We’re often reminded to “prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.” The thinking is, that, with that kind of mindset, we can only be pleasantly surprised, not disappointed. We call this a “realistic” mindset.
But is it? And does it really do us any good?
When we prepare for the worst, and view the worst case scenario as being realistic, we accept it before it really happens. Whether it comes to be or not, we experience it.
We’re not blindsided everytime something bad has the potential to happen, because the bad thing often does not happen. And being blindsided occasionally is much better than experiencing the worst case scenario everytime.
Case in point: My daughter’s IEP meeting was today. Last fall, I had requested that she be tested for autism spectrum disorder. I thought I was addressing the elephant in the room. I thought I was seeing her fall further and further behind–because I was prepared for the worst, I only saw the worst. I saw her challenges, magnified.
This led to stress in our family, to needless worrying, and to fear. I blamed myself, because I was in the car accident while pregnant, the delivery was difficult, and I am not the perfect mother. When she played with other children, I only saw how different she was, from them.
Realistic? Partially. Only partially. And today I got a good dose of reality. Real, true reality.
It began with the speech report. Last time she was tested, she was 3 years old and functioning at a 15 month old level, across the board. Now she is up to grade level in a few areas, and only slightly below in most others. Her intelligence and academic skills are above average. Her fine motor and sensory needs have improved significantly. She has a number of social skills deficits, but they are all things that can be taught.
The Bean does not have autism. There never was any elephant in the room.
Next year, she will get visuals in the classroom, as well as speech, OT, a sensory diet, and social worker services. She is expected to “catch up” completely, in due time.
So, did accepting the worst case scenario benefit me? Not really. It was nice to be surprised today, but my negative perspective was not realistic at all. I saw only Beanie’s challenges, not her growth. I saw only one side of the coin.
And I believe that I suffered at least as much as I would have been, had I expected the best outcome, and gotten blindsided today.
Pessimism is not realism. The worst case scenario is not the realistic scenario. Having a pessimistic perspective is akin to worrying–it causes us needless anxiety, that is much worse than the event itself.