover, they all reveal themselves at a fairly early age.
  3. Pessimistic people never achieve success in life. They always tend to go with the flow, so they don’t even take absolutely any measures to somehow change their lives for the better; they, as a rule, are initially convinced that they will fail.
  4. They are also very lazy by nature. Therefore, they are more prone to gaining excess weight.

Despite the large number of negative qualities, there are still significantly more people with a negative worldview than those who think positively.

The dangers of excessive optimism

Few people think that an overly rosy view of the world can be even more dangerous and unpleasant for the optimist himself than the gloomy perception of reality by a chronic pessimist.

Often optimism goes hand in hand with kindness and a reluctance to create conflict situations, argue, or defend one’s point of view. This means that such a person, being offended or finding himself in an unpleasant situation due to someone else’s fault, will forgive everything instead of demanding compensation from the one who is to blame. And, if in everyday life this only harms the optimist himself and his family (“Did the neighbors flood? Why fight with them, we’ll restore everything at our own expense”), then at work it can result in serious troubles for the entire organization.

An optimist, unlike a pessimist, can underestimate the situation, hoping for a good outcome, and if something unpleasant happens, he will be confused.

The pessimist is ready for trouble, and therefore has a plan for the worst case scenario, but the optimist finds himself face to face with misfortune, the possibility of which he did not even think about - it simply never occurred to him that everything could be so bad!

The role of both senses in positive psychology

Considering the influence of positive and negative feelings on a person’s thoughts and behavior, one can understand why positive psychology pays close attention to negative emotions as well.

It is also important for us to learn to increase our positive emotions and take advantage of the opportunities they provide. It is equally important to learn to adapt to negative experiences and cope effectively with them.

When we are able to accept and use all emotions, we give ourselves the best chance to live a balanced, meaningful life. This is why the field of positive psychology does not focus on positive emotions alone.

It is also important to understand how to turn negative emotions into useful experiences and put them into practice

Pessimism has its positive sides

Who is a pessimist, according to the majority? A loser who, due to his bad character and eternal discontent, has no friends.

This is true only for the most persistent, most “ideological” pessimists, a textbook example of which can be considered a mechanic named Philidor Zeleny from Kir Bulychev’s stories about Alisa Selezneva. His immortal phrases: “This will not end well!” and “But I warned you!” can be called a reflection of the most negative side of the pessimistic view.

However, there are also conditionally “moderate” pessimists, which means that there are people who see not the whole world in black, but only its individual parts. The definition of the term itself suggests that a pessimist is someone who constantly expects meanness and misfortune from the world. And this is where his strength lies.

A true pessimist always remembers: no matter how much you hope for a successful outcome of events, the probability of an unsuccessful outcome is much higher, and in order to minimize the damage, you should, while hoping for the best, always prepare for the worst. Therefore, a pessimist who strives for self-improvement does not have to try to change his outlook on life - sometimes it is enough to develop his strengths (foreseeing troubles and preparing for them) and learn to cope with negative ones.

Self-confidence or rose-colored glasses

These days, so-called positive thinking is actively promoted. We are told to smile no matter what happens, to look for something good in any situation, even when things are at their worst, and not to talk about our problems so that others think that everything is fine with us...

In certain situations this works. Positive thinking helps us gain strength and believe in ourselves. For example, if he doesn’t get into university, an optimist will say to himself: “Well, no luck this time - better luck next time!” He will work hard even if things don't work out because he is convinced that success is achievable.

Optimists behave in the same way in their personal lives. They won't be too upset about not being reciprocated and will simply look for another relationship. Or they will try to win the person they are in love with. And such a strategy often brings results. Finally, positive people have the ability to attract us to themselves, and this is a very valuable quality.

At the same time, optimists tend to look at the world through “rose-colored glasses” and this causes big problems. It is precisely such people who often fall for scammers - it simply does not occur to them that someone could commit a bad act. They are carefree and usually do not save for old age or a rainy day.

In addition, they tend to take out loans that they then cannot pay off, invest money in financial pyramids and various dubious projects

Caution is not at all characteristic of them

Optimists rarely think about possible difficulties. They can brush off the problem until it becomes a real problem, and they let everything take its course.

Optimists do not like to go to the doctor, because they are sure that they cannot get sick with anything serious. And therefore, their diseases are often discovered in an already advanced state.

The third side of the coin is the perfect rib

Realism has many meanings: for some it means a dry businessman who methodically calculates how to profitably evaluate a given situation, while others believe that an interesting extreme is better than a boring, smooth middle. In reality, being a realist means recognizing that any situation can turn out in either a good or bad direction; that life is multifaceted and does not provide ready-made answers; You can’t constantly expect troubles, but you shouldn’t hope only for joys either, so as not to be deceived.

A realist looks at the situation evenly and reasonably, makes decisions based on the actual state of affairs. He does not console himself with the thought that “tomorrow will be better,” but he also does not spoil his mood with thoughts about the troubles that may follow good luck.

Realism allows you to soberly assess those around you, your own actions, not go too far when making decisions, and makes it possible to show flexibility depending on the situation: a realist, without being tied to one extreme or another, has the opportunity to choose the type of his own reaction.

Where for a pessimist there is almost no water in the glass, and mentally he is dying of thirst, afraid to take a sip; but for the optimist there is still a lot of water, and he will die after finishing the water in one gulp; a realist will clearly calculate how quickly he can allow himself to empty his glass so as not to be left a fool.

Historical excursion

Philosophers in different time periods tried to understand what is most correctly understood by a pessimistic attitude. Vladimir Solovyov tried to find the answer in the Buddhist teaching “Four Noble Truths”. According to him, suffering is an integral part of life.

Schopenhauer and Hartmann also supported this idea. In their opinion, only people and animals can suffer. Everyone experiences this individually. This feeling disappears at the moment of death of the individual. Schopenhauer did not consider suicide to be the right thing to do, while Hartmann had a slightly different point of view.

Schopenhauer was the first to introduce the concept of pessimism. He perceived the world as filled with suffering and misfortune. This perception is accompanied by:

  • self-flagellation;
  • joylessness;
  • uncertainty;
  • despondency;
  • uncertainty about the future, etc.

Philosophers derived the principle of unconditional pessimism, which consisted in the perception of the world and existence itself as torment. In some sources you can find the concept of relative pessimism. According to him, evil plays a secondary role and is presented as a factor that must be overcome during life.

The meaning of the word pessimism is “worst”, it comes from the French pessimisme. In the explanatory dictionary you can find definitions of different words. In it, pessimism is viewed as a worldview that is filled with despondency and hopelessness. In addition to the lexical meaning, there is also a cultural meaning. In it, “pessimism” is understood as the idea that chaos and negativity predominate in the world.

Optimist and pessimist - where is the guarantee of happiness?

The meaning of the word "optimist" is in no way related to the word "optimal", and this should be clearly understood: yes, people with a benevolent outlook on the world are pleasant and liked, but this does not mean that they always do everything right or are happier than rest.

Happiness is such a weightless concept that not even the most positive outlook on life will guarantee that you will receive this very thing at your personal disposal as payment for a smile, good nature and the ability to regard troubles as something positive.

At the same time, the constant expectation of failure, ironclad readiness for them and a plan for the most terrible situations in life do not guarantee that the straw placed on all sides will protect you from troubles.

Both optimists and pessimists - all these people are capable of making mistakes, not foreseeing something, not predicting it, or underestimating it. Even realism does not guarantee a happy life, however, self-improvement gives a greater chance that such changes will not pass without a trace, and this inspires hope for the best. After all, a person who has smoothed out the rough edges of his character and developed his strengths always has more friends, he exudes harmony, he evokes a positive response in the souls of those around him, and makes both himself and others happy. Who knows, maybe this is precisely the essence of happiness?

Features of manifestation

To be a pessimist means to perceive everything in black terms. The entire environment for such people is hostile and bad. Often reasoning comes down to the fact that everything will end in death, any actions are filled with suffering. They perceive any situation as dangerous.

Any holidays or fun events lead to a decadent mood. Typical traits of a radical pessimist:

  • apathy;
  • exaggeration of problems;
  • sarcasm, penchant for dark humor;
  • touchiness;
  • lack of determination;
  • reluctance to change something in life;
  • self-criticism.

Not all of the above are always found in humans. He can only have certain traits. Unlike a pessimist, a realist perceives the world critically and takes into account the conditions of reality. He is not always in a depressed mood. Therefore, “realism” cannot be considered synonymous with “pessimism”.

If a person sometimes perceives the world negatively, this is normal. But with a passive attitude towards life, you can get various bad consequences. Depression develops against the backdrop of dissatisfaction with life, and motivation ends. With such an illness, it is difficult for a pessimist to break out of his usual state.

Constant self-humiliation and self-flagellation leads to health problems. When a person is constantly in a negative mood, this negatively affects his performance. Due to poor initiative, irresponsibility and conflicts with colleagues, there is no career growth.

The philosophy of pessimism is that a person does not expect anything good from life. He does not enjoy his activities and does not value their results highly. Because of skepticism, all plans and aspirations are perceived as unrealistic.

The strength of cynicism as a worldview

The advantage of this view of life is that a person has no illusions about reality. The world is rough and primitive, and cynics are a match for it. Of course, in such a situation, a person in some way experiences, as A. Bergson said, “anesthesia of the heart,” that is, he ceases to believe in the good, bright, spontaneous.

Someone will be horrified and ask: “Does the word “cynicism” suggest “pessimism” as a pair? No not always. A pessimist is someone whose hopes for the world were not fulfilled, but they were there. The cynic came closest to the man of the absurd, Camus. He never had these hopes. Because, as the French thinker wrote: “Reason is sterile, but there is nothing higher than reason.”

For a cynic, the world is fundamentally immoral. He sees him purified, without the flair of false morality, which has already lost its essence.

What kind of morality can we talk about in a world where the main question is: “How much does it cost?” And it doesn’t matter at all what exactly we are talking about and what we mean. Probably what happened before is a little complicated

We will try to give a brief definition of a cynical person. This is a subject who fundamentally does not believe in the good, gentle, bright and denies the world any moral perspective. His moral diagnosis to the world means that reality is like this and it will not get better. Everything about it is simple and clear. Love is based on the benefit of the parties, kindness is based on trading with God for an immortal soul, or rather, for the place of its final refuge. Work feeds exclusively on money and is based on it. The world of the cynic is bare. And this gives him a certain strength. Is it clear to our reader what cynicism is? We hope so

Probably what happened before is a little complicated. We will try to give a brief definition of a cynical person. This is a subject who fundamentally does not believe in the good, gentle, bright and denies the world any moral perspective. His moral diagnosis to the world means that reality is like this and it will not get better. Everything about it is simple and clear. Love is based on the benefit of the parties, kindness is based on trading with God for an immortal soul, or rather, for the place of its final refuge. Work feeds exclusively on money and is based on it. The world of the cynic is bare. And this gives him a certain strength. Is it clear to our reader what cynicism is? We hope so.

Caution or suspiciousness

Few people like pessimists, because their tediousness annoys everyone. But they are less likely than optimists to find themselves in unpleasant and dangerous situations, since they are not inclined to trust unfamiliar people and try to plan for everything. For example, if they leave the house, they must put an umbrella and a gas canister in their bag to protect them from hooligans and robbers. They will never go on vacation without a first aid kit, will not leave children and pets unattended, will not go to play in a casino and will not risk money even with the most tempting prospects.

When making plans for the future, a pessimist will definitely thoroughly calculate everything, weigh all the pros and cons.

At the slightest ailment, a pessimist will go to the doctor, and this will help recognize the disease at an early stage. He is also more likely than an optimist to follow medical instructions and lead a healthy lifestyle. By the way, according to statistics, pessimists live longer than optimists.

Now about the sad thing... Negative thinking often makes a person unhappy and does not allow him to achieve success. For example, if a pessimist was once dumped by a girl, he may in the future begin to avoid girls altogether, since “they are all like that.” Having failed at a university, he is unlikely to enroll there again, since he is sure that it is “not for him.”

A pessimist can work for years in a low-paid job and endure the nagging of his superiors, because he is convinced that he will never find another option... In a word, pessimism prevents him from changing his life for the better, from seeing prospects and opportunities.

Most people instinctively try to avoid pessimists because they don't like constant talk about the bad. In addition, the chronic stress that pessimists experience in trying to “protect themselves” from the vicissitudes of life ultimately undermines their health. Even if they live longer than optimists, they still suffer from illnesses, if not real, then imaginary...

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