Glass Half Empty Kind of Person

My first thought when I got out of the car was, I failed miserably.  Again. 

I’m a glass half empty kind of person.  It seems to be my natural inclination.  I’m not sure why, and I read an article once that stated people are generally either more optimistic, by nature, or tend to be more pessimistic.  I seem to be the latter.  And I’m trying to change that.


This past summer was the hottest on record here in Texas.  I’m a runner, and every single run for three straight months was miserable.  I complained.  I whined.  I moaned.  I was negative.  And then I always felt guilty for not being more positive and upbeat around other people on our runs.

That was the kind of run I had today–again.  It finally cooled off a little, but it was extremely humid and we ran 16 miles.  It seemed like we were always running uphill.  And it seemed like all I could do was complain about it.

I tried to be positive and give a celebratory little yeah! when we ran down a small hill.  But then we ran right back up another hill and my mood grew sour.  I tried to keep it in as best I could, but I think I failed.  All summer I’ve been aware that I’m complaining so much, and that puts me in a bad mood.

I’m not always negative.  I was actually a very positive teacher, and was pretty good at motivating kids to learn (at least I hope I was).  I’m also usually very optimistic about life in general, and I’m happy most of the time.  It’s the little things that seem to cause my downfall.

Like the weather.  Or people who don’t know how to drive.  And stress always brings out my inner grouch.

I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort not to be negative.  I don’t want to be phony about it and pretend things are other than they are, or gloss things over just to put a positive spin on them.  I merely want to try and see the positives first, and not dwell on the negatives so much.  There are times I can be cynical, or suspicious, and I always reserve the right to suspend belief when people tell me things.  Part of this is a protection device, and goes back to keeping my walls up so people don’t get too close.

I tried to read a book once about people who made a promise not to complain.  They wore a little rubber bracelet, and anytime they complained about something they had to move the bracelet to the other arm.  The goal was to not move the bracelet, which meant not complaining for an entire month, and then trying to extend the complaint-free time for longer and longer.  I never sent off for the bracelet because I knew I would fail.  It seems somewhat inauthentic, to hold in feelings just to remain positive all the time.  What if the complaints are valid?  What if they’re the truth!

Someone once told me I was the most honest person he knew.  I didn’t know whether to take that as a compliment or not, but I’d rather be called honest than dishonest, and sometimes I think glossing over the truth just to be positive is dishonest.  I do know I can be bluntly honest–which could come across as being negative sometimes–but I try not to hurt others with that honesty, though I’m sure there are times that I do.

I have to wonder if others struggle with being positive as much as I seem to.  Our modern life with all its pressures makes it tough for us to remain cheery.  For me, I think it goes back to my struggle to accept things as they are, and not as I want them to be (as I wrote about in an earlier post this summer).  Maybe it’s merely just another judgment I’m placing on whatever it is that bothers me.  Perhaps–no, probably–rather than complain and say anything at all, I just need to learn to keep my big mouth shut.

Even if I don’t truly accept the situation, or my negative feelings, or the disappointment, not saying anything at all doesn’t have to mean I’m lying to myself if I don’t voice my complaint.  It just means I can acknowledge it to myself, give it no value, then move on from it.  And if I look a little deeper, I think it all truly begins at my disappointment with whatever has happened, so maybe disappointment is the trigger.  Disappointment, and maybe not being able to control what is happening.

I think the key is to work on trying to see the positive first, acknowledging the negative thought, then moving on.  Let it go.  Adios, amigo.

Will I ever be a full glass kind of person?  Doubtful.  Can I at least work on half a glass full?  I think so.  What would that person look like, what would she sound like?  Ah, well, all I can do is keep plugging away, and not let things get to me so much.  Everything changes, including my bad moods, the weather, and half empty glasses.

And that’s what makes life interesting.


  1. Ken C.

    Check out “The Positive Power of Negative Thinking” by Julie Norem or “Half Empty” by David Rakoff. Being a glass half-empty person is not always a bad thing, it can even be productive sometimes.

    If you think about it, if everything in the world was great and there were no complaints, nothing would ever change.

    As for hot summers in Texas though, there’s not much you can do about that.

  2. A Wanderer

    When I moved to my current locale (which shall remain unnamed since I still struggle with naming it without going into a long laundry list of why it is one of the worst places in the US)from my home in TX, I had a very difficult time staying positive. I loved my job (still do) and accepted all the reasons for the move but I hated the place to the point that I found myself complaining all the time about it which was sooo not me. I finally made a promise to myself to not complain about it anymore (except in extreme circumstances that sometimes pop up….there is only so much craziness one can witness and still stay mum). I did that on my own and I had not heard of a book and complaint-wader-offer bracelet. I am curious now… Do you remember the name of the book?

    For me avoiding complaining prevented me from re-fuming over whatever was bothering me…. What I found was that each time I complained, I didn’t feel better; I was more outraged. My promise was then to accept the fact that the place is the modern day Sodom and Gomorah and stop complaining. The result has been a happier me.

    I sometimes wonder (on another level)about another part of your post which is are we led to believe we should be happier than we are? Have past generations really been happier overall than us or is this the human condition.

    • Mind Margins

      The book is A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted by Will Bowen. I had to reach the same conclusion about our record breaking heat here in TX this summer as you did about moving to the place that will remain unnamed. There was no point in continually complaining about the heat, and it (usually) only made me feel worse. Again, I think it goes back to acceptance.

      I don’t necessarily think past generations were happier than us. I, for one, kind of like the technological and medical advances we’ve made, and think it’s made us all much happier in the long run. Maybe we all yearn for a little more simplicity. Maybe past generations also didn’t expect that they had a right to be happier. Now it almost seems we feel we’re owed happiness and a good life, and if we don’t get it, it’s the fault of someone or something else. I do think a lot of people these days aren’t willing to take responsibility for their own happiness.

      • A Wanderer

        Thanks for the book rec. I just downloaded it to my Nook to read.

        Yes, I completely agree that acceptance is key. Although a part of me worries that nothing grand has happened by just accepting…But grand is overrated when sanity is at stake.

        I think it’s interesting that our nation was founded on the right to pursue happiness. Nothing was said about guaranteeing it…. I guess the only person that can guarantee happiness (as much as anything is guaranteed aside from death and taxes) is oneself which is sometimes more challenging than one might wish but well worth it!

  3. iRuniBreathe

    I feel like this a lot of the time, but internally. I am easily optimistic and positive for my fellow runners, but for myself I’m often a downer and not good enough. It’s an easy rut to get into and it’s hard to change a mindset; you have to let go of something (an idea, a belief, an attitude about yourself) to change.
    I was overwhelming myself a lot. And I’m okay with being a half-empty glass kind of person, but I still need to get through my days. Hopefully in a positive way.
    My solution has been my “attitude of gratitude”. It’s on my blog and on my sidebar I list a few things I am grateful for each day. I find it’s easier to appreciate a few little things, than to have to think everything is great and all the glasses are full.
    Let me know what you think!

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I think perfectionism has something to do with it as well. I know I can be hard on myself (and sometimes others, I admit it), but I still consider myself to be a positive person. I’d rather be honest and realistic than be dishonestly positive (if that makes sense).

  4. jeff

    The half glass full person is optimistic the barman is still serving.

    Myself, I think a true optimist would see the glass always half empty. After all there is only ‘one glass’ any person should consider. The half glass full belongs to somebody else. My rational for this is as follows:

    1. The glass to be considered is one’s individual glass.
    2. This defines the liquid not to be water as most presume, but instead to be the ‘elixir of life’.
    3. One should always sip/drink/swill from said elixir. (this might describe the person’s nature, but not the persons quality)
    4. No one really knows how big their glass is. They only realise ‘in the end’.
    5. Despite how one consumes the elixir, when it is gone it is finished. (ie. some lead full but short-lived lives, whilst some get old doing nothing).
    6. The size of the glass is not a reflection of the quality of life. The taste of the liquid is.

    For the reason I conclude it is a Half Glass (neither full nor empty, but always mine to drink).
    This also sits with the notion that I am not waiting on someone else to satisfy me.

    Where do you place the Horse and the Cart?

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