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Pessimism vs Realism vs Optimism: Let’s Talk About it

Recently I've been consistently told: "Rachael, you always think of the worst possible outcome. You need to be more optimistic." Naturally, I pondered this. Where is the line drawn between toxic positivity and denial? Or what about pessimism and seeing the reality of the situation?

I thought about the reasons for my stress, and why I get myself so worked up. Most, if not all of the reasons relate to concerns about my future. I get so caught up in the "what if's," and end up creating hypothetical concerns. Is it worth allocating my negative energy toward these thoughts? Then I thought more closely about my own perspective. What determines the value of a thought or concern? At what point do I stop giving certain concerns value? So many questions to think about.

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Let's start here: It's okay to let your mind ponder. It's okay to allow thoughts to settle in your mind, so you can assign the thought value. Say you face a new obstacle and now you have to let it sit in your mind. Pretend you fail to land an intern position at a company you've always loved. You've worked for months to build your resume and cover letter, only to face extreme disappointment. Now, you have three choices. 

You can blame yourself over and over and start bottling up your angry and disappointed emotions, only to lead to you doubting your own capabilities in the professional world. You start cursing yourself out and doubting your own self-worth. You conclude that you'll never place a job after college and that you're too dumb to succeed in any field. That is what pessimism is all about. You overwhelm yourself to the point where you're just exaggerating and overthinking the situation. You create dysphoria. 

Next, you can vent as much as you need, then quickly set your mind straight and calm yourself down enough to start evaluating the situation, and weighing out your options. You start to compile a list of new internships you can apply for, and consider what your application or interview impression was lacking. You acknowledge the loss and take fault, but try your best to move on by taking steps to achieve your next goal. This is a scenario of realistic thinking. You are able to see the reality of the situation, and avoid under or over analyzing it. You allow yourself to feel emotions, but you know your worth and are able to recover.  [bf_image id="hfqqkkrw7vtfs75rwjcb5tj"]

Lastly, you can try to convince yourself that the employers were just having a miserable day and that it was completely their loss. You ignore all feelings you have and go on with your day. You want to remain as optomistic as you can by making up excuses. You tell yourself to only possess "good vibes" and that you're worth more than that stupid internship anyways. This is an example of toxic positivity. You are in so much denial of the reality of the situation that you don't even allow yourself to express emotions. 

The truth is, when experiencing a disappointing outcome, you have to think about the long-run. You have to take a step back and analyze the value of the situation. Is this something worth crying over in the moment? Probably. However, is this something that I have the capabilities and knowledge of recovering from? Absolutely. It's perfectly normal to cry. In fact, it's healthy to. What isn't healthy is choosing to spend all of your energy on the physcial act of crying, without giving the concern genuine time to ponder in your brain, or choosing to completely avoid crying. 

Rachael Dionisio

U Mass Amherst '24

Rachael is a freshman Communication/Marketing major at UMass Amherst. She aspires to work in the media after graduation and loves working out, chai lattes and shopping.
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