A Shocking Instance of Self-Discovery

Auckland

I’ve made a terrible miscalculation. Have you ever been so sure you knew someone inside and out, and then you discover something about them that completely contradicts everything you thought you knew? Denial can make you blind to it, especially if you’ve really been counting on that particular person to fill a certain role in your life. Well, that happened to me last week.

The great majority of you only know me through what I write, but that’s probably given you a pretty revealing view of my outlook on life. By now you know what I think about humanity and the potential of individuals. I get gushing emails and comments from all sorts of people thanking me for showing them a positive perspective or helping them out of a bad mood.

Raptitude has always been about empowerment and happiness. My interest is finding more skillful ways to cultivate joy and appreciate life. I write about gratitude and wisdom and all things positive. But you knew that.

If you haven’t guessed yet, the person I was mistaken about was me. Recently I learned something about myself that I never suspected, and it was a bit of a shock.

The last four months has been a remarkably pleasant and easy period of my life. It’s hard not to have a good time when you’ve got no job and virtually no responsibilities, plenty of beaches to wander and a second consecutive summer to do it in.

In the last few weeks, my moods started to go rotten on me, and I knew exactly why. The “honeymoon” is over, for now. I’ve reached the part of my trip where I need to earn some money to continue. After four months of wandering foreign shores eating ice cream and photographing ferns, I have to find a job.

Job searching has always been a sore spot for me. I associate “pounding the pavement” with one of the worst periods in my life, so it seemed natural to be a bit antsy about this upcoming campaign. But my moods took such a dark, wicked turn (much to the dismay of my visiting mother) that I started to wonder why I couldn’t see anything good about taking a break to find some income.

When I originally conceived of this trip, that was the whole idea: to live and work in another country. That was actually the appeal: the cultural adventure of making a life for myself in another country for a while. Getting a temporary job was always central to the whole thing.

But after several months of rather painless backpacking, the prospect of confronting this ordinary task hit me like an evil cyclone. My outlook went positively black, as if I was marching off to the gallows. I’ve met dozens of travelers who were happily looking for jobs, because to them it only meant more traveling and adventure.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I am almost always concerned primarily with the potential costs of new endeavors, so much so that in my mind they overshadow the rewards. When I think about job searching, I think of interviews gone awry, dwindling cash reserves, obsessing over the layout of my resumé, and patronizing receptionists telling me, “Sorry we have nothing right now but I’ll keep this on file.” I never seem to rouse within myself any excitement about the upsides: making money, meeting new people, and funding further travels.

It’s always been like that. I’ve always felt like these kinds of ordinary undertakings caused me so much more grief than they seemed to cause others.

That’s when I finally realized something that shocked me, though in hindsight it seems so clear:

I am a pessimist.

Despite my ever-positive aspirations, I have an insidious tendency to view emerging events and people in terms of the trouble they may cause me, rather than the opportunities they might offer me. In other words, though I haven’t known it, I’ve been enduring a lifelong preoccupation with pain and difficulty.

This means reaching my goals has been needlessly difficult my entire life, because they appear to me as bundles of obstacles rather than bundles of rewards.

If desire and fear are the two forces that push and pull us about in life, my fears have had a considerable edge over my desires for as long as I can remember. Usually, aversion pushes more strongly than attraction pulls. I have always resonated with caution, self-preservation and ease much more strongly than courage, risk and challenge.

There are people who thrive on challenge and adversity. It brings out the best in them. I have always hated challenge, because my mind reads it as a promise of pain and suffering, not glory and opportunity. Glass half empty!

A positive pessimist?

When I’m in a reasonably comfortable setting, with steady income, a place to live and no looming dilemmas, I find life quite enjoyable. I have a great time doing even the simplest things, like pier-walking, bench-sitting or people-watching, and gratitude is my state of mind.

But when something I fear enters the picture, my desire and gratitude flee the scene, and it becomes a game of survival. My thinking goes nuts. I become preoccupied with escaping and controlling. I retreat, surrender, or pout. I completely forget that there is anything to be gained from the situation at all, even if that’s why I’m there in the first place.

Unlike true optimists, in the face of adversity I so easily overlook the upsides: that this is a chance to strengthen myself, to get a monkey off my back, to bask in the high of victory, to put a fear to bed for good, or simply to get what I want! I often forget all that stuff, and interpret the challenge as a steaming heap of precisely what I don’t want: difficulty, pain, defeat, and shame. And of course, I tend to get what I expect.

The most devastating manifestation of my pessimism happens when I look at my to-do list. This list only exists because I know there are great things on the other side of certain actions. I write them down because I think they’re worth doing, but once they’re in written form they become problems and annoyances. An optimist would see it as a list of glittering prizes to be won. I tend to see it as a list of crap I have to deal with.

Don’t get me wrong. My life is full of positivity, and I’ve made great progress in improving my capacity to love and enjoy life. I am not calling myself a negative person, and if you met me I don’t think you would either. I am happy almost all of the time.

But when it comes to the particular realm of challenges and adversity — which seem to be the gateways to self-improvement and dreams come true — for all my efforts I’ve been remarkably ineffective.

I can no longer deny that my typical reflex is to look at downsides first, and give them more weight than the upsides. It seems obvious in hindsight, but two weeks ago I had no idea it was happening.

How didn’t I realize this?

As I said, despite my doom-focused approach to adversity, I’m a rather positive person. I love people, I love life, I like to see people succeed. I don’t delight in misfortune or destruction. I see my life as having been far more good than bad, and I know the future will be even better.

I have made strides in my ability to appreciate the little things. I know how to enjoy a bad meal. I don’t mind waiting in line and I don’t sigh when gas prices go up. I even find considerable joy in simple actions like putting on socks or lighting a match. I’m not kidding.

I tune out naysayers. I tend not to respond to negative remarks, or if I do I’ll bring up a positive counterpoint. I don’t want to encourage criticism or negativity. I generally don’t engage in pointless criticism or other explicit negativity or a lot of other habits you might associate with a pessimistic outlook.

You can call these traits evidence of optimism, but I have had to work at all of this. As well, it’s so easy — not to mention reassuring — to make optimistic predictions when I’m at a comfortable distance from the challenge in question. Yet when it comes right down to confronting obstacles in real time, my troubles loom immense, and any thoughts of the triumph and glory that I might win shrink away like frightened turtles.

I guess what’s missing is faith in myself, and that’s no new revelation. I’ve long been told that I have a tendency to downplay my successes and overstate the difficulty of my dilemmas.

My struggle has always been comparing where I’m at now with what I believe is my potential, and of course perfection is an impossible benchmark to meet. But I’ve always felt that the gulf was far wider than I could account for, and now I’ve discovered the reason. I knew there had to be some hidden force at play.

I think I’ve been under the impression that I’m an optimist ever since the day I first learned the word. It was in grade three or four, and the teacher gave us the ubiquitous “glass half full/empty” analogy.

To me the choice was obvious. I always thought calling a glass “half empty” was kind of dumb. A glass, by definition, is just the glass part. It doesn’t become “half” anything until you add something to it. I wondered why anyone would want to call themselves a pessimist.

So maybe it was the inadequacy of the overused “glass analogy” that got me thinking I was always operating on the positive side of the line. That, and the fact that the idea of optimism appealed to me and pessimism didn’t. So I chose the label I wanted, but I suppose it was at least partly wishful thinking.

I’ve since met many people who relish the title of pessimist, and I certainly never identified with them. I remember one who said “I’m definitely a pessimist. Or actually, I’m a realist — there are only realists and optimists.” He was an unhappy, unhealthy man.

The common trait among them is that they find a particular joy in making their negative appraisals. There was never any delight in it for me, particularly because I didn’t realize I was doing it.

Where to go from here?

Well this discovery was a disturbing one, but aside from the initial shock it’s actually wonderful news.

Suddenly I see why everything has been so hard! I’ve been making it that way by giving more weight to the downsides than upsides. Yes, suddenly I’m very happy about all my problems, because the rewards have effectively gotten bigger, and the obstacles smaller.

I can safely trust that when things seem bad, they cannot be as bad as they seem. Even if I’m a little bent out of shape and can’t see through my negativity-goggles, I can have faith that the bad part is being overplayed, and the good part is being underplayed.

It means that the goals I’ve struggled with are actually far easier than I’ve made them out to be. Given the solid across-the-board improvements I’ve made in the last two years, I think I’m looking at a pretty sweet 2010 and 2011.

My biggest change is going to be how I view my to-do list. No longer will it be a gauntlet of annoyances and chores, it will be a map to the things I want. It’s such a simple change in thinking, but already I find I’m attracted to my list, not repulsed as I’ve always been.

All of it sounds so obvious. I’m sure many of you have been thinking this way all your lives. I’ve read and heard this same sentiment for years, from teachers, parents, inspirational posters and fortune cookies, but it didn’t click. I knew it, but it just wasn’t real to me until now.

Why am I telling you all this?

Once again I’ve rattled on about myself for thirty paragraphs like I sometimes do. I did promise a “shocking revelation” in last Monday’s post. But I also suspect some of you are in the same boat. I called myself an optimist because it sounded better than pessimist, and I stuck with it because I made that word a part of my identity that very day.

Your definitions of optimism and pessimism may differ from mine. If this article has given you a reason to think about it, you may want to ask yourself if you tend to overvalue the negative aspects of situations, even though you call yourself an optimist.

But it doesn’t stop there. This kind of misunderstanding could happen with any belief about yourself: your political stance, your assessment of your earning potential, your assessment of your intelligence, your economic class, your attitude about the humanity as a whole, your supposed calling in life, your supposed destiny.

I bet most of us are positively swimming in foregone conclusions about who we are and who we’re meant to be. Once you adopt a belief about your identity, a lifetime of hints to the contrary could pass before it even occurs to you that you’ve been wrong.

I misunderstood a fundamental aspect of my behavior my whole life, and now things suddenly make a lot more sense. I was attached to the idea that I’ve forever been an optimist, and because of that, I was blind to a problem I could have addressed long ago.

The label doesn’t really matter. I’m not hereby taking up the title of “pessimist” just because it’s a slightly better descriptor. But the title I did adopt all those years ago made it impossible for me to see a problem that’s been putting sugar in my gas tank every morning for twenty-some years.

Well that’s my story. I’m still figuring out what it means, so take what you can from it. Hopefully it’s something positive.

R

Photo by David Cain

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{ 48 Comments }

Mike February 25, 2010 at 4:51 am

Labels often don’t help us, they just contribute to narrow our perspective. The problem is that we’re very used to label everything.. maybe it’s time to unlearn some of the things we took for granted. Because at the end of the day, we just have to be ourselves.
All the best,
Mike
.-= Mike´s last blog ..Bliss =-.

David February 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Yes, you’re right. Labels are really handy, and we can’t live without them, but they can come at a cost. It’s hard to even realize when we label something.

I guess to start, we should be take a hard look at any sentence that starts with “I am a….”

Ellen February 25, 2010 at 6:07 am

Wow, this is insane, I pretty much realised exactly the same thing today.

I always think that I haven’t achieved very much in my life (even though I’m young) and that I haven’t had many successes. Then I read a quote, basically along the lines of our mistakes make us more who we are than our successes. And then I was like well, I haven’t had that many failures, so I guess I suck then.

Just my $0.02 worth, but there’s always going to be proof for good and bad being true. And it’s so clichéd, but so true, that we (by far) overvalue the negative.

:)

David February 25, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I read a quote, basically along the lines of our mistakes make us more who we are than our successes. And then I was like well, I haven’t had that many failures, so I guess I suck then.

Haha… I think I’ve heard that quote, and I think it’s bunk. There are quotes making all kinds of hard and fast “ultimate truths” (I think I may have published a whole list of them once :)) but you have to be careful because you can just as easily find a contradictory quote that sounds just as convincing. So maybe you don’t suck!

Ellen February 26, 2010 at 1:25 am

I just meant like, I guess the conventional wisdom is that success is good, and previously I was bummed because I thought I wasn’t successful. And then I saw this quote and I was bummed for exactly the opposite.

So it’s more like whatever the thing is that’s seen as good (so success or failure in this situation) we convince ourselves that the negative is true for us.
Okay I don’t think that’s much clearer. Anyway, your blog is awesome :)

David February 26, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I think I follow. I think. :)

Phronemophile May 4, 2010 at 5:05 am

Apropos of finding a contradictory quote that sounds just as convincing, I rather like this: “The opposite of a great truth is often another great truth.”

David May 4, 2010 at 5:14 am

Hey I like that one. I think it’s true.

Lisis February 25, 2010 at 8:00 am

Hey, D.! Like you, I’ve always been a wannabe optimist… the idea appealed to me (more so than pessimism), and I relished the thought of finding silver linings, almost as a personal challenge… a search for hidden treasures. But the fact is, I am (and always have been) a fair weather optimist.

When things are going great, or at least neutral, I focus on the wonderful stuff, the positive lessons, and the simple pleasures. But when “reality checks” come along (work, bills, taxes, chores, relationship challenges, stress, etc.) I quickly become as adept at focusing on sources of misery as I was at enjoying the silver linings.

I’ve come to realize, I am not an optimist, a pessimist, or a realist at all. I’m an… enhancer? An amplifier? An exaggerator? Not sure what the right term should be, but I’m an expert at making mountains out of molehills.

If the molehill is positive, like finding the first blossom in early spring, the mountain will be glorious, and choirs of angels will sing for me. If the molehill is not pleasant, like dealing with my medical insurance company, it becomes a nearly insurmountable burden, and I am a mortified victim of fate.

I may never know why this is, or what do do about it, exactly. But it’s nice to know I’m not alone. :)
.-= Lisis´s last blog ..The Pendulum of Caution, Risk, and Reasonable Doubt =-.

David February 25, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Hi Lisis. Great comment, thanks.

Exaggerator, I think can understand that. “Fair weather optimist” might be a fitting descriptor for me. I am generally optimistic in outlook, but that goes out the window when I really need it. I guess all this label-tweaking just goes to show us how completely inadequate they are for describing a full human being.

“Pessimist” probably isn’t the best thing to call myself, but it does serve to remind me that I become preoccupied with bad outcomes whenever there is some uncertainty in the air.

Tim February 27, 2010 at 11:49 pm

That’s the most fantastic descriptor I’ve heard all day. Would you mind if I adopted it? Enhancer and exaggerator. Or maybe at least borrowed it for a while?

For people like us feelings and emotions can seem eternal. When we’re happy we feel like we could stay happy forever, but when depression strikes, we feel like the world will never be right again. Training myself to see with perspective has helped, but things like that, the ones that are interwoven with our personalities, just don’t seem to ever go away.

Thanks for insightually thinking for me.
.-= Tim´s last blog ..Mmmoments =-.

Phyllis Alesia February 25, 2010 at 10:43 am

Oh, David, I’m really feeling this post. I, too, am a pessimistic optimist. I become paralyzed by fear, even as I keep trying to convince myself of the opportunities present in my personal obstacles. I can SEE the opportunities, but often can’t seem to move toward them. I can cheer on others, but not myself.

David February 25, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Everything you say is familiar to me. It’s good to hear other people can identify with this big gangly post. I wonder if true optimists are quite rare, and most of us are just wishful optimists.

Trish Scott February 25, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I’m sure many will resonate with what you say here David. I remember hitting a point at which I made a very similar realization. In my mind it came up as, “I thought I was making the best of a horrible situation (life you know) when all along I was making the worst of a wonderful situation.” I can say from experience – things will get better. Have a blast with that next TEMPORARY job :).

David February 25, 2010 at 3:23 pm

“I thought I was making the best of a horrible situation (life you know) when all along I was making the worst of a wonderful situation.”

Yes! That’s it. That’s what I do. Thanks Trish, you’ve given me another way to think about it.

The temporary job will be nice and temporary. :)

Brad February 25, 2010 at 9:19 pm

I know what you mean; after a while I bought into all of the pervasiveness about how miserable unemployment is–and I know it does lead to a lot of hardship for many people, but for me, there is no reason to wallow in self pity–there are plenty of positive things about my life situation right now.
.-= Brad´s last blog ..Parsimonious Billionaires =-.

Hulbert February 25, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Nice biography David (just kidding :)). I really enjoyed reading this post because I could relate to it in different ways. I used to be a pessimist too. Finding jobs and going through the interviews were always a grueling experience for me. But it taught me that whether we are a pessimist or a optimist, there is always something to learn from both sides. If your an optimist, a negative perspective can be helpful in looking at a world in a truthful and practical way. If your a pessimist, a positive perspective can help you see challenges or adversities as something that makes you a stronger person in the long run.

David February 26, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Good point Hulbert. Both sides have something to offer. A happy medium would be perfect. Better than a sad medium, anyway.

Brad February 25, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Good article. It’s funny how our attitudes can be so invisible to ourselves. I do this all the time. I will postpone the littlest things, like opening a stack of mail, until it eventually fills me with this black sea of dread. Then other responsibilities pile up and the tide just keeps rising. It’s frickin’ hilarious, because some things are so easy; going through a pile of letters is no more difficult than cutting out paper shapes or coloring in patterns like in kindergarten, but it just doesn’t click. Well, it isn’t always a “black sea of dread”, it can just be joyless or more like a scrap of garbage to toss away. I guess for me, the biggest thing is remembering to let things be fun. Work can be “more fun than fun” if you let it.
.-= Brad´s last blog ..Parsimonious Billionaires =-.

David February 26, 2010 at 3:47 pm

It’s frickin’ hilarious, because some things are so easy; going through a pile of letters is no more difficult than cutting out paper shapes or coloring in patterns like in kindergarten, but it just doesn’t click.

Haha! I know exactly what you mean. We project so much extraneous crap on top of these simple little things.

Love the “black sea of dread” analogy. I’ve been cast overboard in that very sea many times. Arr.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) February 26, 2010 at 4:19 am

Hi David~ thanks, I definitly received something positive from your post~ you reminded me of a quote from Darwin, “Conflict is the genesis of creation”, your post is full of hope and belief in self-potential to bring into being what one wants from life.

You certainly showed courage, risk and [taking up the] challenge to think about and then share your self insights. Awesome!

“…for all my efforts I’ve been remarkably ineffective.” ~ Disagree with this from what I know of you through your writing and FB shares.

Could you perhaps, be attached to the list…?

How about instead of a label, “I am a pessimist” using a continuum, “I can be a pessimist when…” …?

As to a job, I clean offices twice a week for a bit extra; cleaners are always needed, physical activity, thinking time, you can walk away anytime and it keeps ones feet on the ground (some will not ride in a lift with me , seriously!).

And your 88 post has had people asking you for permission to print T-shirts etc (I think a set of inspiration cards, or as a book, you could sell on lulu.com as download as well as print versions)

Now to Camus, “In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” How better to truly experience optimism…

David February 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm

You floor me on a regular basis Char.

“…for all my efforts I’ve been remarkably ineffective.” ~ Disagree with this from what I know of you through your writing and FB shares.

That’s been a common theme in my life. I express dissatisfaction with myself, and others tell me I have a lot to be proud of. I have this itch to (for once) do my best and I guess deep down I don’t think I have ever actually done my best. I see my best as something yet to come, a nut I haven’t cracked yet. It may be a flaw in thinking, or it may be a burning desire to really put my talents to their best use. Or probably both.

I do like “I can be a pessimist when…” better. It’s not so absolute. I guess few people belong firmly in one camp or the other. False dichotomy strikes again :)

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) February 26, 2010 at 5:14 pm

hey~ thanks for your kind words~

“I guess deep down I don’t think I have ever actually done my best.”

The beauty of life is, while we cannot undo what is done,
we can see it, understand it, learn from it and change.
So that every new moment is spent not in regret, guilt, fear or anger, but in wisdom, understanding and love.

~ Jennifer Edwards

Tina February 26, 2010 at 1:49 pm

“You’re never who you used to think you are, how strange.” (From the song Pretending, performed by Clapton)

I can relate to being an optimistic pessimist. There are some things that one just naturally embraces, and others that scare us first. Those that scare us make us break out in a cold sweat while we must face what ever it is and do it, and then we find ourselves having tackled it and having succeeded. The challenges and the new experiences are part of the fun, even if the challenges take on the form of many, many baby steps:)

David February 26, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Hi Tina. In my history (or maybe just my pessimistic view of it :)), those things that “scare me at first” scare me always, because I find a less scary alternative and do that instead. I am a master avoider, aspiring to be a master accomplisher. For better or worse, I’m going to have to tackle a few things in the coming weeks. Luckily I’m cornered… growth is inevitable!

Brenda (betaphi) February 27, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I was wrong. I thought you were going to announce that you were gay or engaged or some other cliche, like calling off the trip. I should have known to expect something more original from you. But a ‘positive pessimist’ wasn’t even on the radar, especially coming in the middle of your no complaints campaign. Has it been 21 days already?

I’ve known people who were upbeat all the time. I was married to a man like that and it used to bother me that he didn’t seem to have a serious side. Now I realize that he was my teacher; the lesson was all about joy.

Like I said, I don’t like cliffhangers but I do love surprises and this post was yet another lovely surprise. You’re so cute. ;)
.-= Brenda (betaphi)´s last blog ..Nothing Is Missing =-.

David February 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm

It has been almost 21 days, but I had to restart a few times because I griped, so today is day 8.

No I’m not gay and/or engaged :)

Brenda (betaphi) February 28, 2010 at 12:26 am

I discovered BeatlesRadio.com recently and decided to try a 21-day Beatles immersion just to see if I could focus on anything for that long. I couldn’t. There were days I totally forgot about it. I don’t think I’ll start over. It’s too hard. :)
.-= Brenda (betaphi)´s last blog ..Nothing Is Missing =-.

David February 28, 2010 at 2:51 am

Beatles Immersion? How does that work?

Lauren D. February 28, 2010 at 1:23 am

Hi,

I’m sort of a new reader here and I’ve been enjoying it very much. I guess it’s because I feel like I relate to a lot of what you write about, but especially something you mentioned in this post- job hunting.

Like you (it seems), I’ve never had a good experience with job hunting and I’m in a position where I have to get a job and soon. It is a task that has always seemed pretty futile to me. I see my peers in totally normal jobs (office assistant, hostess, whatever)- the question that always comes up is ‘why can’t I do that? Is there something wrong with me?’ There’s not, I’m sure, but after many unlucky tries it starts to feel that way. Anyway, I’m trying to overcome these feelings of doom and gloom by planning small steps I can work toward every day on the job hunt. First day of that plan starts Monday, so I guess I’ll see how it goes. : )

Best of luck with your job search. Who knows, maybe you’ll stumble across some insight on having a better outlook about stuff like job searching that you can share with your readers ; )

David February 28, 2010 at 2:57 am

Hi Lauren.

That’s exactly how I’ve felt. I know that “why can’t I do that” feeling very well. This time I’m stronger and I do think I can do what it takes, but there are a lot of old fears that get triggered every step of the way. Resumes, cold calling, all that kind of stuff …

I would appreciate it if you kept me posted on your job hunt. I can keep you posted on mine too if you think it might help. You can email me through the contact form if you want.

Regan February 28, 2010 at 3:38 am

Oooh interesting post! I think there are definitely things resonating here, including some of the comments others have made! Drat this whole being positive and strong for myself thing, when it’s soo much easier to just cheer others on and be a fount of wisdom on what they should be doing with their lives.

Good luck with your job hunt. Are you hunting in Wellington? Do you have a specific career/job type? I’ve used a few recruiters in Welly over the last few years, for both temp, contract and more permanent work, so if you wanted any info let me know. :)
All the best! I’m sure you’ll find something easily which will turn out wonderfully.

David February 28, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Hi Regan. I’m actually in Auckland. I actually hadn’t thought of recruiting services. May be worthwhile. I’ll be in touch.

Angela February 28, 2010 at 9:10 am

The good news is that there is always a breaking point, at least for me. When I finally get so unclear about who I am that it is hard to function normally. I don’t like anything or anyone. They are all against me. Paranoid that I am not perfect or that I will not succeed. The real discovery for me is that even if you fail and no one is perfect, you are still alive! You still live and breathe and walk on the planet alongside nature, who suffers everyday and keeps on coming back for that sunshine and fresh air that keeps it all in a state of change and evolution. Change is good. It is the only constant thing in life. Things will change and you will adapt to survive or you won’t. How you mentally approach that is up to you and me and all of us – together. Choosing to be positive is an exercise that I continue to work on. When I look back at everything that I thought was hard, I realize that I got past it and it was just a little blip in this short life. I learned from it, I survived it and I am better for it.

Good luck out there David Cain – you are a truly amazing person. You are realizing your place on the planet and it is a beautiful thing to witness. I know I am not alone. Humans are brilliantly flawed with emotions that allow us to think about who we are, where we are going and how we can make the years here on earth worth living…sharing and loving along the way…showing others that is okay to feel.

David February 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Well! I think you’ve got me inspired Angela. Wise words, thank you.
.-= David´s last blog ..A Shocking Instance of Self-Discovery =-.

Nea | Self Improvement Saga March 5, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Thanks so much for sharing this. This article shows that you are remarkably self aware and insightful. It doesn’t matter how long it took for you to notice something that you want to change. It just matters that you notice it. And that you now see it as a giant opportunity for growth. I think that we continue growing and having self revelations throughout our lives…. so that we can keep creating our reality better and better.
.-= Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog ..5 Steps to Easily Influencing People Without Manipulation =-.

David March 6, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Thanks Nea. Yes this is a golden opportunity. I will make sure I take advantage.

Spirituality Minded March 8, 2010 at 8:59 pm

You have a great writing style. Your honesty also is refreshing. Not something many self-improvement bloggers confess to. Makes you more real. It’s good.
.-= Spirituality Minded´s last blog ..Why I didn’t watch the Oscars =-.

David March 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Well thank you. I think personal faults are interesting.

Mathieu D March 11, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Annihilating a delusion we had of ourselves is often shocking… and GOSH do we try hard to convince our mind otherwise!

Ah, ego, why are you so hard to step over?
.-= Mathieu D´s last blog ..4 Tips for Iron-Hard Relentlessness =-.

David March 12, 2010 at 12:14 am

Heh… I wish I had the answer to that one.

Now that I’ve annihilated the delusion that I’m mostly optimistic, I wish I could annihilate the reality that I’m mostly pessimistic.

So destruction is the answer after all :)

Mathieu D March 12, 2010 at 6:18 am

Hmm! Just like a Phoenix… BURN, baby! Then you flashily come back to life.
:D
.-= Mathieu D´s last blog ..4 Tips for Iron-Hard Relentlessness =-.

Word October 29, 2012 at 11:29 am

This is so relatable. I can be staunchly optimistic when I feel like I’m in a good situation, but put my in a situation where I feel like I don’t belong, and I turn into a giant pit of negativity. My last job was a good example: I worked retail for a fairly creepy boss, and I couldn’t ignore his sexism as easily as the other female employees. This brought up an interesting question, though: what’s a healthy balance between looking at the positive side of situations and being mindful of when the situation you are in is an unhealthy one?

Mark January 26, 2013 at 4:45 pm

This resonates with me too. I have found myself annoyed by all the people who have no time for others’ negative outlooks, etc. I think there is a lot of fake positivity out there, but that doesn’t mean those people are phonies. Maybe it’s “fake it till you make it”. I’ve said many times that there are things that suck and pointing them out isn’t being negative, it’s just being honest. Of course, as Nietzsche said, “There are no facts, only opinions.” Then it does come down to what aspect of things you focus on.

Glass half empty vs half full — it depends whether the glass is in the process of being filled or being emptied!

Deborah May 14, 2013 at 5:31 pm

My recent knocked-over-the-head realization about myself is that I am a perfectionist (the real cause of my procrastination). And ambitious (as in I really care that I am sabotaging myself with said procrastination). These are things that I would not use to describe myself before. Self-discovery can really turn things upside-down for a while.

David May 15, 2013 at 9:06 pm

You might appreciate this:

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/02/are-you-a-failure-germaphobe/

The idea is to do things badly on purpose sometimes, to get over perfectionism.

a random reader November 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Hi, I just read your article and one sentence in particular struck me:
“I have always hated challenge, because my mind reads it as a promise of pain and suffering, not glory and opportunity”.

I may have an alternative explanation for that. I recently watched a great TED talk about the power of growth mindset vs fixed mindset (available here on YT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN34FNbOKXc)
“When students or adults see their abilities as fixed, whether they think they’re naturals or just not built for a certain domain, they avoid challenge and lose interest when things get hard. Conversely, when they understand that abilities are developed, they more readily adopt learning-oriented behaviors such as deliberate practice and grit that enable them to achieve their goals”.

I think you fit in the fixed mindset description, because as I’ve read in one of your previous articles, you were perceived as smart at school, most likely often complimented on how smart you are. So, to you, challenge is not an opportunity for growth, but instead one more test to see if you really are as smart/skilled/etc as people say you are. If you succeed, then it’s just normal, you are supposed to be smart/skilled after all. However if you fail, your ego takes a blow. With so few possible positive outcomes, you naturally end up avoiding challenge.

Does this resonate with you?

Darren February 13, 2014 at 3:48 am

I know this is an old one, but I often go through the archives trying to find interesting titles I don’t think I’ve read yet.

Wow, you’ve just written about me. A lot of what you write resonates with me, as I’m sure it does for a lot of people, but this one has really hit the nail on the head. I’m going through a bit of a shake-up myself at the moment; I need a new career and I may have to move house, etc. This post was just what I needed to make the interim more constructive instead of just painful. You’re right, it just sounded better to be an optimist. If your outward actions match what you expect from an optimist then maybe you have no cause to question it. Maybe things just got easier.
An oldie but a goodie! Thank you, from a born-again pessimist.

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