Optimism tell us that life will be great and stay great; this is what keeps us going. The first piece of advice friends give one another when taking on a new challenge or struggle is that they have to stay optimistic. Don't just BE optimistic, but STAY optimistic. Even when things go poorly, you have to think that things will end well. Such as the cliché phrase: "Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end."
Optimism is a very future-focused concept. Some people are optimistic that life will be followed by the Heavenly divine. Some people find comfort in thinking there's nothing beyond our current world. Others have no idea, but just hope the "bad people" all burn in Hell.
As you can see, one person's bright future is another person's greatest fear. For this reason, optimism is subjective and constantly changing. So, what does it mean when we tell someone to be optimistic? If the bad event will lead to the good event (think: "One door closes...." or "It gets worse before it gets better.") then, is optimism a nihilistic view in which we endure the painstaking process of all the obstacles before reaching an "end" with which we are content?
Tell me, when does this END come about? Because, if we're just supposed to smile and think things will work out if we stick it out, then isn't the eternal wisdom just some sugar-coated way of saying: "It'll all be over soon enough." ??
I realize that, much like telling someone to stay safe or feel better, these responses are just a temporary filler until we feel at ease that we did and said our best; most people probably aren't influencing each other to chill out until death. Or, maybe they are.
However, there are studies and articles about the physiological benefits of optimism. They talk about short-term thinking, an instantly gratifying method of convincing yourself that things will "be okay", so you can stop bugging others with your woes and concerns. While I can see how anxiety and stress may be harmful for people, I don't see how optimism is the alternative, nor how we can even decide how to think optimistically.
In the end, if I amp myself up, thinking that the unlikeliest actions will always occur, I'm just asking to be let down repeatedly. Only thing is, I'll become increasingly adjusted to it. Until one day, suddenly my entire view has been skewed. Think of someone in an abusive relationship or stick in a dead-end job. Things could be worse, sure. But, tell me, what is optimism in these cases? Is it that feeling that you're better off with something undesirable rather than nothing at all? Is it that knowledge that you can still change things and then making that move?
I believe that settling is the most self-jeopardizing thing we can do to ourselves. I think it is hazardous and dangerously looked down upon. Maybe things will improve on their own or with some effort and refined thinking. You certainly can wait until that day comes and be optimistic that it will come. Alternatively, you can put your foot down, stop waiting, and be optimistic that something better is available and you will find it. The current view on optimism can also harm us if it's a repeated, traumatic action. The actual outcome will be a real kick to the face!
If fear and self-doubt are present (as well as the reality of your particular situation), the latter can be the most difficult hurdle. But if we're labeling people and their thoughts, if we are in the business of deciding other people's personalities and who they are, then maybe we need to reconsider terms such as 'optimism' and 'pessimism'. It may not be so straightforward and simple as we want. In some cases, you may call it optimism, but it could also be seen as naïvety, fear, denial, or... pessimism.
All traits, features, and characteristics that a human being inherits are evolutionary developments programmed to keep us alive. They serve a purpose. There is a reason that your abusive partner causes panic and an urge to escape. This is your mind responding, to get you out of a bad situation. In the best case scenario, a well-adapted person is going to leave that situation. In a survival situation, you take in the dangers, you evaluate the risk, and you decide whether it's best to stay and endure, fight back. While many of our inherited traits are outdated, this is one I think we all need to recognize more often. Overall, I don't think a person or their thoughts can be labeled as being optimistic or pessimistic, I think we weigh what results may come, choose the angle that seems most agreeable, and we respond accordingly. While meter is out-of-whack sometimes, it doesn't determine who we are or the type of person we are or will be. Be a survivor, not someone who endures, waiting for the END.