Optimism is the New Grit.

I saw a meme the other day that boldly stated, “Optimism is the New Grit.”

It made me want to punch something.

I am a realist by nature. The mere idea of optimism feels a little superfluous to me. I’ve always felt that optimism sets you up for disappointment or unnecessarily fills you with confidence that isn’t earned by preparation, study, or hard work. I know not everyone feels this way and I’m totally okay with that. Maybe I’m a natural grump? Who knows?

But, optimism right now, feels like intentionally turning a blind eye to the realities we’re all facing. It’s letting us live under the happy illusion that eventually we’ll go back to business/life, as usual.

I think telling people to be “optimistic” right now and rewarding that optimism as some sort of prize is deeply misguided. It fails to recognize and validate how people are really feeling right now; Maybe a little less than optimistic, at best. Can we stop telling people that the only “correct” way to feel is optimistic?

Can we just stop telling people how they’re supposed to feel right now, altogether?

Listen to me very carefully…. Feel whatever it is that you are feeling. Be sad. Be happy. Feel grateful. Feel angry. Be frustrated, scared, disappointed, or pessimistic. Feel engaged, joyful, optimistic, driven, and focused. Feel all of it. Just feel what you feel. Cry, laugh, smile, joke, or stare blankly into outerspace. I don’t care. Just recognize your feelings and allow yourself to feel them. Don’t bury them and say, “I’m fine” or “I’m great” because someone told you it’s grittier to be “optimistic” right now.

FEELING is GRIT.

A willingness to feel, what you are feeling without shame or guilt during a global pandemic is gritty. A willingness to say, “I’m struggling to feel hopeful” when our way of life has changed in every possible way – is gritty. Saying “I’m feeling optimistic” is gritty, too. It all is.

I’m not a particularly optimistic person by nature. I’ll probably never express optimism about the current situation. Yet, I’m not trying to shame people who do. Feel it. Feel any of it. Feel all of it. Just don’t expect everyone to feel the same way as you.

I agree we all need to find ways to cope. We need to find ways to feel joy and hope. That’s important, but it’s not fair to say that “Optimism is the New Grit” because it fails to recognize the very real and very valid range of emotions everyone is going through.

A willingness to feel what you feel, when you feel it? That’s Grit.

So, go be gritty. Go feel your feelings. I’m over here feeling mine.

*Note: Grit is formally defined as, “firmness of mind or spirit unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.”