Realism vs Pessimism: A Tweet That Shows the Difference

Jordan Brown

My brain has always skewed in the negative direction.

I've had to teach myself to be more positive.

Because, when it comes down to it, I believe I am more of a realist than anything else.

I've been tweeting my thoughts on the coronavirus, and one tweet really had an impact this morning. I think it's because, at the heart of it, others could sense it came from a truthful place.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we humans are not always as bright as we think we are.

Is that pessimism? Is it realism? Or is a little bit of both?

Tales From a Tweet - Realism vs Pessimism

This is the tweet I'm talking about.

So far, it has amassed almost 150,000 impressions. That's the number of times it has appeared on Twitter screens. It hit home for over a thousand people, who either liked or retweeted it--or both.

Here's the deal. For thousands of years, people have been coping with horrific events. And for thousands of years, people have been getting back to life as normal and forgetting that those events ever happened.

Will this time be different?

Maybe. But I'm not that hopeful.

This realist tendency is a quality I have that annoys people from time to time. It's definitely caused me some consternation to think that my outlook on life may not always be a good one. But I always try to be an introspective person, and I've done a lot of thinking about this lately. So what have I decided?

I've decided that I think it's better to tell the truth than it is to be overly positive or overly negative. And, sometimes, the truth is not very pleasant. This is one of those times. But we can't stop telling the truth during unpleasant times. In fact, it is during times of great chaos and adversity that the truth is most needed.

What is Pessimism? What is Realism?

Pessimism is not telling the truth. It is only seeing the bad in life. It's putting a negative spin on everything. It's a corrosive mindset that limits everything around it.

Realism is different. It weighs both sides of an argument and comes up with the reasoning that makes the most sense. It sees the world as it is, not how one wants it to be. Realism, as the word suggests, is firmly grasping reality. For the most part, this is a very useful skill. I would argue that it should always be a useful skill that is highly lauded by everyone.

But that's not the case. And why is that?

Because value judgments take place in a social context. This is also the case for mental health. When we say that someone is negative, we are saying that he is being negative in relation to others. So, when the world is already caught in a funk, when most feel that objectively bad events are taking place, the realist can stick out like a sore thumb. What, at one point, would be viewed as a nuanced appraisal of a situation, suddenly becomes doom-and-gloom thinking.

Everything is relative.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Where does this leave us? I think where it leaves us is that pessimism is certainly different from realism, but sometimes realism can be viewed as pessimism when the social context is already dark and gloomy.

There are no easy answers during difficult times. But what I hope you will gain from this discussion is that it's possible to train yourself to sharpen your focus, to see the world clearly, for what it actually is.

Do that--and you may not always be happy.

But you'll be grounded in truth. And that's often the very best place you can be.