How do you view yourself?
“I try to be as happy and easygoing as possible. Why shouldn’t I live each day with a smile on my face?”—Valerie.
“My first reaction to anything positive is to think something is amiss—too good to be true or a mistake.”—Rebecca.
“Being optimistic is a setup for disappointment, and being pessimistic is a miserable way to live. Being realistic helps me to see things as they really are.”—Anna.
Why does it matter?
The Bible says that “the one with a cheerful heart has a continual feast.” (Proverbs 15:15) Clearly, people who avoid unnecessary negative thoughts and approach life with a positive outlook tend to be happier. They are also likely to make more friends. After all, who wants to spend time with people who are always gloomy?
Still, there are realities of life that even the brightest optimist must face. For example:
The news may bombard you with reports of war, terrorism, or crime.
You might have to deal with problems in your family.
You no doubt have your own failings and weaknesses to contend with.
A friend may have hurt your feelings.
Rather than close your eyes to those realities—or fixate on them so that you feel miserable—try to strike a balance. A realistic approach will help you to avoid undue negative thoughts and accept life’s realities without being crushed by them.
What you can do
Keep your faults in perspective.
The Bible says: “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20, Good News Translation) The fact that you have faults and make mistakes shows that you are human, not that you are a failure.
How to be realistic: Work on your faults, but don’t expect perfection from yourself. “I resist the urge to dwell on my faults,” says a young man named Caleb. “Instead, I try to learn from them so that I can see ways to improve.”
The Bible says: “Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:26) Looking at social media photos of all those events that you weren’t invited to can make you feel bitter. It can make your best friends seem like your worst enemies.
How to be realistic: Accept the fact that you won’t be invited to every social event. Besides, social media posts don’t tell the whole story. “Social media is mostly a highlight reel of people’s lives,” says a teenager named Alexis. “People usually leave out the ordinary parts.”
Be a peacemaker—especially in your family.
The Bible says: “If possible, as far as it depends on you, be peaceable.” (Romans 12:18) You can’t fully control the actions of others, but you can control your reaction. You can choose to be peaceable.
How to be realistic: Be resolved not to add to family tension but to be peaceable, just as you should be in any relationship. “No one is perfect, and we are all going to step on each other’s toes now and then,” says a teenager named Melinda. “We just have to decide how we are going to respond—peaceably or otherwise.”
The Bible says: “Show yourselves thankful.” (Colossians 3:15) A grateful spirit will help you to focus on what’s going right in your life rather than on everything that seems to be going wrong.
How to be realistic: Acknowledge your problems, but don’t be blind to the good things in your life. “Each day, I write one positive thing in my journal,” says a young woman named Rebecca. “I want to remind myself that overall I have many positive things to think about.”
Examine your friendships.
The Bible says: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) When the people you spend time with are critical, cynical, or bitter, their negative traits will rub off on you.
How to be realistic: Friends will go through hard times, and for a while they may be negative about their life. Support them, but do not be consumed by their problems. “Negative people shouldn’t be our only source of association,” says a young woman named Michelle. “In math, when you add two negative numbers you just get a bigger negative.”