Pessimism vs. Realism

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.

We need to realize that reality does involve a bit of sunshine.

Sunshine : Sunny Sunshine

9 thoughts on “Pessimism vs. Realism

  1. Bethany, I am so happy for you! You have a wonderful way of writing while you were obviously writing about a personal situation from your own life, I had flashes of choices I made in my life expecting the worst and being glad it didn’t come to be, the time I spent fretting was horrible. Yet on the other hand when I decided I was going to do something and found myself failing, which doesn’t happen often when you make the decision to succeed, the failure wasn’t anywhere as bad as those times when I allowed myself to get caught up in the worst case scenario.

    • Your worst case scenario was about as bad as they can get, and look at all of the blessings you have received instead! 🙂 Definitely something for me to remind my student, who has the similar challenges (and the same diagnosis), to yours (physically speaking). Nobody–not doctors, or any other “experts”–can predict the future.

      • I believe for some people, like me, being told what you can’t do gives us the motivation to prove them wrong. For others they just give up when getting bad news. It all depends on your personality.
        I heard a while back that in Japan doctors wouldn’t give a cancer patient a timetable of how much longer they should expect to live. The result was that the patients on average ended up living much longer than predicted.

  2. I am impressed by your insights, and wholeheartedly agree that pessimism, worrying and anxiety need to be removed from your life. I love the idea of letting sunshine into your life. I know for me, reconnecting with my positivity haas helped me to enjoy sunsets, and even sunrises.

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