Don’t Confuse Optimism with Idealism

Making this mistake leads to pain

Photo de stayhereforu:

We all go through different experiences, and that includes challenging ones. Albeit most of us love to complain — it’s a fact that challenging experiences make up the majority of our existence. At least, until we learn our lessons.

We are also habituated to look outside ourselves whenever something goes wrong. Usually, we blame a person, a god, or an event for our difficulties — but with some grace, as we soon realize, doing so is a waste of time.

It takes courage to instead look at ourselves for our suffering. Ultimately, what happens just happens. When it’s pleasant, we register it as being good. And when it’s unpleasant, we register it as being something to run away from.

We are therefore heavily conditioned. We are biased. We have preferences. But as soon as we step on this journey of growth; again, as we soon realize, throwing a temper tantrum doesn’t work. We’re not at home anymore.

As the character Nora Moon from the movie Past Lives said when talking to her childhood friend…

Okay, it’s not that dramatic. Let’s just say that reality doesn’t succumb to childishness. And once we understand that, we begin to look at our situation from perspectives that differ from ours.

We’re often told that we create our own suffering.

Most people are baffled by such a statement. How could we? Isn’t the world so wrong? Isn’t our boss or the government the problem? We all have “targets” in our mind. Ask anyone, and they’ll give you a list about who and what exactly are the problem.

Hearing that we create our suffering therefore is taken almost personally by many people. Now sure, some things need fixing, and that’s obvious. If we can do something about it, we proceed. Unfortunately, the world is filled with people with great ideas only. Execution is a rare commodity. Hence complaining, a commonality.

It takes quite the amount of courage to look at ourselves. Pain is usually a good driving force to do so. After we’ve emptied ourselves from tears, and got tired of feeling sorry for ourselves — we start to question our beliefs.

Most of us are idealistic, in one way or another. We grew up with Disney and other similar influences. We are resistant to change, hence we want the world to keep going the way it always did.

We live life according to a narrative that has been put into us, and one that we now identify with.

This idealistic narrative lives deep within us. And very often, it is the source of our suffering.

A mind that lives according to ideals is a mind that refuses to look at reality. For one reason or another, such a mind has preferred to look at life through rose-colored glasses. It’s a form of denial, a coping-mechanism that may have had its use at some point.

This applies to every aspect of our lives.

We could be idealistic when it comes to our career; perhaps we’ve been in the same place for the last ten years but we still hope that some day, we will get a promotion and that in the meantime, everyone is paying attention to our dedication.

We could be idealistic when it comes to our romantic life. Perhaps we came to believe that another human being will complete us, hence we spent years of our lives looking for this one “true” love — whatever that means.

And so on.

The amount of anguish and anxiety that such ideals create has to make it obvious at some point that maybe we’re not being factual.

Maybe, we just refuse to look at life the way it is. Perhaps at some point in our lives, we found solace through certain beliefs, but now, those beliefs are the very reason we’re agonizing.

We’re not being bold at work, we’re waiting for permission. We’re not exploring our potential, and that is frustrating. We’re not appreciating our relationships and the people we mingle with for what they are. We are either picky, or desperate.

More importantly, we are moody.

Our emotions are all over the place. Some days we’re frustrated for no apparent reason. Others, we’re on cloud nine. And because we have not been diligent at looking within ourselves — we believe it to be “fate” or we just call it a bad day, or attribute our joy to a certain person/event.

Being optimistic is a prerequisite to a good life. Optimism however is deeply aligned with practicality.

Are we not optimistic when we know deep in our hearts that one day we will get those things we desire the most?

We surely are. As long as we embrace our desires fully, without judging them — we will put in the efforts necessary to make them happen. The thing is that we rarely embrace our desires because most of the time, we’re not even sure about them.

The work therefore is less about making the world right or wrong, and more about understanding ourselves very, very deeply. The rest happens on its own. Was I just idealistic?

Optimism is not to be confused with idealism. And pessimism is born from this confusion.

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