Is the glass half empty or half full?

While I was putting together my list of 5 sayings that don’t make sense a few days ago, my mind kept coming back to “is the glass half empty or half full?”. Not because it doesn’t make sense, but because I just detest the expression with a passion. I think it was inflicted on me a few too many times as a child; I’ve never liked being psychoanalysed to begin with and now I just cringe whenever I hear it. Seriously, I don’t think there’s an expression I hate more; “because I said so” and “let’s face it” would come close, but even they don’t set my teeth on edge the same way.

A few years ago I used to hear it so often that I tried to make a game out of it; I thought if I could come up with a different answer every time, I might somehow preserve my sanity. I came up with some pretty good ones and sometimes I’d just change my answers to mess with people. It’s half full. It’s half empty. Well, it’s half empty, but really it’s full because the other half is full of air. Right now it’s half full, but there’s a crack in the glass so soon it’ll only be a third full. I decline to comment because it will reveal more about my psyche than the police are willing for me to reveal. And my personal favourite: There is no glass. You should have seen the way they’d stare at me, then turn to look at the glass when I said that! It was priceless. 🙂

But of course the reason the expression exists and has become so popular is because it asks such a simple question, but has no simple answer. We’re fascinated by the way optimistic and pessimistic influences appear in our lives; that’s why there are so many psychology books, so many self-help books – our thinking determines how we act in our day to day lives, and it’s daunting to think out mindset might have a negative outlook.

Why should it worry us, though? What’s so bad about seeing the glass as half-empty? I’ve never quite understood why. Most of us know it’s not good to be pessimistic; being in a negative state of mind makes it more difficult to function and brings you and everyone around you down, as well as having an impact on depression and other illnesses. But I don’t buy into this idea that just because I look at an equation one way, that means I’m more likely to subscribe to a certain kind of mindset. It’s just too simple; too black and white. I know it’s not that simple because whenever I try to answer the question seriously, my answer varies, and not for the reasons people think.

Does anyone else find that as well? Maybe not, but my first reaction when someone asks me “if the glass is half empty or half full?” is that it depends on whether the person is pouring or drinking. Does that make me pessimistic? I think it makes me realistic; I can’t answer the question without knowing. If you are drinking from the glass, it’s half empty; if you’re pouring water, it’s half full. Prove me wrong! 😉 But if I put that aside, I’ll often answer based on how I’m feeling that day; if I’ve had a good day, I’m more likely to say half full; a bad day, half empty. For me it’s about mood and not mindset; because my mood changes every day, how can one answer be an accurate reflection of my thinking overall?

It can’t. And that’s why I hate the expression, because people swear by it as fact; I’ve had many arguments with people who just don’t seem to accept that my answers are outside their definitions. Well, maybe they’re right from a certain point of view, but that doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to my opinion.

My definition of pessimism (or optimism) isn’t based on a thought but on a lifestyle; it’s not how you answer a question, but how you live every day. I’m more in the camp of Arthur Schopenhauer’s definition of pessimism than this current idea of negative thinking. To me pessimism is the belief (constant belief) that the world around us is the worst possible; that things will only become worse; that evil will triumph over good. Optimism is the belief that we exist for betterment and goodness; that we have value and people and events are intrinsically good; that the world has a positive influence. For me the only way to judge either is through someone’s feelings and personality rather than their mindset.

Personality is an interesting thing, isn’t it? I posted a quiz called What Kind of Soul Are You? the other day and thanks to everybody who took the time to take it 🙂 , you can see some quite distinct differences. It was just a fun quiz but it was surprisingly accurate with my results; I’m fairly trusting and impulsive, and I like to think I’m creative and nonconformist. What really interested me was the way different types of people were more compatible than others; that’s true in real life. How often does someone rub you the wrong way, or you’re unable to form a connection for no reason? And yet with others, you’re on the same wavelength right away.

I think it’s because we recognise similar traits in each other; we all have our likes and dislikes, and over time that becomes part of our psyche and difficult (though not impossible!) to look past. So it’s not so strange to think that we’d form connections with people who best complement us. Often more positive people will be drawn together, and likewise negative people. Someone who thinks on a more intellectual level will crave that in return, while a docile personality might gravitate toward the opposite, to someone with strength to dominate the relationship. Our personality is unique to us, a reflection of our humour and everything that makes us an individual; whereas our thoughts can change day to day, our personality is much harder to change. It reveals much more than we vocalise; our intensity, our hopes. That’s why it’s a better judge of what kind of person we are.

So what kind of person do I think I am? The truth is, I don’t think of myself as either an optimist or a pessimist. I don’t like categorising myself as anything because then I’m putting myself in a box, and once I’m in there it’s hard to get back out. Deep down I’m a positive person; I don’t chastise myself often and usually my thoughts and dreams are hopeful. But I don’t like closing myself off to my negative thoughts either because I learn more from them than from my positive ones. If I can ask myself, “why am I thinking that?”, then I can actually turn it around to my advantage; I’m not afraid to face my insecurities, and that’s why I have few fears.

If I had to say something, I guess I’d call myself a realist. Maybe that’s a cop out, but that’s just me being honest. I wonder how you see the glass? Or maybe there isn’t any glass at all? 😉