Do you assume the best or the worst? Are you filled with hope or are you filled with doubt? Do you think kindly of the people around you or do you judge their motivations? At times it seems as if the whole world is absorbed in negative cynicism. In this post I want to show you how you can defeat cynicism and become a positive thinker. It really isn’t that hard.
What is cynicism?
Before you can deal with anything in life you need to know a little bit about it. For example, if you want to know how to lose weight you need to learn what fat is, how you come to gain it and then methods for getting rid of it. The same is true of negative emotions and mental states. You need to learn what it is, where it comes from and then take the necessary steps to defeat it.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines cynicism in a very enlightening way:
“…a disposition to disbelieve in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions…”
The main thing to notice about the definition is the presence of negativity. A cynical person will almost always choose to doubt, disbelieve or discredit, even when there is no logical reason to do so.
So why do people think and behave like this? There are many schools of thought on the matter – some regard cynicism as a personal defense mechanism whereby people prevent themselves from opening up to love and friendship for fear of being hurt. Others say it comes about due to a traumatic event that occurred in childhood and caused a person to “close up”.
To be honest, it doesn’t really matter what the “experts” say about the cause. The real task is to look inside yourself and find out why you are a cynic. Why do you think it came about? When did cynicism become a personal trait of yours? Why do you continue to think in a cynical way? You could study 1000 texts on cynicism for 1000 years but a single moment of genuine introspection will teach you so much more. Look into your own mind and find out why you are a cynic.
And don’t be afraid to be honest. Even if it hurts.
How to defeat cynicism and become a positive thinker
photo credit: larryvincent
Let’s jump into the bulk of the article. Here are some super simple things you can do to get yourself on the path of positive thinking and away from those habits of cynicism. If you have anything else to add please do leave a comment as I would love to hear some of your suggestions.
1. Recognize the problem
As with all problems the first step is in the recognizing. Some people go their whole lives not realizing that they are horrible people with miserly outlooks and cynical views of the world. Thank yourself lucky that you have had the good fortune to recognize the problem and do something about it. This is the first step.
It might take a while for you to recognize that you are a negative thinker. It might even take one of your friends or family members to wake you up to it. That’s fine. When you finally see it just sit back and think to yourself, “Wow. I can be cynical sometimes.” That is all you have to do for now.
2. Recognize each cynical thought
Once you have realized that you can be a cynic the task is to start realizing it more often. Think of this as a bit of a mindfulness meditation. The idea is to become attuned to your own mind and thoughts and start to become aware of every cynical thought that you have.
Let’s say, for example, you meet someone at a party and they start telling you about their life. Perhaps they are a real overachiever and are sitting there talking to you about all of their fantastic accomplishments. Now, the cynic in you will probably start to say internal things like “I don’t believe this guy” and “I wish he would shut up”. Try to become aware of those thoughts. Don’t do anything with them just yet. Merely becoming aware of them is enough. This is mindfulness.
3. Use logic to debate the cynicism
Logic is a wonderful thing. Logic allows you to overcome destructive emotions and other negative things in your life. Why? Because 99% of the time the reason for your depression, anxiety, hatred or other negative feeling is illogical. If you debate the negative feeling using logic you will often find that the negative feeling gets weaker.
Cynicism, in my opinion, is usually illogical. People who are cynics seem to think the worst about a certain person or situation not because they have evidence for doing so, but because they are in the habit of thinking cynically. For example, assuming that all Muslims are extremist terrorists is a cynical thought that is not based in any shred of logic. Just because a couple of unstable idiots blew up the World Trade Center in the name of Jihad, it does not mean all Muslims are like that.
So the task is now to use logic to debate your cynicism. When you see a cynical thought arising in your mind I want to to ask yourself where it is coming from, why you are thinking like that and whether it is going to help you be happy. That is the main thing – ask yourself whether this cynical thought is going to make you happy. Ask yourself whether living a cynical life has made you happy so far. Ask yourself whether being cynic causes other people to like and respect you.
When you use logic in this way you will almost always find that cynicism doesn’t pay. It isn’t helping you or anyone else to by cynical. Try it and see how you go.
4. Make a definitive choice to be positive
Everything good in life comes from a choice. When you make a choice to do something you do everything that you can to make that thing come about. If you make the choice to get a car you save money, do research and possibly get a loan. The same is true for positive thinking – when you make the choice to be positive you will do all that you can to be positive.
The best way to make a choice is to make a firm promise to yourself. You need to find a quiet place to sit down and tell yourself that from this day onward you are going to do everything you can to be a more positive person. You are going to avoid cynicism and look on the bright side of life. Make a promise to do this.
5. Look at positive people for inspiration
Sometimes it takes a little bit of inspiration to move away from cynicism and negativity. For example, take a look Hollywood stars like Will Smith, Hugh Jackman and Oprah. These people are renowned for having positive outlooks on life. They are happy and they love helping people. They choose to see the good in those around them and inspire other people to do the same.
Contrast those people with more self absorbed Hollywood stars like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. People don’t like them. People know they are self absorbed and negative and don’t draw much inspiration from them. People look down on them.
The same is probably true for your circle of friends. There will be positive folks and negative cynical folks. Try to become aware of how you view these different people. Now which side of the fence would you rather be on – the side that inspires people and makes them happy or the side that is constantly complaining, being negative and “hating” on others?
6. Focus on people’s qualities
The last method I want to give you is the one that has worked the best for me. It is the simple art of choosing to look at people’s qualities instead of their negative attributes. This is one of the best ways to turn yourself into a positive thinker.
After you have mastered step one and two you will become more aware of your negative thoughts. Once you can do this you will be able to start focusing on people’s positive qualities. For example, if you are talking to someone who has bad body odor it is tempting to start thinking about them in a negative way. But once you become aware of those thoughts you can turn them around. Instead of focusing on the bad smell why not focus on his nice smile, friendly conversation manner or gentle eyes? Why not focus on the fact that this person is probably a great father, brother or son?
If you can focus on the positive things in people you will soon start to see your cynicism float away.
Why cynicism can sometimes be good
To finish off this article I want to quickly mention the fact that cynicism is not always bad. There are situations and times when a bit of cynicism can get you out of a lot of trouble. Let me tell you a story.
Once when I was in Bihar in India I was approached by a guy I who I knew quite well but never really trusted. This man had been very nice to me over the years (I had visited Bihar before) and I had even eaten dinner with him. Anyway, this time the man came up to me and asked me to come with him to his house to have a meal with his family. On the outside he looked perfectly normal; well dressed, neat hair, nice smile, kind eyes. But I still didn’t trust him. I declined his invitation basically because I cynical about him. Later on that week I heard from another friend that he is in the business of robbing people and had been arrested many times for violent assault. He asks people to come to his house and then takes their passport, money and everything valuable. My cynicism turned out to be right.
You can tell whether cynicism is good or bad based on the result it gets you. For example, if you are a cynical person and you find that you have no friends, a bad job, poor social life and are generally unhappy then you could conclude that the results of your cynicism were bad. This is the type to avoid. If, however, you find that your cynicism helps you to avoid trouble then you can conclude that it is a good type. Make sure you learn the difference.
Cynicism and negativity can be turned into positive thinking with just a little bit of work. The question I am really interested in, however, is how many Daily Mind readers are cynics? Do you tend to look at life through cynical eyes? Leave a comment and let us know.
I am a cynic!! However, we also need to mention that being a cynic can have a component of humor involved. And like it has been said…”Humor is the best medicine”. I now realize after reading this article that balance and flexibility are needed to maintain a healthy mindset. If I can eliminate or cut down on my negative thoughts, the cynical thoughts will also diminish. I need to apply this method to my beliefs on religion, race, politics, and creed for starters. Like you said, not all Muslims are Jihadis!!
The Daily Minder
That is true – cynical humor is often quite funny. I wonder though, do people start as comic cynics and eventually become cynical for real? I have noticed this with some of my buddies.
I really like #6 – Focus on people’s qualities. It’s great advice for everyone. I once worked with a woman who was at the pinnacle of cynical. But in her cynicism, she also had a sharp wit in her clever observations and I’d tell her so. She was in her mid-50’s, but had the most elegant, long legs. And I told her she had great gams. (That made her giggle like a schoolgirl.)
Highlighting the qualities in cynical people and telling them what’s actually flattering about them might actually soften them up.
I still have lunch occasionally with my former co-worker. She’s still on the cynical side, but around me, she definitely lets her funny side shine through.
The Daily Minder
Nice story Marissa! I think you handled that situation perfectly and by the sounds of it you really helped that woman.
Thanks for commenting.
Do I look at life through cynical eyes?
No, not usually. Life is too short and there are too many things I find interesting to be bothered with cynicism. That being said – everyone has their ups and downs, their highs and lows, their confusion and clarity.
The Daily Minder
True stuff. Do you think cynicism is necessary in life?
Sometimes I am surprised to find myself being cynical… I wouldn’t normally think of myself as a cynic but the more mindful I am the more I become aware of cynical thoughts.
I pretty much follow the first two points you list above, and then at that point practice opening my mind and heart – not specifically looking for positive attributes as such or indeed looking for anything. In my experience, just simply being open and allowing my experience to arise can be touching and humbling. Where a minute earlier I might have become aware of cynical and critical thoughts of a work colleague arising, I find myself instead feeling deeply appreciative of their humanity, both their positive qualities and their weaknesses, vulnerabilities etc and seeing how very similar I am myself as a fellow human being!
Again I would say that this approach is partly related to the specific mind training I have received though and probably partly related to my particular personality.
All the best,
The Daily Minder
Puerhan – your first paragraph made me happy – the more mindful you become the more you notice these flaws. Keep up the excellent work!
There are definitely environments where expressing enthusiasm will get you ridiculed. A blase, cynical attitude doesn’t tell people what things they can push your buttons by criticizing, so it’s safer if you hang out with people like that.
A belated response to your question as to whether cynicism is necessary in life. I suppose yes, in that if we didn’t have cynicism we wouldn’t have optimism.
Cynicism is not an inherently bad trait, nor is it necessarily a sign of negative thinking. The key is to contextualize it. There are times and places where distrusting the motives of others can serve one well. Three examples come to mind: 1) Online, children should be a bit cynical of the offers of friendship from total strangers. 2) Get rich quick schemes, which almost always turn out badly. 3) People claiming to know more about you and your life’s purpose than you know about yourself (religious and cult leaders, etc.)
It’s the generalized cynicism that causes health problem and social isolation. Looking down on everyone around you is a sorry state for anyone. But then, any attitude that is overgeneralized, including positive thinking and seeing only the good in people, can cause all kinds of problems.
Context is key. Identify the where and when for a behavior and use it there and then. Have a choice in behaviors and attitudes and a bit of flexibility, you can adapt to circumstances based on new information. Have only one choice or attitude, that kind of inflexibility can only lead to you backing yourself into a corner.
From a true cynic. Why am I a cynic? Because I read history books! The history books of the future won’t change their content, just the names.
I am most definitely a cynic. I really enjoyed this article; thank you for posting it. It gave me a lot of good perspective and insight to ponder on. One thing that I did not agree with, however, was when you referred to generalizing people from the middle east as terrorists.. I would not call that cynicism, that is racism. Those two terms should not be associated with one another. In fact, racism is a main source of my cynicism toward people. With that being said, I will reiterate, great article.
The Daily Minder
Excellent point Austin. Thanks for pointing that out.
I am cynical because life made me become one.Now that I ponder on it, I believe it’s my defense mechanism.When my mum died, I swore to myself I would never allow anything to hurt me again that hard. But I slowly see life is about ups and downs , and that with such attitude I lost many friends and great opportunities. I will try to apply this article in my life, thank you TDM.
i am a very cynical person. I guess it started in childhood because of my fears and inconfidence and insecurities. i wasnt worried before of being cynical. but recently it has started bothering me as i realised that i was so cynical. it hurts my self image and self esteem and confidence thinking that im such a negative thinker and a bad person. I realise thats why i cannot make friends.
i have been trying to overcome this ugly habit but in vain. thanks for the info
I was an idealist when I was younger. I was optimistic; some thought I was silly or flaky. I was not flaky, but chose to see the good in things. After awhile, I was hurt by people thinking I was not bright because I was ‘wide eyed’ optimist. I would help people out when they needed something. People took advantage of my kindness.
Now, I simply don’t like people. I’m sarcastic, cynical, unhappy. At times, I wish I WAS more flaky and didn’t KNOW that people suck.
I am unhappy because I let others make me feel bad. I no longer help people. I would like to try these steps to see if I can reduce some of my cynicism and regain the traits I had when I was a happier person.
I am in a similar mindset as Millo .Everything he says about himself matches with my life .Except that I do not consider myself as a bad person . Mostly I feel I am being taken advantage of by relatives including close ones without any understanding about the state of my mind .Although the steps outlined are encouraging , I am not sure I agree that most times my cynicism is illigical . I consider mysely logical and I do believe that there are genuine reasons for my cynicism.
Should I consult a psychiatrist ?
Ron Burgundy will return
I just bought a shirt that at first glance looks arabic therefore people never read it. It in fact says “quit blowing shit up” in english. Like I always say “quit blowing shit up”
Some of my other famous quotes:
“All muslims are Jihadis” Except my best friend Kian
“If you’re not first you’re last”
“The sun shines every day”
“I can trace my family back to the 16th century, Obama cant even find his birth certificate”
Cynicism 1 GDI’s 0
Great, positive article with easy steps that I can follow. My choices for most of my life have stemmed from cynicism toward other people or myself (not funny enough, likable, etc.). Almost every time i can recall saying “no, that is not for me,” a friend on the receiving end caught my negativity and cynicism, and the friendship failed. I have been aware of my sarcasm, which I have cleared through awareness and better choices. I also have worked on being less negative. Now, cynicism is my next project–thanks to this article!
I am. Fully and completely. But that results from the fact that people in this society in which we live are absolutely useless. Folk like celebrities are worshiped while science isnt given any time of day, drug use pervades everywhere and drug addicts who do heroine, cocaine and other crap that can kill you are the first to justify their actions by talking about how coffee is bad for you. Students come in, leech the system for their loans getting useless degrees in art, then never pay them back, meanwhile children are growing with no discipline and think its okay to threaten and attack people in the streets. The rest are filthy hippies who contribute nothing to society because theyre too busy being higher than kites on drugs and believing that fairies and the universe will provide everything.
Society is garbage. Id there’s anything to be happy about in society, I sure as hell can’t see it.
This article really put a lot into perspective for me. I began to think of my first memories as a child and when I began being negative. I realized its attributed to more than handful of bad expierences as a child into my teens and now my adulthood. I liked #5- the comparison of inspiring and just being talked about– I have work to do, but this article was a great insight of where to start. Thank you!
The problem with cynicism it is ultimately self defeating its a dead end leading nowhere but draining more and more joy from your life and yes I am highly cynical its not always bad but a balance needs to be maintained
How can you NOT be cynical in this day and age. Best cure is to watch less TV especially the news channels . They feed on bad news and bad vibes
Terrorism, crime, corrupt governments , child abuse, murders etc etc. We know they exist, but too much exposure to so much negativity will drive you mad, feed your cynicism and lead to depression.
I am a cynic and a depressed person, but I’m working on self help. I need to concentrate on ‘feel good’ activities, for me that would be oil painting, golf, and associating with people who are not cynics.
I have ruthlessly removed people who do not make me feel good, including old acquaintances and even family members. I feel good about this.
Watching ‘good’ stand-up comic on YouTube is therapeutic , especially British comedians like Danny Bhoy, Jimmy Carr, John Oliver, John Cleese, Tim Minchin (Australian).
And in conclusion, the argument that finding God will cure my cynicism makes my blood boil! Religion destroys. It destroyed and continues to destroy my family. And what it is doing to the world is obvious.
I am cynical because, despite my lifelong efforts to educate, donate to, speak truth of, lift up, and support my neighbors and friends across the globe, the largest majority of Americans continue to be swayed by fear, hatred, disillusion, and lies. I watch as struggling people support others who openly disavow their worth. I listen as those in pain have no place to go for relief. I see people and animals go hungry and endure abuse only to be turned away and told they don’t matter. There have been several times in my life when I have truly needed HELP. The first responders did their job. The detectives followed up. My doctor gave great advice. My therapist fought for treatment. My insurance company promised full coverage and sent me out of state to get well…and then dumped me like a sack of bricks. I still struggle with the same issues, fears, and REALITY. if that makes me a cynic, and therefore some kind of “flawed” woman, so be it. I was under the impression that the only way to reveal and improve the flaws in our society was to stand up and call BULLSHIT! when necessary. Each of our positive mindsets should be to, “keep on,” NOT, “keep telling yourself and everyone around you the clouds are always pink.” Be better. Be smarter. Be the best delegate for yourself and all the world. -egc
to chasingsanity – odd you would think a cynic is confused…
I beg to differ that a cynic see all too clear hence the problem.
Because inheritanly most people are self-serving.