5 Ways Optimism Can Be A Bad Thing

So much of recent literature and media is focused on the power of positive thinking. There’s even a field of psychology dedicated to its study, but it seldom makes room for the times that negativity is okay.


But the saying goes, “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing” because even excessive positive thinking can be harmful. 

High levels of unrealistic optimism are just like eating a handful of those gummy vitamins when the serving is only one—chances are you’re going to end up feeling terrible.


What’s important to remember is that balance is key. While optimism is certainly a helpful tool in life, the best thing you can do is mix that with a healthy dose of realism. 

Here are the moments when keeping your rose-colored glasses on for too long can start to obstruct your vision: 


When You Begin To Overlook Reality



Finding the silver lining in life is a special skill. Still, while it’s not something that should necessarily be discouraged, if it’s beginning to make you overlook the blatantly negative things about a person or a situation, then maybe that’s a sign to start dialing it back.


For example, you could focus on someone’s good character traits and ignore the red flags, causing you to end up in a toxic relationship.


Or, you could altogether reject constructive criticism, which will ultimately stifle your growth. 


When You Overestimate Your Abilities



Having good self-esteem is vital to finding the motivation to accomplish your goals, but what happens when you believe you’re already good enough without putting in the work?


Imagine a medical student performing surgery on someone before becoming a surgical resident. You’re not going to want to be assigned that doctor to treat you for anything, no matter how much confidence they have.


Likewise, if you don’t spend any time considering the negative outcomes of something, the chances that something could go wrong get higher and higher. 


When You Create The Illusion Of Being In Control



If we allow ourselves to be too optimistic, we can begin to believe that situations out of our control are actually something we can manipulate.


A simple example of this would be engaging in good luck rituals or obsessing over superstitions. The truth is, if you didn’t study for that test, you’re probably not going to get the perfect grade.


It can also make us run into endless frustrations when things don’t go the way we planned. A healthier habit would be approaching a situation from all sides, good and bad, before engrossing ourselves in a fantasy. 


When It Tricks You Into A Sense Of Security



Many people swear by visualization techniques that allow you to visualize a future where you’ve already attained everything you want, which apparently helps you reach it easier.


But did you know that these techniques can trick your brain into thinking you did already achieve those things?


recent study found that participants who were told to visualize themselves accomplishing their ultimate goals, their energy levels depleted and performed worse than those who were told to envision the negative outcomes. 


 When It Makes You Neglect Your Emotions



Positive thinking has been in the limelight so often that the concept of feeling negative emotions has been shrouded in darkness.


But who doesn’t remember having a good, cathartic cry or screaming into a pillow when they were angry? You cannot will your sorrow away, and it may be better for you to address it.


If we neglect the emotional pain of encountering obstacles in our lives, we’ll wallow in complacency forever because there won’t be any motivation to change. 

When we reject our negative emotions, we abandon our journey to find our purpose in life. Learn more about the positive and negative power of optimism at our Optimism Advice Page.



Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.