Darker Views

A Better Understnading of a Cynical Perspective

“If anything can go wrong, it will.” This is a saying that would likely come from me as a motivating phrase, while others would label it as cynical. By definition, a cynic is a person who believes that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest, leading them to have/show a distrust of human nature and motives. Traditionally, it is thought that the cynic takes a negative attitude towards action; remembering everything that has gone wrong, every bad thing that has happened before in their lives and in the world, and they expect the same in their future (The International Workplace, Cynicism..). More modernly a cynic is thought to be selfish, untrusting, disconnected, unsatisfied, and likely to be mistaken for a pessimist. For most people the word cynical and pessimistic are synonyms for one another; both reflecting a negative and generally unhappy outlook on life, however, they are two completely different points of view. Cynicism is not usually considered diffuse, but rather striking; not universal but individual (Caldwell, 137). The character trait of cynicism has been given such a negative connotation that it is naively thought to be only a vice (though if personally asked, I’d claim it as a virtue) across the board with no benefits to be gained from possessing the trait itself. As a cynical person I don’t believe everything is all sunshine and rainbows 24/7, however, I also don’t believe “the world is going to end” every time something doesn’t go according to plan — though I do know that it just might.

“Just living life until you die is hard work” — In my 19 years I’ve come to realize that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea; that there are actually many who find my art of cynicism to be too dark or just plain insensitive. Quickly writing me off as merely a self-loathing millennial or that I am ungrateful because we all know, “there are people who have it worse than you”. Well truthfully, I simply find it easier to focus on my own horrible situation instead of using someone else’s suffering to make me feel better…which is actually quit cynical in itself if you ask me. Anyways, you need to understand two aspects of my cynical perspective before you make those hasty judgments: 1. I’m not trying to rain on your parade; I just don’t want to deal with your tears when you end up disappointed. 2. I’m not negative; I’m just being honest.
—“There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you’ll ever be. Then you accept it… or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking into mirrors.” — Since I believe people by nature are self-interested creatures then I too must be this way as well, correct? Well that seems pretty spot on, but easily misunderstood confused with also being self-conceited. Self-interest is essential for your happiness and well being with concern exclusively with ones self, while self-conceited deals with excess of pride in ones self, often in vain. It’s typically thought that my cynicism also means that I’m self conceited, however, though I will always choose to do what will benefit me, I do not choose this because I see myself as being better than anyone else or more deserving.
Throughout your educational experience, you are likely to have shared a classroom with a cynic. They were probably the student who always had a remark to the teacher’s instructions or who seemed to continuously roll their eyes in annoyance during lecture, because they assumed they were the smartest person in the room, right? Wrong. Cynics feel no sense of intellectual superiority, however, they do struggle with assignments given to them due to their belief that what you do in life truly doesn’t matter; because of this the cynic receives no credit from themselves or others for their academic achievements. Though the individual cynic may not find interest in the class work, the field of academics has now recently become more accepting of the cynical and critical perspectives throughout all aspects of study (Baggini, In Praise of the Cynicisim.
“Smile while you still have teeth” — When the word cynic comes to mind, people tend to picture someone with a look of despair plastered across their face shouting complaints every which way, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite our lack of desire for deep human attachments, we can strive and flourish in social environments due to the fact that our “dark sense of humor” can often attract those around us. Comedian Chris Rock and television host Ellen DeGeneres use their cynicism to not only gain fans but also promote themselves in their careers through their social connections. So though the character traits of a cynic are similar to those of antisocial tendencies, we actually enjoy using it to our social advantage.
Common misconceptions about us cynics is that we don’t believe in love or marriage because we feel all is doomed and like all things will inevitably fail, or that we suffer from disabling trust issues due to the fact that we believe people are only concerned with their own self benefits. Well sure, our skeptical nature does affect our perception of love and relationships, but does this mean we avoid them completely and just choose to end up alone? Of course not! The ability to view the “bad” in potential partnerships gives us a good sense of what we’re in for, so when we do choose to venture into a new relationship, we are also choosing to deal with “worst case scenario” outcomes if they are to occur, which we believe is very much a possibility.
The Bible instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16–18) and to trade worry for thanksgiving (The Holy Bible, Phil. 4:6), but the question is how? A cynical perspective greatly affects our views on religion and basic beliefs system, because if there really were a higher power, then why would they choose to make things as terrible as they are? Or if everything happens for a reason, can you please list those reasons? Constant questioning of these things seems to lead us to a dead end — which may be why many cynics don’t cling to a single strong religious belief system and seem to hold onto our own personal ideologies of our world. Growing up in a Catholic household I struggled endlessly with accepting ideas that I truly could not understand as a cynical person. This is often looked down upon by those who don’t understand cynicism as a whole but this is truly an aspect of our perspective that we didn’t choose or can control.
“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” — I am not stuck in the past, I have just learned from those experiences and believe it foolish to think different result would occur from the same event. “Get over it” and “move on” are just a few of the many things that get said to me when I use past failures or misjudgments to justify why I don’t believe in the possibility of something working in the present or future. Simply put, my cynicism does not come from my past, only my knowledge has.
Cynicism is not an emotion. It is an internal state that’s made up of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It colors our perception of what we see, what we feel, and how we act in the world. While cynicism itself in not an emotion, it can trigger and reinforce many life-sucking emotions (The price we all pay). It’s not always easy understanding why we view the world the way we do but realizing how great of a role it does plays in our lives and how it affects our perception of ourselves, our surrounding, and others is essential if you truly want to get to know a cynical person. — “Life — the way it really is — is a battle not between good and bad, but between bad and worse”

So where does the darker perspective, critical ideology, and skepticism take the cynic as they embark on future endeavors? Well, wherever it is that they choose to go. A cynical perspective does not limit us nor will it ever. Each day the cynic breaks down the barriers and disproves the stigmas placed upon us by a society that has chosen to turn their backs on us due to lack of understanding. They say “you are what you believe”; We believe that we can’t make things better unless we see quite how bad they are, we can’t do our best unless we guard against our worst, and it’s only by being distrustful that we can distinguish between the trustworthy and the unreliable. Sound cynical to you? Well so be it! “Yes, horrible things do happen. Happiness in the face of all of that… that’s not the goal. Feeling the horrible and knowing that you’re not gonna die from those feelings, that’s the goal”.

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