The first definition I find for optimism is “a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions, and to expect the most favorable outcome”. This is about looking, and intending something positive! The “opt” word root is eye — think of “optometrist” or “optical”.
When I started vision improvement nearly 20 years ago, I quickly became aware of my negative attitude about seeing. Beliefs like “it’s hard work to see clearly” and “I probably won’t be able to see that” (before I even looked!) were such a part of my daily experience I thought they were facts. I couldn’t understand why other people, who didn’t wear thick glasses like I had, seemed to have no difficulty in seeing clearly and easily, and had no worry about it.
Dr. Bates, the vision pioneer of the early 20th century, taught that you see best what pleases you — he called this an “optimum”. What is harder for you to see, and maybe frightens or angers you, he called a “pessimum”. When I read this, I started to notice all the pessimums around me, that dark shaded corner where I had to make a left turn coming home after a stressful day at work, or the face of most of my neighbors whom I expected to judge me or want something from me. Was I hurting my vision with my fearful attitude, turning everything I had to look at into a pessimum?
You’ve probably heard this Henry Ford quote: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right”. I’m reminded of the Little Engine That Could in the children’s book, who kept saying “I think I can”, and accomplished the goal of getting up the long steep hill. If we don’t think we can see something, so don’t even try, we are proving Henry Ford right — we can’t see it!
Since I wore such strong glasses when I was young, it took me a while to believe in my vision, and to develop confidence in my eyes’ capabilities on their own. If you had told me to just take off my glasses and look around, back when I was a nervous child living behind -10 thick heavy glass lenses, I would have been frozen in fear, unable to take a step forward. I spent very little time without my glasses at first, only slowly moving around my house, noticing I could actually see some things well enough.
Over the years, I reduced my eyeglasses prescription and learned to do without glasses completely. Along with this came an increase in visual confidence, as all my former pessimums seemed to be turning into optimums. When I have to go out and do errands in the car now on a dim day which is threatening rain, I hardly give the visibility a second thought. I know I’ll be able to see well enough to drive safely. Years ago I stayed home many times rather than drive in the rain.
Getting rid of eyeglasses and depending only on my own eyes to see felt like getting out of prison to me. Sometimes I briefly get discouraged or annoyed at not being able to see well enough, often in the near-dark or when I’m tired. Then I quickly catch myself — on my blurriest day I can see so much better than I could as a child! And I know my vision is still improving, and I know how to help it when it needs extra attention. How can I not be enthusiastic and optimistic about using the wonderful gift of my human sight? It’s a buried treasure I am still uncovering. Woo hoo!