Why Half-full Glasses aren’t Indicators of True Optimism

posted in: Life, Reflections | 0

Half-empty glass of water
courtesy of Derek Jensen

What do you say when you look at a glass like the one in the photo, regarding its contents?
It has been said that there are two answers to this question, which two different types of people will choose to answer. The first is the glass is half-full, which is always associated with positive thinkers, or optimists. The other answer is the complete opposite the glass is half-empty which is always associated with negative thinkers, or pessimists.

Recently, I was reflecting on this fact, and I realized that this is not always true. Before I explain why, let’s take a look at what is meant by optimism, and it’s opposite, pessimism.

The word is derived from the Latin optimum, meaning best. The first entry in many dictionaries under the word is: the tendency to expect the best and see the best in all things.
Optimism is often thought to be synonymous with positive thinking.

The word is derived from the Latin pessimus, meaning worst. The first entry in many dictionaries under the word is exactly the opposite of optimism: the tendency to expect the worst and see the worst in all things.
Pessimism is often thought to be synonymous with negative thinking.

Why is saying the glass is half-full not really optimistic?
Now that we have fully understood what optimism and pessimism mean, we can understand why I think it’s not being optimistic when someone says the glass is half-full.

The definitions say the optimism is expecting the best, and seeing the best in everything, right? This doesn’t agree with the fact that saying the glass is half-full means you’re being optimistic, because when something is full, then we cannot add anything more to it, right? So basically, when someone says a glass is half-full, they’re reflecting on the half that you cannot add anything to any more.

Now let’s look at the other side. If someone says something is empty, then what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? I can fill it with things that are important or worthy. The same thing applies when you reflect on the empty half of the glass. You can fill it with more of your drink, or add another drink to it to make it a unique mixture.

So what? I don’t care if the glass is half-full or half-empty. I just want to drink up what’s in it and be on my way.
Slow down. This whole glass half-full or half-empty thing is metaphorical. In fact, it’s an idiom that is usually used as a litmus test to define an individual’s perception of the world. So we’re not talking about real glasses that are half-full or half-empty here. We’re talking about how you view your life. This is the reason I’m saying we should be saying the glass is half-empty, not half-full, is because our lives have room for improvement all the time. If you say the glass is half-full, then you’re saying that there’s no room for improvement in your life. This is not true. Even if you’re fully content with your life, there is still room to make it better. You don’t have to be lacking something to improve your life.

The next time someone asks you whether a glass is half-full or half-empty, smile, and say it’s half empty, because you can fill it with more!

Your thoughts on this will be appreciated!