I’m all for people doing everything they can do to improve their lives, but as I age I have observed that self-improvement has become somewhat of an obsession in our culture. Learning to leave “Well enough alone” is a metaphor that meant something to my grandparents. Products geared towards making us look perfect have been permeating our society for years. I can’t believe how ridiculous some of it has become. I recently read about a new product that was developed to handle “stress sweat”. I guess sweat can now be categorized. You just can’t sweat you have to figure out what kind it is. Perhaps you have to hire a “sweat assessor”. After all the King and Queens used to have tasters for their food in case it was poisoned. Imagine how this could create a whole new line of work? After all there are a myriad of odors from different types of sweat. You could take your “assessor” wherever you go and have him give you his suggestion for which deodorant you need for any given moment. Staff meetings, confrontations with family, divorce sweat would be a great market, or a first date. What I find so amusing is that the company that introduced this idiotic product announced that it had been clinically tested. Do people really get involved in these studies and how are they done? Do you put a bunch of people in a room with a grizzly and then monitor their sweat glands? Or maybe you have them call one of the many companies that have voice mail to see if they ever get their problem resolved. i think that would create a lot more “stress sweat”then being with a grizzly.
I’m all for improving the human condition and giving us the opportunity to look, and feel great. But self-improvement has now become another job. How many hours a day must we spend trying to discern whether we ate the right amount of blueberries, ingested enough fiber, used the right shampoo for our hair type, or made sure our sheets and pillow cases are not infested with mites? Madison Avenue executives have been plotting for years to get us to think that we will not feel good about ourselves unless we buy something that will enhance how we look. And a lot of us have bought into it. I know I did, but finally I realized that often times I looked worse than when I started. So now I spend more time accepting who i am, which makes me sweat a whole lot less!
Many people think that optimism comes about by simply thinking positive thoughts. This is simply not accurate. Simply thinking positive thoughts will not make your problems disappear. It’s simplistic and disrespectful to the complexities of the human experience. For example, what does that say to people who get a debilitating disease?
“Well, now that you’re ill, you should feel guilty about having the disease. You probably weren’t thinking the right thoughts, that’s why you’re sick”?
Should we tell people who work for a corporation that has suffered a six-billion-dollar loss and is laying off 20,000 employees that if they just believe in themselves, they’ll thrive? The implied message here is that if life isn’t working out for these individuals, they’re just not believing in themselves hard enough. This isn’t optimism. It’s insanity.
People who go around thinking that life is always going to go their way if they think positive thoughts aren’t optimists—-their idiots. A true optimist wakes up thinking, “Anything could happen today–good or bad. And whatever happens, I can deal with it.” They don’t ignore the pitfalls of life, but rather, understand that they exist–and then don’t obsess over them. Optimists take detours around the pitfalls and keep themselves focused on a possible pleasant outcome. They’re not in denial; if they feel an unfamiliar lump in their breast, they immediately make an appointment with a doctor. But where a pessimist might use that discovery as an opportunity to stop engaging in life and sink into a narcissistic obsession over how their life is about to end and how things never go their way, the optimist goes about their business–staying engaged in day-to-day activities, and thinking through the possible outcomes of the discovery as well as the negative ones.
Being optimistic also allows you to feel a certain degree of control around your life. Even though it may be an illusion.It allows them to act in ways that might give them the outcome they hope for. In fact studies suggest that reality may be overrated. Try to look at life’s ups and downs as challenges that you are capable of handling. Making them worse than they are takes a lot of energy. Think of how much of your life you’ve already survived! We are so much more resilient then we could ever imagine! I come from a long line of pessimistic women, and I have often struggled not to get into my “henny penny the sky is falling” I was fortunate to get into a field that has shown me that I shouldn’t believe everything I think. And neither should you!