I’ve learned a lot about this and I didn’t realize it was a thing until I witnessed the man that helped birth me do it. (I could have easily just said ‘dad’, but the long one sounds so much better). Here’s what happened:
My dad put my brother in basketball a few months ago. His reason for putting my brother in basketball wasn’t because my brother had an intense interest or because it seemed to ‘fit’ or anything like that. It was just one sentence uttered from the coach’s mouth: ‘the boy’s got wing span.’ What that means for basketball, I have no idea. I don’t play it, I just watch people try to do it sometimes.
After my dad heard this, he was too excited to push him into trying out. He did, but my brother made it on to the ‘C’ team, which is like the lowest grade, team wise (I sound like I know so much. . .). Anyway, he continued to play on that team and still had many problems. He was and still is working on his dribbling and passing. He still holds his hips and stands in the middle of the court while the team is playing. He still doesn’t hussle fast enough back and forth. He doesn’t practice when he’s home, he holes himself in the loft and plays games and watches anime.
My dad is saddened by the outcome and my brothers lack of attempts to improve himself. Should he be sad though? The only reason he thought my brother would have any potential is because he heard another authority say something about ‘wing span’. His optimism for my brother to be the next Derrick Rose sky rocketed. His expectations were inflated because another adult saw potential and he took that and ran with it. It was rigged. He didn’t come up with that optimism on his own. A man with a hat and a clip board did. . . .
I bring this up because I’m like my dad in many ways. I’m his daughter, so it’s only natural that he gave me some of whatever he has. I assume that if I do it, there’s someone else in the universe that does and maybe after reading this you’ll realize you’re a victim of this as well. I like to think of rigged optimism as both good and bad because I like seeing things from both perspectives. Here’s my examples for the good and bad with my own experiences:
The good one was when I was in middleschool. I drew all the time, but didn’t think much of my drawings. I still don’t, but for a different reason. Back then, it was because I didn’t feel like it offered much. Many people that I went to school with said that I was great and after awhile, it boosted my little 6th or 7th grade self esteem and I thought ‘hey. . .maybe I am better than okay.’ I sat near my dad one day and I told him that I thought I was a good artist. In response, my dad told me that I wasn’t that good because there were artists that were much better than me. Being as young as I was, and with as much respect I had for my dad, I crumbled like a little cookie at those words. I didn’t crumble because of the harsh truth that yes, I wasn’t that good and yes, there were other people better than me. I crumbled because that optimism and confidence wasn’t really mine. It was built up by the support around me and I claimed it because of how great and accomplished it made me feel.
Rigged optimism like this is good. Just because those positive feelings don’t necessarily originate from the person they’re being given to, doesn’t make them bad. As people, it’s normal to use the optimism of others to uplift ourselves. That’s what support is for: to give the extra confidence and help you can’t give yourself. One thing that good rigged optimism does is develop confidence you have naturally within you, in turn making it your own. The support doesn’t go away, but you have whatever added bonus you find in yourself. My development in that area was snuffed out a little by someone very important to me, and I stopped drawing for a year or so, but if I had let that good rigged optimism ride, I’d probably have at least made more of an effort to make it a career rather than a hobby.
The bad one is a little shorter, but one I’m sure some can relate to. When I was in high school, I had this guy I really liked. I told him I liked him through a note and waited for a magical facebook message to appear. Meanwhile, my friends hyped me up. They told me how great we looked together and how much he liked me. I had so much optimism to the point where I was gushing. My little highschool teenage body could not handle the hormones oozing out of me (that sounds gross, but I promise it wasn’t . . .). We did go on a date, but shortly after, he admitted to me that I was a wonderful person, but he didn’t like me that way and he never really did. The only reason I kept going with it was because of the hype that me friends gave me. Without that, I would have probably been able to tell that he wasn’t into it. I say that now because I realized there were a bunch of signs he was giving me that I refused to go with.
This is a decent example of bad rigged optimism because it happens constantly to me, but I’m more level headed enough to catch it now rather than run with it. It’s not fair to assume the biggest when you haven’t started at the beginning. When I gave him that note, I never gave him a chance to give me an answer. In fact, I didn’t wait for him to send me a message. I asked him out because I figured he liked me because he did not say no. My friends did not help that and gave me more reason to pursue him instead of pausing and realizing that I never even asked him what he thought of me or if he even liked me more than that.
This bad rigged optimism has the same things attached to it as good rigged optimism. You have that support well of optimism that you draw from others and that well helps you create your own. It becomes bad when you count on the support alone rather than the confidence that the support creates. You lean on the words of others for reassurance and that makes you invest in their judgement rather than your own. You become enveloped in those thoughts and opinions, which makes you feel comfortable enough to be happy and excited about the upcoming future, despite not really knowing what that is. The reason you don’t know is because you’re basing it off of an inflated optimism created by someone else. . .This example is kind of similar to the one I gave in the beginning. My dad didn’t really give my brother a chance to think about if basketball was a super serious thing he wanted to pursue, he just threw him in it based off of the sparkling potential a coach saw in his arms or wings or whatever. That potential passed on from the coach to my dad, and thoughts of my brother being a basketball star made his heart skip a beat and he couldn’t resist to seize it. Now he’s slightly deflated because the potential that was there before is fading in his eyes.
Granted there’s nothing wrong with a father seeing potential in his son. I just feel that it should come from him and not the words of someone else. It should also be dependant on what the kid wants. My brother’s a little more pumped about basketball, but I’ve always felt it was because my dad gave him a little more attention than before because of that. For other situations like this, it’s the same. It’s better to draw from rigged optimism when our logic and confidence isn’t in critical condition. When those two important things are wrecked and messed up, we tend to lean on the words and positive opinions of others rather than our own. It’s okay to have rigged optimism when it’s a situation where it’s boosting your confidence in a certain area or thing in your life, but it’s important to keep in mind that you should be just as confident on your own. The support of others is important, but making a foundation of your own out of that helps for times that you have no one to turn to or count on because that happens in life sometimes. To piggy back off of others optimism makes me sit and wonder why I was doing/starting something. Did I do it because I felt like I could or because my friend thought I could? What happens when my friend’s not there for me anymore or can’t be there and I haven’t drummed up enough confidence to go through with what I started?
I’m not a master on this, nor do I give myself the title of ‘master’. Being a master is too mainstream because you can’t ever stop learning anything. There will always be something new to learn, so are masters really masters if they haven’t learned absolutely everything?. . . .I’m going to stop there and think about that some other time since this has already grown in legnth. I hope this maybe made sense at all and that it raised some questions or made people think.
Also, I did look over this twice, but please don’t feel shy to point out errors. . . .just minor ones, because commas and things get confusing to change. I’m not an English major, I just write stuff. . .on the internet. . .for other people to read. . . .