ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Optimist, Pessimist, Realist: What Do They Mean?

Updated on February 24, 2015

We’ve all heard that question “is the glass of water half empty or half full?” when explaining the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. The optimist will see the glass as half full while the pessimist will see it as half empty. One with a positive view and the other with a negative view.

While they both literally mean the same thing, says the realist, that there’s enough liquid in the cup to be right in the middle, it really refers to outlook. Let’s get into this optimist, pessimist, realist glass of water, shall we?


Optimists: The “Half-Full” Group

So I start with the optimist first. Why? Because I consider myself an optimist, someone who likes to always find the positive in things and look for opportunity where pessimists might see nothing but obstacles. One is no better than the other, it’s just a matter of outlook, and outlook can affect many things in life.

Optimists believe that things will always work out in the end, often for the better and that everything happens for a reason, no matter how bad these happenings are. They see situations as optimal or the best they can be and try to make the best of anything thrown their way.

Sometimes it can be seen as a bad thing, someone dwelling on false hope, as the realist might think. When a positive event happens, it is seen by the optimist as being caused by them and their own motivation and hard work.

Last but not least, when a negative event happens, they tend to see it as something out of the ordinary and that there will be better luck in the future. For example, a flunked test, an optimist may say “I tried my best, better luck next time” rather than “I’m stupid, I’m a failure.”


Pessimists: The “Half-Empty” Group

Pessimists tend to have more of a negative outlook on things, always expecting the worst to happen and often complaining about a situation rather than trying to make the best of it like an optimist would.

Viewing the glass as half empty gives a negative view of the glass, as if complaining that it’s lacking rather than it actually has liquid in it! If something negative happens to a pessimist, they often blame themselves for it and if a positive event happens, it is seen as something out of the ordinary that probably won’t happen to them again.

They may take on an “expect the worst but hope for the best” kind of attitude if they straddle the optimist/pessimist line, but more often than not, it simply stops at “expect the worst.”


Realist: The “Fifty-Percent” Group

A realist doesn’t really view the glass in a negative or positive manner, rather that it literally contains 50% volume. Rather than expecting the worst or expecting the best, they tend to use facts and past events to form their views about how to feel about any given situation or event.

They see the world around them as it actually is, rather than making it seem better or worse than it actually is. Realists are sometimes viewed as more pessimistic as their views can lean toward something that seems negative, but it depends on which standpoint they are viewed from.

A realist sees things as they are, rather than as they would like them to be. So when a realist has a glass of water, they might see it as half empty if they drank it down from full, or see it as half full if they filled it from empty and stopped at the halfway point.

What would you consider yourself?

See results

Which Are You?

As stated earlier, one is not better than the other. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, and you can always condition your line of thinking over time if you try. Ask yourself, how do you view the glass of water? How do you view victories and failures? How do you feel about the future?

I found one quote that compares the three pretty well outside of the glass of water, so I leave you with this:

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. -William Arthur Ward

Are Pessimistic Brains Different?


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • TimArends profile image

      Timothy Arends 

      5 years ago from Chicago Region

      Great topic! That William Arthur Ward quote is one of my favorites too!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)