What it’s like being an Anxious Optimist

(Image Credit: Michael Spring)

(Image Credit: Michael Spring)

There are two things in life that I know for certain: I am an eternal optimist and I have anxiety. I am a walking contradiction; I always hope for the best, but I’m always assuming the worst. It’s a tough world for an anxious optimist like me.

For example, you’ve been prepping for this test in college for a week now. You’ve got this in the bag, and you get in there prepared to ace the test. You blow through it, not even breaking a sweat, and then BAM. The anxiety sets in. You’ve handed it in, you can’t remember which letter you put for question 4. You know the right answer is B but you swear up and down you put D. And that short answer question? You probably wrote it in Spanish. Because you can’t remember anything you said on the question.

And by the time you’ve arrived back in your dorm room you’ve somehow also convinced yourself that you’ve totally got this. But you don’t. Or do you? It’s a never-ending vicious cycle.

This post may seem oddly pessimistic for someone who just told you they were an eternal optimist, but I ask you to bear with me. Don’t write me off just yet, because that’ll send me into a serious anxiety-driven food binge that probably isn’t good for me. Please don’t put me through that… at least, not today.

To be an eternal optimist means that you are always seeing things in a positive way. The glass is always half full, things could always be worse, and you’re always trying to make people smile. You don’t like conflict because it goes against everything you hope for yourself and others – which is happiness – and if it means people don’t take you seriously in a serious moment, at least you made them laugh.

To suffer from anxiety means always assuming the worst, being fairly certain that half full glass is contaminated with some kind of toxin and knowing that you are 99.9% sure that there is no way you’ll make it out of that airplane alive. It means somehow inadvertently creating conflict because you’re being too emotional or dramatic, and not being able to defend your own insecurities.

It is so hard to tell yourself everything is going to be okay and that it could always be worse when you honestly feel like everything you’ve worked toward is falling a part. I think people who have anxiety are always trying to look for the positive things in life, because when your mind is so overrun with negative and irrational thoughts it’s your only refuge.

But after a while, that optimism you strive for to help you escape from your own mind becomes a lifestyle. I’ve always heard that if you pretend to smile long enough, eventually you’ll believe it. And all optimists come from people who probably were down on their luck for some time. Eventually, when you spend enough time telling yourself that it could be worse, you believe it. It’s what makes the gift of optimist so wonderful.

Every person can be happy or optimistic, but it takes a truly strong individual to be a pillar of happiness, a beacon of light in the dark and an optimist despite what your mind is screaming at you. We might be walking contradictions, and so what if we are? I wouldn’t trade my ability to see both sides of outcome spectrum, because somewhere along the way I always find the perfect compromise.

Stay strong, anxious optimists. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel…I think.

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