Everyone has heard the whole “glass half empty vs. glass have full” analogy.
Optimism vs. Pessimism.
Positive vs. Negative thinking.
More importantly, people have been told that your perspective is ultimately a choice. I’ve recently come to the conclusion in my own life that it’s not that simple. I used to believe this mentality. I found myself getting in a cycle of negativity and self-loathing, because I’m being negative. After all, it’s my own fault that I have this “half empty” attitude, right?
As a person who’s had her fair share of mental health problems, I tried to figure out how to get out of this loop for a long time, but discovered that changing my perspective isn’t the solution, rather, changing my own environment is.
We’ve got this glass of water, half full, half empty, whatever. But what’s in the water? Say you’re sick with a cold. Maybe you’re making some herbal tea. You got your tea bag, you put a lemon in it, and then some sugar. Then maybe more sugar because you have a sweet tooth. Anyway, this is the best tea you’ve ever had. It just makes you feel so much better. Of course, you’re going to see this glass of tea as half full once you drink some of it! You just can’t get enough of it. Right down to the very bottom, you’d see it as one sixteenth of the way full.
Well, maybe. Bear with me.
You’ve got this other glass of water. You want to make tea again, but you mistake tea leaves for your mom’s basil and dill herbs. Then you accidentally pour salt in instead of sugar. You let it steep and cool down and then take a sip. You hardly get it past your lips before you know something isn’t right. But you’re just so sick and your taste buds are subdued from your cold. Reluctantly you keep sipping because you think it’s good for you. After many small, painful, teary-eyed sips you look down and see it’s only half way empty. You see it’s halfway empty because it’s repulsive and you can’t wait for it to be gone.
This is exactly what this battle of positivity versus negativity is like in our own lives.
We’re happy, positive, successful and we just can’t get enough of that. When we’re sad, unhappy, negative, failing we don’t want to be. It’s all about what we put in our water.
Surrounding ourselves with positive people makes us more positive. Conversely, being around negative people makes us negative.
It’s contagious, and often times we’re blinded to it.
Same with our environment. Putting ourselves in positive situations affects us in a positive way. When people always point out the bad things, when people gossip about other people, or perhaps even when people put us down, it affects our thinking and our perception of things. We only recognize the things wrong in our lives. We see the normal stresses of life as unmanageable nightmares.
As a result, our own ability to grow socially is inhibited. How are we supposed to build relationships or be successful in school or in our jobs if everything, well, sucks?
This outer dialogue has a drastic impact on our own inner dialogue, too. We can’t see opportunities to grow within ourselves if we have this cloud of pessimism hanging over us constantly. How can we take advantage of opportunities and reach goals if we can’t even see them?
Believe me, I have been here. This rollercoaster of emotions and perspectives is inescapable. I had friends that when we hung out, it seemed as if the only thing we could talk about was other people or how bad our days were. Or other friends would make bad decisions and then encourage us to do it too.
Little did I know, my own values I instilled in myself from a young age were compromised. This drastically took tolls on my mental health. For so long, I thought there was something wrong with me. Doctors prescribed antidepressants, but how were they supposed to help if I didn’t even know what the problem was?
Surrounding yourself with more positivity and optimism isn’t the end-all-be-all solution to this, but it can only help.
Just take a minute and ask yourself “what’s in my water?”
Try to take a step back and see it from an outside perspective and recognize that maybe something’s wrong. Maybe your friends actually put you down rather than lift you up. Maybe your personal morals and values are being unnoticeably corrupted. Whatever it is, don’t let your water be polluted, because it’s one of the most valuable things you possess.
Carly O’Connor was a senior at Central DeWitt High School and a part of a Composition II class, a college-level writing class offered at the school through Clinton Community College.