I Have Been A Pessimist For A Big Portion Of My Life, But Today I Found Hope

Although I have intuitively known this for a while, today, in a time when I am going through yet another transition in my life, I came across the passage of a book that confirmed my thoughts: I have been a pessimist for a big portion of my life. Here’s what I read:

People who are optimistic react to setbacks from a presumption of personal power. They feel that setbacks are temporary, are isolated to particular circumstances, and can eventually be overcome by effort and abilities. In contrast, people who are pessimistic react to setbacks from a presumption of personal helplessness. They feel setbacks are long lasting, generalized across their lives, and are due to inadequacies, and therefore cannot be overcome. This difference in how we explain occurrences to ourselves has a profound impact on our lives.

The latter part of the description fits how I have felt for a long time. More often than not I have felt that no matter what I do, I always fail because I am not smart or motivated enough; I feel that I don’t have enough opportunities or enough money to create something. Many times I have even felt that I am holding my partner back and bringing him to the bottom with me. I have thought that because of me, his projects will not flourish either.

But today I have been reminded that it’s not all gloom and doom as the pessimistic side of me makes me believe. Today I have been reminded that I can re-learn to be an optimist, just not with a money back, magic recipe, but with my good old efforts and with the aid of the very thing where that pessimism is created:

My mind

I can deal with pessimism by cultivating a resilient, calm, realistic and objective mind.

After a session of drowning down in my fears, sorrows and failures, I can learn to compose myself and look at my life realistically and objectively. If I look back at my life this way, this is what I see, and please pardon me if this comes across as cocky, I can promise you I am not trying to be:

I was born to a low income family in the second poorest country of the Western hemisphere. My mom had to work as a child and barely had the time to go to school. My father might have had a slightly better childhood but really not that much different. Chances were (and they were high) that I was to continue in the same cycle as my parents.

They, however, worked their butts off so that my siblings and I could have a better future than they did. Their efforts, which I am beyond grateful for, were limited due to their own circumstances. Consider this for a moment: I was a poor non white young female in a poor country where most of the education system is just as poor, and where good (expensive) education and opportunities were reserved to those with money and influence. So when I came of age it was my turn to work my butt off.

And work my butt off is what I did.

I moved heaven and earth so that I could get a scholarship to get into one of the best universities of my country and study my field of passion: linguistics. My parents, God bless their soul, would have never had the money to make that happen.

I loved my time in university and my teachers and mentors saw my talent and this, I am assuming, was the reason they accepted me to work (paid of course) for them when I applied for a position in the open language courses my university offered to the general public.

When I got all the necessary degrees, they offered me a position as a university professor in the school of humanities’ language department. What an honor that was for someone like me. After a few years of hard work there, I was nominated by the school of humanities as one of the best professors on campus. Get this, not just in the language department but the whole university. Although I didn’t earn the final honor, I was right there at the top with other senior professors and researchers. I had not even reached my mid twenties when that happened.

Later down the road I had what could be described as an existential crisis and eventually quit (This is another story for a different time) and left my life as I knew it. The way things unfolded next, with all its ups and downs cannot be called a story of failure:

  • I began to study the eight fold path of yoga and became -and still are- a devoted student and yoga teacher.
  • I became involved in a (still current 😊) loving kind relationship with someone who reflects back my beliefs and values.
  • In addition to my native tongue and English, I have managed to learn to speak one more language fluently and can brokenly (Is this a word?🤔) communicate in two more.
  • I traveled the world as an international volunteer and teacher for three years (2 years in Asia and 1 year in Europe).
  • I spent half a year in the Himalayas thinking about myself and my place in the world.
  • I sat down a few meters from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his home in exile in India so that I could partake in one of his public teachings and a special monk initiation.
  • I sat down next to and learned by the wisdom of renunciates in India.
  • I pursued a certification to work as an Ayurvedic consultant, one of the most ancient systems of medicine known to humankind.
  • I invested over 200 hours of theory and practicum to be certfied in three different massage therapies.

And there’s more, but I will not bore you with the details. The point is, if I remain realistic and objective, I can clearly see that I have focused way more on my failures than I have on my successes, at least lately.

I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots in my career. I’ve lost almost three hundred games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life…and that is why I succeed. — Michael Jordan.

Today I have decided that enough is enough. I am not writing this to give you a pep talk to get you to buy something from me. I am writing this so that I can be held accountable for my decision to train my sometimes nagging brain and change my mindset (I know my partner is reading so I must keep my word ha 😜). I am also writing down my thoughts as therapy and so that I can inspire and motivate people who find themselves in a similar situation.

“When an optimist suffers a major disappointment, he or she responds by figuring out how s/he can do it better the next time. In contrast, a pessimist assumes there is nothing s/he can do about the problem and gives up.”

I don’t want to give up. I won’t. And if we’re on the same boat, I urge you to not give up either, especially if you’re someone who’s trying to do good in the world.

Part of my path and training has been to provide objective guidance for people and myself to make healthy lifestyle modifications, so for this particular obstacle I know I must:

  1. Become aware of my own negative experiential biases.
  2. Objectively understand where I have failed so that I can get unbiased feedback on my performance and obtain information on what’s working and what’s not.
  3. Explain my failures to myself in a way that puts me in a place of empowerment not powerlessness. This means that next time I experience failure, my mind will be more realistic and objective rather than fatalistic and pessimistic. As a result I will have reasons for hope, and more importantly, it will make my mind resilient so that I can bounce back more quickly from any given setback.
  4. Create objectivity towards my experiences. Meditation can help with this one, particularly meditation techniques such as Vipassana, which allows individuals to observe without judging and help withstand the forces of craving and aversion.
  5. Recognize my successes, even the smallest ones, to increase objectivity and optimism.
  6. Allow myself to be positively transformed by the whole process.
  7. Continue to do the work I am doing safe in the knowledge that what I do is my calling and what I’m supposed to be doing in this lifetime.

This is my reflection of the day.


If this has helped you in any way, please give this a loving kind ❤️ so that others in need will also see it and hopefully be inspired and motivated.

Also, if you’re an awesome, but confused person with good intentions and little knowledge on how to make the world a better place, check our free online training here to start somewhere.

Kind regards,

Ruth

WEARECO 🌿 | Co-founder

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