Realist vs Pessimist vs Optimist vs Idealist (What are the differences?)

In this brief guide, we will look at the differences of Realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist, and some other related topics.

Realist vs Pessimist vs Optimist vs Idealist

The differences between Realist vs Pessimist vs Optimist vs Idealist is that a realist expects outcomes based on reality, the pessimist expects negative outcomes always, an optimist expects good things always, and the Idealist wants everything to be as good as it can possibly be.

The key difference between Realist vs Pessimist vs Optimist vs Idealist lies in the differences of what they want or expect to happen, how they think things they are currently witnessing might turn out.

Additionally, pessimists may often say that they are realists, because they know that the optimist is always expecting the best to happen but they may not realize that just because they are expecting bad things to happen does not make them a realist.

A realist takes in all the information they can from their environment, they may consider the various things that go into an outcome, and then make a decision about what kind of outcome might occur, whereas the pessimist might not be that diligent.

A possible reason why pessimists tend to expect a bad thing to happen but consider themselves realists for doing so, might be that there are in fact bad things happening in the world all the time, and that makes it extremely likely for someone to feel like they are basing their negative view of the future on reality.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

However, a true realist knows that there are good things in the world too, and they don’t have any trouble accepting that there can be good things too, and they may have a keen sense of observation because they want to be aware of all the possibilities all the time.

The differences between optimism and idealism are also interesting, because many people might often confuse the two.

Optimism is expecting good things to happen, or for things to turn out well, and this may not always be based on evidence but an optimist may still look at the negative things around them and hope for the best regardless of the negativity.

An idealist on the other hand, wants things to turn out perfectly, they have a need for everything to be as it should, and they can be rather stringent about enforcing this too.

The problem with an optimist is that they may often be disappointed, but the problem with an idealist might be that they are too stringent or strict and their idea that everything must be moral, just and right, can sometimes make them feel at a loss in the real-world, which is anything but all those things.

An idealist might believe in the Just World Hypothesis, which is the notion that everything in the world is right and people get what’s coming to them all the time, which most of us know, is simply not true, while the optimist may believe in the idea of “Hope for the best”, but they may not always think of the other part of the sentence “Prepare for the worst”, all the time.

All these personality traits have their own issues, and all of them can be problematic if they are in excess, but to be a truly healthy person, one needs to be a balance of all of these; there is nothing wrong with being idealistic as long as you are also aware of how things actually work, and there is no problem expecting the best things to happen but also prepare for the worst, just in case.

Realist Vs Idealist

The difference between a realist vs idealist is that while the realist expects things based on their current reality and acts accordingly, the idealist might expect things based on the ideal notions of what should happen, rather than what usually does.

Realism vs idealism may be at the heart of how many people function, and these two extremes also often make up many people in power, because both of these respond to the external society.

A realist might be observant and work according to the resources they have, they may want to do things that are expected and the way things have always worked, whereas the idealist might function on the idea that everything will work the way it should.

The unhealthy aspect of being a realist may be that the person may not have the foresight to imagine things better than what is currently there, and their vision may be somewhat limited, whereas the idealist might often be angry and disappointed because things don’t turn out the way they wanted so often.

A realist is someone who tends to rely more heavily on concrete inputs and thinks more in a practical, logic-driven, and objective manner.

A realist might judge an incident as it happens, and see a challenge as and when it presents itself, and they may not necessarily go about changing the aspects of it or imagining what it might be.

Furthermore, when a realist recounts an episode to another person, that description is likely to be free of emotional impacts and will contain more details and facts rather than what is elicited by the event, and it will be clearly described in their own words.

On the other hand, the idealist might be more driven by emotions, or beliefs and values, and their idea of how things work may be colored by what they want for society and how they think the world should work.

When an idealist tells a story, or recounts an experience, they may be vivid about it, and focus on many emotional or value based aspects of it, and they may sometimes ignore the details and look at the big picture.

A good example of an idealistic personality type among the common theories and types of personality may be enneagram type 1, which is supposed to be one of the most idealistic personalities, while the enneagram type 3 or type 8 might often be a realist.

What is an Opportunist?

An opportunist is someone who wastes no opportunities and takes advantage of everything in their life.

Being an opportunist can sometimes have very negative connotations, because it may imply someone who takes advantage of the people in their life, or someone who is selfish and always looking out for themselves, which is not necessarily true.

An opportunist may also just be someone who likes to be on their toes and look out for the many possibilities in life, and they may just be very ambitious, rather than someone who is always looking to hurt people or get ahead at the expense of others.

An opportunist can also be someone who does hurt others though, and in unhealthy opportunists one might see traits like being shrewd and cunning, and the individual may be someone that is constantly trying to get ahead by ignoring, or worse yet harming, other people’s needs.

Optimist, Realist and Pessimist Quotes

Given below are some of the best quotes about optimists, realists, and pessimists:

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

“In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”

“I’m not an optimist. I’m a realist. And my reality is that we live in a multifaceted, multicultural world. And maybe once we stop labeling ourselves, then maybe everyone else will.”: Octavia Spencer

“The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.” Eric Hoffer

“I try to be a realist and not a pessimist or an optimist.” Yuval Noah Harari

“If I can see my own recollections, like many adolescents, I was a Platonic realist. I believed in the reality of ideas, of the big nouns, and believed that one’s life was determined by the ideas of the true, the good, and the beautiful which one held.” Lawrence Kohlberg


In this brief guide, we looked at the differences of Realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist, and some other related topics.

The different personality traits of realist vs pessimist vs optimist vs idealist tell us a great deal about the other aspects of the individual’s personality, and knowing about the traits of the individual can help a great deal in understanding how they may react to things in their life.

The personality traits of being a realist, pessimist, optimist or idealist can also come in particularly useful when talking about leaders or people in power who are able to influence the lives of others in any way, because in most cases, these traits significantly affect their decisions and plans.

If you have any questions or comments about realists, pessimists, optimists or idealists, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Realist Vs Pessimist vs Optimist vs Idealist

What is the difference between an optimist a pessimist and a realist?

The difference between an optimist, a pessimist and a realist is that while being optimistic is hoping for the best and expecting things to turn out well, while a pessimist might expect everything to turn out really badly, and the realist expects things to turn out the way they should be based on what they know about a given reality.

For Example, an optimist may think a party they are at will only get better and better, while a pessimist may expect things to get ruined very soon, and the realist might know that based on their prior experience with parties, there may be both good and bad things about the party.

Is it better to be an optimist or realist?

It is better to be a realist because being a realist is heavily based in what has been observed already and what the person already knows about any given situation, and this helps the person be somewhat prepared for whatever comes next, and this may not be true of the optimist, who may hope and expect things to turn out well.

There are some cases where being an optimist is better than being a realist, however, because being realistic all the time can also be somewhat draining on the individual, and they may trouble ever believing that things will turn out well.

Why do pessimists call themselves realists?

Pessimists call themselves realists because they don’t want to accept that they are negative or hopeless, and at the same time they also feel that optimists take an unrealistically hopeful view of the future, but they feel that bad things are more likely to happen than good. 

The fact is that being a realist should include taking into account everything that is happening, taking into consideration all the things the person already knows about the situation they are in, while being a pessimist just means that the person keeps expecting bad things to happen no matter what.


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