Healthy cynicism valuable


In the past I’ve been criticized for being cynical. No, I’m not angry or overdramatic –I’m fed up. Frankly, I don’t think people can blame me, or my fellow cynics for our pessimistic attitudes. We are this way for a reason, and it usually comes down to ignorance.

For instance, the other day a girl dropped her wallet so I picked it up, and instead of her thanking me, she just grabbed it and giggled at her friend. This promptly led me to text “I hate people” to a fellow cynic, who obviously understood my annoyance.

Similarly, if I took a tally of how many times a door has shut in my face on campus because people refuse to hold the door, the number would be dangerously high.

After things like this happen, I have a hard time figuring out if I am just overly cynical or if people are just too oblivious to have any human decency.

But you know what? I’m tired of feeling like a terrible person because I have no patience for oblivious people.

I don’t spend every waking minute hating people and the world, but there are definitely times where the outlook is pretty grim.

I see parents are raising iPad-obsessed children and sexually active tweens and worry that the future is doomed. I hear people ignorantly insulting other people just because of their differences and I lose faith in humanity.

I am cynical because of the way people treat other people, not because of a blatant and unreasonable  hatred of everything.

When incidences occur, like the outbursts from the Miss America pageant and Obama’s re-election, many people isolate the problem to a small number of racists in America. They don’t want to believe that ignorant people exist everywhere, and that it is a bigger problem. Apparently it makes me a cynic for believing that issues are bigger than they seem, and aren’t easily solvable. But if being a realist makes me a cynic, then call me a cynic any day. I would rather be cynical than oblivious.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that being cynical is not only cathartic, it’s healthy. It means you can recognize problems in society and do not want to contribute to them. You know things need to change.

Certainly there are people who take the cynicism a little too far. Hating people just because you assume they’re ignorant, and complaining about issues and doing nothing to solve them is not healthy. But when you see ignorance around you, being upset about it is an appropriate response.

I will admit that sometimes I can be a little too skeptical. When people are overly nice to me I immediately don’t trust them. What could they possibly want that they’re acting so nice? This is a common side-effect of being a cynic, but with a little time it can be easily dialed back.

The key, is to find a healthy level of cynicism; a middle ground.

It’s perfectly normal to be irritated with oblivious people. Sometimes people are straight up ignorant, and the fact that you notice that means that you’re not. But there is a difference between disliking ignorance and disliking people for no apparent reason. When you discover the middle ground you will be much happier and so will the people around you.

Stop ignoring problems in your life or in the world. It’s unproductive and ignoring them will only cause more trouble. Being realistic about life and the world is the first step to making changes.

The world really needs a healthy amount of cynicism. People need to stop assuming that everything will work out, because sometimes it doesn’t. Problems don’t get solved on their own, and pretending they do gets you nowhere.

But cynics, the same goes for you. It wouldn’t hurt to try being more positive sometimes. I’m trying it too and its a challenge, but its definitely helping my outlook on life.

If you have a problem with cynical people, maybe try to give them a little faith in humanity. Hold the door for someone. If you see someone drop something, help them pick it up. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank-you,’ and exercise some common decency.

And my fellow cynics: embrace your cynicism, but try to lighten up sometimes too. But most of all never apologize for being who you are.

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