Optimism vs pessimism are two opposing worldviews that are hotly debated. There’s a high likelihood that most of us have felt both optimistic and pessimistic at various points in our lives. However, when it comes to optimism vs pessimism, most people are either generally one or the other, most of the time.
In other words, we are inclined to lean more closely to one of these worldviews more so than the other, the majority of the time. This means it’s often noticed by others whether you’re generally optimistic (positive and hopeful) or pessimistic (negative and cynical). The question is, is one of these worldviews better than the other? What are the pros and cons of each?
Optimism vs Pessimism
There’s a lot to be said for having a positive and optimistic outlook on life, but there are also plenty of benefits to having a more realistic view of things. In this guide, we take a closer look at optimistic vs pessimistic worldviews, where they stem from, and how they play out in relationships and friendships.
What is the Optimistic Worldview?
The optimist is someone whose mental attitude is characterized by hope, positivity, and confidence in their success. They see good and positive outcomes for the future, and often see the good in everyone – even those who don’t outwardly express it.
An optimist, for example, is more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt than a pessimist.
For the optimist, hardships and setbacks are just obstacles sent by the universe to test them and teach them better practices for the future. Optimists are typically believers in the concept that the future holds better days.
People who are optimistic often feel as though they experience more positive things in life as well as feeling less stressed and overwhelmed.
When it comes to optimism vs pessimism, it’s possible that optimists truly do experience more positive outcomes in life. This is often referred to as the Law of Attraction.
What is the Pessimistic Worldview?
Also known as the cynic or the jaded one, the pessimist has an opposing worldview to the optimist. Pessimists often see unfavorable outcomes in their future, see the worst in others, come to negative conclusions quite often, and blame themselves for the hardships that they face in life. They often have less confidence in their successes and hold a more negative attitude overall.
For the pessimist, positive events tend to be seen as flukes instead of something they deserve, and they tend to see these events as out of their control and so less likely to ever happen again. Pessimists are the very definition of seeing the glass half empty, instead of half full.
People who are pessimistic often feel as though they have more negative life experiences and tend to have less confidence in themselves. Therefore, they are often more stressed.
According to the Law of Attraction, a pessimist’s negative attitude will only bring them more negative experiences. However, is this truly the case?
What are the Pros and Cons of Optimism vs Pessimism?
There are benefits and drawbacks to both pessimism and optimism. Neither of these worldviews is perfect, and it is often best to try and adopt a healthy blend of both. Below are some of the pros and cons that you should consider:
- Optimists are less likely to be realistic whereas a pessimist is more grounded in reality
- Optimists are more likely to be blindsided by bad news whereas a pessimist is better able to take it in their stride
- Optimists can suffer from toxic positivity, invalidating the feelings of those who are struggling through a difficult time. Optimists might be more likely to stay in toxic relationships.
- Optimists can often forget to properly assess a situation for risk whereas pessimists are often prepared for every possible outcome
- Pessimists are more likely to feel stressed out and overwhelmed because they tend to focus on negative outcomes and negative emotions
- Pessimists don’t always have great emotional health when compared to optimists, showing they are more likely to have conditions such as depression and anxiety
- Pessimists can be more suspicious of others, more paranoid, and draw exaggeratedly bad conclusions about people, which are often wrong and misguided.
Optimism vs Pessimism: Genetic or Learned?
This is the classic argument of nature vs nurture – are we born as optimists or pessimists, or is it something that we learn – or a combo of both? There are plenty of studies on the topic, and while the research hasn’t given us definitive answers, it has shown that there is a little bit of both in the mix.
There is a genetic factor for holding one of these worldviews over the other, and while studies vary on the percentage of influence our genes have on whether we become optimists or pessimists, it has been shown to be up to 50%. The other half is determined by our life experiences, our role models, and the people around us – giving play to the nurture concept.
This means that while our genetics do tend to play a part in this, we have the power to alter our mindset and change the way we think. Therefore, it is possible to find a healthier balance between optimism and pessimism, and try to alter negative thoughts so that they become more positive if your peers find you to be too negative.
If you’re curious about what other personality traits can be partly determined by your genetics, take a CircleDNA test, which gives you hundreds of reports about yourself, including DNA insights into your personality traits.
What Happens When an Optimist and a Pessimist Try to Date or be Friends?
Surprisingly, the combination of an optimist and pessimist can work very well in both platonic and romantic relationships. It often works when two people in a relationship balance each other out. The optimist and the pessimist can bring balance to each other, with optimists showing pessimists that things can get better and not to always focus on the negative stuff, while pessimists are often able to ground optimists in reality, and give them a more realistic outlook.
While balance can be an excellent addition to any kind of relationship, and it can help to strengthen individuals as well as their bond, it won’t always work out that way. For the pessimist, being around someone who is always positive and has such an energetic or hopeful outlook on life can sometimes be draining or lead to feelings of inadequacy.
Similarly, optimists who are with someone who is pessimistic all the time can be emotionally devastated quite often, and this can lead to feelings of depression as well as being burnt out from trying to maintain a positive outlook for two people instead of just for themselves.
Optimists often feel drained if they have to work overtime trying to show their pessimistic partner the positive side of things all of the time.
So, while these two worldviews can work very well together, it is important to remember that communication is important, and that balance can only be achieved if you’re working together to lift each other up – not one person doing all the work.
The key to an optimist and a pessimist being in a relationship is respect. You have to respect each other’s worldviews, regardless of the fact that they’re so different. You’ll have to see each other’s redeeming qualities, and decide to make it work.
It’s not uncommon for opposites to attract each other.
Optimism vs Pessimism: The Bottom Line
So, when it comes to optimism vs pessimism, which is better? Truthfully, there are pros and cons to each worldview that leaves each of them with their own set of benefits. Realistically, having a balance between the two is the best outcome, and one that will leave you feeling more well-rounded as a person.
However, from an emotional health perspective, leaning towards optimism and trying to see the positives more often certainly seems to be the way to go. Just remember to keep the realism and general thoughtfulness that comes with being a pessimist. Do that, and you’ll achieve a much stronger worldview as a hybrid that leans a bit more to the optimistic side.
If you struggle to be optimistic or positive in life, it could be that you’re not grateful enough. Gratitude takes practice, but we all have plenty to be grateful for. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude, and you’ll find that being a little more optimistic is that much easier as a result.