The Choice of Optimism is my Greatest Superpower

Oprah said to our Toronto audience several years ago, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them.” This is advice that I have not done a great job of following. I am a self-proclaimed optimist on human nature, and honestly this optimism is what has sustained my spirit in the most difficult of times. I go out into the world believing that people are good; that they have hearts just waiting to be opened. I truly believe that our essential nature is one of love and light, and it is how we have been hurt and damaged, that brings fear and bad actions to the surface. When a baby is born, do we ever think she is anything but pure light and joy.

And so, we go into the world and then the world disappoints, and sadly, sometimes abuses us so that we become damaged and even broken. In a very few instances, a person can become an agent of evil in the world. I don’t know what happened in the case of the shooter in Nova Scotia, but I know we were seeing evil at play. Evil exists in the world, I have seen it in the conflicts in Africa where I did volunteer work for many years, I have seen it at play in world politics, and I have seen it at play at a much smaller level in our petty jealousy and our inability to see the larger picture of what needs to be done to heal the planet.

I am not naïve, and I am not stupid. Although I have been betrayed, I have been hurt and even have had acts of violence directed toward me, I have not lost faith in the goodness of mankind. This is a choice. Each day I go into the world, believing that most people are good. They are doing their best given the circumstances they are living with. When someone is impatient, as I can often myself can be, I try to imagine the stress they are under, I try to imagine how escalated they must be to be so brisk with the people around them. When I hear of someone’s outrageous behaviour in a public place, I wonder how they have been damaged or how much disfunction must be in their life to lead to this behaviour. When I hear my son tell me how rude people can be to service workers, I reflect on how little self -awareness many people have, and what we can do in our school systems and work systems to build decency and respect for one another. So yes, I am an optimist on human nature.

This choice of optimism could well be my greatest superpower. Greater than my legendary tenacity, or my imagination, or the courage that seems to emerge in times of crisis. My greatest superpower is my fierce determination to see the light in the world, to see the light in each person I meet and to never stop believing we can be better.

My special needs daughter can spot a candy bar in the hands of a stranger 100ft away. She zeros in on what she wants and goes for it. You can imagine this has led to all manner of embarrassment, shock and hurried explanation, as she grabs a complete stranger’s snicker bar! My focus on what is good in the world is not dissimilar. I am looking for it, I am grabbing it, and I am consuming it until it fills me up. All algorithms behind my social feed lead to optimism.

In a world where it is so easy to become laden down with readily available terrible news, doesn’t it make sense to protect and cherish our optimism? I walk away from conversations that are becoming toxic, political or otherwise, I am saddened by betrayals but I choose to focus on the number of people who come through for me every day, not the least of which is my team at Unsinkable who are volunteering their time during the COVID crisis. I choose to protect my optimism because that is what gives me the power to go forward each and every day loving and supporting others, sharing inspiration, and helping each person I meet tap into the best of themselves.

Namaste (which roughly means, the light in me, sees the light in you)

– Silken