|Spartacus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I love watching tennis tournaments, because it provides me opportunities to study personalities. I found, that no matter how good a player is, when he/she faces a better opponent, he/she would not appear as good as he/she usually does. A top ranked player usually have the toughest personality and most diversified techniques. They hit balls hard, move fast, and mostly, they always take control of games. Watching them playing, you would feel they are absolutely invincible. However, when they faced some opponents who were better than them, the whole scenario would be changed: they would appear to be sluggish, tame, even tactless. Did we misjudge them before? Maybe. But my answer is, the challenge changed, so our' impression changed along.
We humans like to believe that we are strong, especially when we refer to our mental strength. Nowadays, "positive attitude" is in everybody's daily dictionaries, being stretched to an extent that anything as long as we believe, we can do it. Based on this "positive" view, logically, those who "failed" to do things were considered as "negative", because they must have not tried their best. Of course, things may not be as extreme as I think, but more or less, this is a "fashion" I noticed. Personally, I found it's just a new type of "wishful thinking".
Relative perspective is what I prefer to use whenever I try to get right idea about reality. I believe life success (whatever your definition is) is not based on a single condition, but a combination of our born strength and our real life challenges. i.e., the reasons that some of us succeed could be due to the fact that they were born strong, or, their life challenges weren't as great, or both; and the reasons some others did not succeed could be due to the fact they were born with less advantages, or their life challenges were too great for them to overcome.
My own life experience can be an example of this "hypothesis". Before I entered middle age, most people I knew viewed me as an extremely positive person (that's how I view myself as well), achieved some "missions impossible" (such as my first several years experience in the "New World"), but since I got into health trouble, I found I was viewed quite differently, mostly because I spoke more "no I can't" than "yes I can". Have I really changed? I would say no, but my challenge changed, so just like tennis games, accordingly, my "appearance" and my "audiences" impressions changed.
I also noticed the difference between people's reactions to me during my "bad times" and "good times". During my bad time, people's reaction told me that I gave them a “negative” impression, during my good time a "positive" one. Since I knew inside me I was a same person, I realized that how our impressions can give us wrong ideas.
Our living conditions vary significantly, some favor our life and some don't, some elevated us, some would destroy us. So the challenges we meet can be very different. Because of this reason, people with approximately same abilities would hardly end up to the same place. I also don't believe that we all are born with equal ability in regard to cope with living situations. And because of this reason, when facing same challenge, different persons could end up with different outcomes - some would fail, some would win.
I doubt that "yes we can" can be as simple as a choice, I rather think it's an outcome of confidence. Further more, I also doubt that confidence can be a choice, rather, I like to believe it's a result of long term progressive experience. If a person failed and failed again, it is unlikely he/she would say "yes I can" soundly. I tend to believe, that how much we can do, how confident we can be, even who we really are, all depend on not just our desire, but also many other factors, among which our born nature and life challenges are the most crucial.
I understand that being confident and positive can be extremely helpful when we facing challenges, but I also believe, there's a fundamental difference between "positive attitude" and "self delusion". Sometime, being realistic can help us to have a better understanding about situation, thus we could have a more effective strategy to cope with problems.
There are all kinds of challenge in life, hard to say which is harder, and all depend on persons. However I have reason to believe, for most (probably all) people, those challenges that directly threaten to our life existence can be the most challenging. This why I consider my past several years health problem the biggest challenge in my life. I also realized, that the reason that most chronic illness patients endure a stigma of being "negative", is simply because that most people measure "strength" (or "toughness") by what they can see, not by "challenges" that we cannot see. For this reason, I have the most profound admiration to those who suffer unknown chronic illnesses for years, some of them for decades. Even though many of them would have tremendous difficulty to lift their arms, they are true heroes by all measures.
By conclusion, I think we can judge people's achievement by how much they actually achieved, but we cannot judge their inner strength by the same measure. Some people may appear to be weak, but that appearance doesn't necessarily speak for truth. Challenges are always out there, some we can see, some we cannot, and some we can never imagine, because each of our experience is highly limited. There is no one single absolute measure for our body and soul. The true value of our life, lies in our complicated interaction with this multidimensional world.