Realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist (Differences)

Realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist

In this blog post, we will talk about the differences between a realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist.  Keep reading to find what are the side effects of optimism and the benefits of pessimism. 

Realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist

A truly realistic person accepts both the fact that things can take a bad turn and the way things can take a very good turn. He keeps all his “doors open” and very easily “gives it optimism” if he pays attention only to the good parts.

In general, the pessimist thinks of the future in shades of black or – at best – a dark grey. No matter what he does, negative thoughts come to his mind again and again. Moreover, the pessimist pitties himself.

Instead of finding a way to get through various situations, to solve problems, he complains – sometimes even before he gets to work – that he is out of luck, that nothing works for him, that he has no meaning to shake because, anyway, more than likely, it will not solve.

An optimistic person knows that in any situation he only has something to gain (most of the time it is), and he takes advantage of his chances every time they appear. He accepts both success and failure because he knows they are complementary, and they usually come bundled. He is aware that the relationship between them depends on him … and as time goes on, success becomes second nature.

The opposite of the word “idealist” is “realistic”, which means that an idealistic person is not realistic. He demands the impossible and loses sight of its limits, possibilities and needs. He finds himself striving to perfection, according to his criteria of perfection most of the time, which is too difficult to achieve.

Realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist – which concept describes you the best?

Realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist (Differences)

Are you a realist?

A realistic person sees things as they are. It does not tip the scales in seeing experience more pleasant than it is, but no less pleasant, as a pessimist would do. She will accept the good events and the bad events in her life, uninfluenced by optimism or pessimism.

On the other hand, sometimes it is better not to consider all the data of the equation and to enjoy good positivity and energy. Such situations include interviews or first meeting with a potential life partner. In such cases it would be far too stressful to keep both good and bad things in balance, so focus on what you have to offer.

Are you a pessimist?

Pessimism is not just about negative thinking. Personality science has revealed that pessimism also requires a focus on results, that is, on what we expect to happen in the future. While optimists expect positive results to occur more often than negative ones, pessimists expect negative results to be more likely.

There is a certain type of pessimist, the so-called “defensive pessimist”, who uses negative thinking as a means to achieve their goals. Research has shown that this way of thinking offers some unexpected benefits.

However, the other form of pessimism, which involves one’s own blame for producing negative results, generally has no positive effects.

Realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist (Differences)

Are you an optimist?

An optimistic person always tends to see the full side of the glass. She will think that what is happening to her is a good thing, that she will have a pleasant experience, often even if it is obvious that it is not so.

When you are optimistic, you accept and memorize only the good things that happen to you. You take on the facts when it’s good, but you blame someone else or your destiny when they don’t come out the way you want them to. Moreover, you think of failure as an isolated case, which you try to get over as quickly as possible.

Optimism helps us take responsibility, realism also tells us when to accept evil. Being such a person, you can enjoy successes and learn to accept your failures as they are, and even learn from them. A dose of optimism is actually healthy, but like anything else used in excess, it does more harm than good. 

Are you an idealist?

An idealist is a person who aspires to an ideal, a person devoid of a sense of reality, of a practical spirit. 

Rather than criticizing oneself, an idealist criticizes others from their environment, who are not “so perfect,” according to their criteria. Thus, an idealist often lives in an inner rage, rarely letting it out, so as not to seem “imperfect”. 

An idealistic perfectionist thinks he is a perfectionist after he has managed to “do” good. He identifies with what he does, not what he is. He asks for the impossible because it is utopian to believe that you can find perfection in the material world, more precisely in the physical, emotional and mental world.

Realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist (Differences)

Optimism, pessimism or realism?

There is the conception that to be neither pessimistic or optimistic means to be realistic, that is, somewhere in the middle of this continuum. However, some specialists do not agree with this statement, because both pessimists and optimists have the ability to correctly observe the present reality, with its problems and its good things. 

Thus, the difference lies in the different interpretation we give to our problems, some exaggerate the problems and consider them permanent, others focus only on the positive aspects and accentuate their effect. 

However, others believe that realism is the healthiest approach. Optimism must be balanced by negative thoughts, so that we have a vision as close as possible to reality and not fall into the extreme of irrational optimism or depressive pessimism.

Probably the desire to consider ourselves balanced and to place ourselves between optimism and pessimism comes as a reaction to the ingrained tendency to consider that optimism is good and pessimism is bad. 

Experts in positive psychology have probably also contributed to this effect, which in recent years has turned the idea that positive thinking is a universal solution to most problems into a cliché. 

Can optimism have side effects?

Optimism can hurt if we fail to really predict what will happen in the future.

Too much optimism can lead a person to take unjustified risks and then face undesirable situations (for example, starting a business in which large sums of money are invested, without having the support of market research to support it). 

Also, being too optimistic and confident that something bad will not happen to you can have the effect of neglecting to take minimum safety measures regarding the health or safety of your personal, family, home, etc. 

Realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist (Differences)

Can pessimism be useful?

Specialists distinguish between two types of pessimism: defensive pessimism and depressing pessimism. Defensive pessimism refers to anticipating potential negative events or effects of our actions and mentally preparing to overcome them. 

In this sense, the person mobilizes to prevent them, but at the same time expects the worst, in order to somehow protect himself from what is to come.

Depressive pessimism is an extreme feature that consists in the exacerbated tendency to see only the negative aspects, regardless of the situation.

Of the two categories, defensive pessimism seems to be the most appropriate in some situations, because it makes us aware of all the possible negative effects of an action we want to take. Also, in some extreme situations, this type of pessimism can motivate and stimulate us strongly.

In his latest paper, Martin Seligman stated that to consider optimism as just a good thing is wrong. To be effective, optimism must be adapted to reality, it must be balanced and combined at the same time with negative emotions. 

Although optimistic people are sometimes criticized as naive, with their heads in the clouds or seeing the world in pink, those who throughout history have dared to take risks and think positively about their results have managed to make discoveries and inventions that radically changed their lives. 

The optimists are also the ones who still trust in finding cures for the incurable diseases we face, in finding solutions to humanity’s problems (wars, famines, global warming), but also in making their personal lives better. 

But we must not fall into the extreme of irrational optimism and lose sight of the negative parts of the events we face. But we can manage them with a smile on our face and with the confidence that we will solve them.

Realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist (Differences)

Conclusions

In this blog post, we talked about the differences between a realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist. 

A realistic person sees things as they are. It does not tip the scales in seeing experience more pleasant than it is, but no less pleasant, as a pessimist would do. An idealist is a person who aspires to an ideal, a person devoid of a sense of reality, of a practical spirit. 

An optimistic person always tends to see the full side of the glass. She will think that what is happening to her is a good thing, that she will have a pleasant experience, often even if it is obvious that it is not so. A pessimist thinks of the future in shades of black or – at best – a dark grey. No matter what he does, negative thoughts come to his mind again and again. Moreover, the pessimist pitties himself.

If you have questions, comments or recommendations, please let us know in the comments section below!

FAQ about realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist

Is it better to be a realist or an optimist?

It is neither better to be a realist nor an optimist. The better version would be a combination of the two. Choose to balance optimism by assuming the failures or problems that have arisen over time.

What is the difference between an optimist, a pessimist and a realist?

The difference between an optimist, a pessimist and a realist is their way of perceiving events. A pessimist will most likely see only the negative outcomes, an optimist knows that things will get better no matter the present outcome, and a realist accepts things just as they are. 

Are realists negative?

No, realists are not negative, though they tend to see the world in a pragmatic way. A realistic person sees things as they are. It does not tip the scales in seeing experience more pleasant than it is, but no less pleasant, as a pessimist would do. 

Can a person be optimistic and pessimistic?

Yes, a person can be both optimistic and pessimistic. In this case, we are calling them pessimistic optimists. These people still have fears and negative thoughts about things, but they can also see the good in what happened and hope for the best. 

What is the difference between optimistic and pessimistic?

The difference between optimistic and pessimistic is that optimists focus on the full half of the glass, while pessimists rather see the empty one; it is about the different way in which everyone focuses only on those aspects that they tend to exaggerate and at the same time lose sight of the opposite ones: optimists are more attracted to positive stimuli and pessimists to negative ones. 

References

Alloy, L. B., Albright, J. S., Abramson, L. Y., & Dykman, B. M. (1990). Depressive Realism and Non Depressive Optimistic Illusions: The Role of the Self. În R. E. Ingram (Ed.), Contemporary Psychological Approaches to Depression (pp. 71-86). Boston, MA: Springer US. 

Bortolotti, L., & Antrobus, M. (2015). Costs and benefits of realism and optimism: Current Opinion in Psychiatry

Brown, J. D. (2012). Understanding the Better Than Average Effect: Motives (Still) Matter. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(2), 209-219. 

Garrett, N., Sharot, T., Faulkner, P., Korn, C. W., Roiser, J. P., & Dolan, R. J. (2014). Losing the rose-tinted glasses: neural substrates of unbiased belief updating in depression. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8. 

Gordon, A. M., Tuskeviciute, R., & Chen, S. (2013). A multimethod investigation of depressive symptoms, perceived understanding, and relationship quality: Depressed and misunderstood? Personal Relationships, 20(4), 635-654. 

Johnson, D. D. P., Blumstein, D. T., Fowler, J. H., & Haselton, M. G. (2013). The evolution of error: error management, cognitive constraints, and adaptive decision-making biases. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 28(8), 474-481. 

Korn, C. W., Sharot, T., Walter, H., Heekeren, H. R., & Dolan, R. J. (2014). Depression is related to an absence of optimistically biased belief updating about future life events. Psychological Medicine, 44(03), 579-592.

Lench, H. C., & Bench, S. W. (2012). Automatic optimism: Why people assume their futures will be bright. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(4), 347-360. 

Wolpe, N., Wolpert, D. M., & Rowe, J. B. (2014). Seeing what you want to see: priors for one’s own actions represent exaggerated expectations of success. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8.

Realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist (Differences)

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.