I’ve been affectionately called “annoyingly optimistic” by others. Throughout my life, my optimism and positive outlook have squashed almost any negative thoughts I’ve had and replaced them with a more positive perspective. I can thank my parents for my positive outlook and optimism. An optimistic outlook makes you more likely to try things because you aren’t assuming or afraid of failure. If you’re an optimist, failure isn’t that big of a deal because you’ll still find value in the experience. This quality of mine is very relevant to my next post about how mean people are to themselves in their head.
How to raise annoyingly optimistic children like me:
- No matter what sort of dreams I had, my parents never told me they weren’t a good idea or that they weren’t possible.
- They asked me questions about why I had that particular dream and how I could achieve it. They even would check in to see if it was still a goal of mine or not.
- In day to day life, they let me make my own mistakes then help me learn from them.
- My Mom once sat there and watched me ruin a recipe because when she asked, “Could I give you a tip about that?” I whined at her to leave me alone and that I could do it, and I meant it. (Mom, I now know how hard this is since I have one of my own) When I finally figured out I’d messed up the recipe, there was no big “I told you so” — she just said “Okay, now can I show you what I wanted to earlier, I saw you making a mistake.” If I’d let her tell me in the first place, there might have been an “okay… ready Mom…? YOU WERE RIGHT” because we are both stubborn and appreciate the acknowledgement, but it isn’t mean spirited at all. We both laugh.
- When my parents are right, it isn’t a shameful experience and it isn’t brought on later as in, “well last time you wouldn’t listen to me and you messed it up.” I just acknowledge it, we laugh, I learn from it, and we move on. This approach has made me such a better person than I would be if my Mom forced me to let her help or rubbed it in when she was right. It has made me confident to try things because I know it is okay if they don’t work out.
- They notice when I’ve done well.
- It could be something small such as I exercised everyday for a few weeks and saw improvements. They don’t just express their happiness for my feeling better, they let me know they are proud of how hard I worked.
- It could also be something big. When I got my first “adult” job I was REALLY excited because it was such a wonderful opportunity for anyone, let alone someone fresh out of college. They didn’t just chalk it up to my degree or the employer liking me. They told me all my hard work volunteering through college and working a job in my field had paid off. They praised me for choosing to have nonstop days being a teaching assistant, volunteering, interning, working and being a student.
- They appreciate things and never begin taking them for granted.
- My Dad compliments my Mom’s beautiful cooking, even if it is a dish she has made several times. He doesn’t just tell her once and then not mention it again. (Her cooking is full of veggies so it is always colorful, I agree on it being beautiful!)
- My Mom comes over and cleans/cooks for me, then thanks me for having her over to visit even after a year of this arrangement. Even when she is giving more than she is receiving, she appreciates what is being given.
- Every time I call my Dad he tells me thanks for giving him a call. Sometimes I hear people complaining that their kids don’t call them enough. While I agree this is sad, I think it’s pretty cool all my Dad does is thank me when I do call. Maybe people who wish their kids would call more should take this approach — making them feel appreciated rather than guilty.
- My Mom will go out of her way to tell others something nice/good/smart someone did in front of that person.
- They didn’t just tell me to look for good things in every situation, no matter how bad or small, they modeled it.
- We all used to tease my Mom because whenever we’d do things together because she would say, “It’s going to be like a little adventure!” I am sad to report, she quit saying it! She has informed be that despite not saying it, she still believes in the “little adventure”. Several years after she had stopped saying it, her and I were going to do something and I said, “Mom you know what this is? It’s a little adventure!!” and she got such a big smile and replied, “It IS a little adventure!” like she had been thinking it all along. Whether it be going to pick out flowers for the yard, trying new food, taking pit stops on a road trip, or going for a walk, there was always a “little adventure” waiting. It rubbed off on me! People always get a laugh out of how excited the small stuff makes me. It has rubbed off on my siblings because they also say people sometimes don’t understand why they get excited over small things. For example, my brother advanced a level in his game and did a little cheer. His coworkers looked at him strangely, he explained, they still looked at him strangely.
- When I was first at that age where kids start thinking other kids are “weird” I must have brought up some kid who was dirty and weird at school to my Mom. She said (in a empathetic tone), “Wow, just look at how lucky you are Jackie. You have a nice family, you get new clothing every year, you are a smart, and you have friends. He might not have parents who are there to make sure he is clean or he might have a family that doesn’t get along. Maybe his family cannot afford all the things they need to clean themselves. He probably has never had new clothes that weren’t secondhand. All those are reasons he might be different and none of them are his fault. Doesn’t it make you think how lucky you are to have everything that you do?” Boom. I think it is NEVER too early to start teaching kids this lesson.
- It makes my Dad SO happy when one of his favorite songs comes on. 🙂 If no one is around, he will dance. I have a video to prove he hula hoops, but as of now no video to prove he’s got moves.
- My Mom loves cooking with me so much. It is fun eating with her because the whole time we are eating our new recipe, she praises our awesome work. Even a few days afterwards, she will be really happy we came up with such a yummy recipe! A lot of people just say, “Wow this is really good” and it is over.
- I will never forget one time when I was younger, maybe around 9, my Dad told me he has a great life. I asked him why. He told me, “I have a job I’ve gone to for years and can go to everyday, I have great kids I love to be around, and I have a lot of family who all like to be around each other. To me, that is a pretty good deal and a hell of a lot more than some people get.” He has echoed this throughout the years, that he is lucky to have a job to go to.
- Speaking of his work, it is a hard one! He wakes up everyday around 1AM, goes to work around 2AM, and gets home sometimes between 4PM and 6PM. He drives a truck and delivers food. I’ve told him he works so hard and that I don’t know how he does it. I’ve told him I cannot wait for him to retire. He says, “It’s a good job and I am lucky to have it. It’s like I’m going around visiting friend (his customers) and it just so happens I am delivering them food too.” I have never once heard him complain. I think most people would be complaining (at least a little) to their family about lifting all those heavy boxes, traffic, dealing with difficult customers, being forced to deliver late due to other people’s mistakes, the long hours, missing family time to go to bed early, the early hours, etc…
- The only thing he has ever said that even comes close to a complaint is that he wishes the people on college campuses and other busy places would take those ear buds out of their ears so they could hear his truck so he could pull in and deliver the food. I’m using the opportunity to tell you all to take the ear buds OUT when you are walking in areas with traffic and move out of the way!
- My parents were just as ecstatic for me when I got a job at Subway (short lived career) as when I got my first “real” adult job. They let me know how proud they are of me both times.
- If my parents call me and I say I barely have symptoms on a given day, some people just tuning in might think Jesus has risen by how full of cheer and optimism they are. Even if I just say I don’t have a sore throat, they are super happy. It’s really neat because while they make a big deal out of small improvements, they never minimize my illness or the symptoms I am still feeling.
- Why wouldn’t you want to be happy about things in your life more often? People just haven’t been taught to appreciate the small stuff, so they don’t.
- When I did something wrong or we disagreed, it was always clear to me that they didn’t love me any less or think I was a bad person, they were just correcting my behavior. I probably wouldn’t have used the words “correcting my behavior” as a teenager, but I definitely got the message the problem was my actions, not me personally.
- They didn’t raise their voices when they were angry and always listened to my point of my view if I was in trouble. I think this is very optimistic behavior when dealing with teenagers. 🙂
- In my household, no one was allowed to storm out of the room in the middle of an argument. Every disagreement was resolved right then and there.
- They checked to make sure no one had anything left to add to the discussion before they said, “Alright, we discussed it, you are sorry, now let’s just move on and start over.” Even if there was a punishment, it’d be, “You’ve got your punishment. There’s not need to dwell on it and stay angry.” and then lots of hugs. If it was just me being grumpy, they’d just say “Why don’t we just have a do-over and start the day over. Hi Jackie. How’s your day going?” and act like I never was a grumpy butt at them. It’s kind of like Full House!
- Because of them modeling this, I engage in disagreements different than a lot of people I have come across. I like to think of it as the optimistic approach to arguing.
- I think most arguments come from people feeling mistreated or misunderstood and I think in order to come back from that, both people need to feel heard. Both people need to understand why the other person was acting/reacting in the way they were.
- My goal isn’t to make the other person feel terrible about themselves, to point out everything the person has done to make me mad (but also is irrelevant to the topic), how stupid the other person is, or anything like that. My goal is to get me and the other person back on the same page and to feel good about our relationship and for both of us to understand where the other is coming from.
- I don’t always assume the other person had bad intentions and am willing to hear them out. It is always my belief that in the end, we will find common ground and move on.
- I do have a really hard time if someone resorts to yelling, whining, accusing, manipulation, talking in circles, or not wanting to resolve the problem when arguing because this is foreign to me. Luckily, my training in crisis intervention has helped me deal with people who take that approach! I am happy to not have had experience dealing with that!
- They aren’t calculating. They don’t have a score chart in their head of how much they’ve helped someone versus how much they’ve been helped.
- It’s never about what they will get, they just help people because it is the type of world they’d like to live in. If this person later “wrongs” them, they won’t be found saying, “after I did x, y, and z or them… I can’t believe this.” If somebody wrongs them, it isn’t about all that they have done for that person, it is about whatever it is that person did wrong. In fact, they’ll help people who many may not consider “deserving” of help. In their view, if you are able to help someone out, you should!
- I have really early memories of taking my old clothing to the Women’s Shelter and my Mom explaining why it was important.
- You know those 16+ hour days my Dad works that I was telling you about? Well after those days, he will go help family members with yard work or shoveling if they need it. He doesn’t even stop to think, “Well what about me? I’m tired and I work long hours.”
- When I heard the following lyrics, I tapped the speaker and whispered, “Mom, Dad, are you in there?”
It’s not what you get it’s about what you bring
So bring it, bring it to the table,
not because you have to
‘cos you’re willing and you’re able!
– John Butler Trio ‘Gonna Be A Long Time’
So thanks Mom and Dad for making me such an annoyingly optimistic young lady! While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not finding so many things to be happy about in day to day life, I do think I am a much happier, successful person for doing it.
If it is too late for your parents to teach you to be optimistic, you can still learn! Maybe I’ll post about that at a later time. In the meantime, John Butler Trio, once again says it beautifully, way better than I ever could so here you go — selected quotes from his song Better Than
All you want is
What you can’t have
And if you just look around man
You see you got magic
So just sit back relax
Enjoy it while you still have it
Don’t look back on life man and only see tragic
All the time while you’re looking away
There are things you can do man
There’s things you can say
To the the ones you’re with
With whom you’re spending your today
Get your gaze off tomorrow
And let come what may
All I know is sometimes things can be hard
But you should know by now
They come and they go
So why, oh why
Do I look to the other side
‘Cause I know the grass is greener but
Just as hard to mow
Life’s not about what’s better than.