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Did you ever notice how, as the Festive Season rolls around, we make choices to do things that for the rest of year would not be at the top of our list?  Eating unhealthy food, drinking to excess, seeing family who we have nothing in common with for a whole day…


Somehow at this time of the year, all of these activities suddenly seem fun, and enjoyable, and worth it. We don the Rose-Coloured glasses as we step into the holidays, and what is normally mundane becomes nice, what is annoying becomes fine, and we prioritise and choose things that make us smile. For some of us, even though every other year has proven otherwise, we are hopeful that this year will be good, and our loved ones won’t let us down.


Sounds pretty great, right? So why don’t we just wear these pink tinted spectacles all the time? Is it a good or bad thing to see everything through this mellow lens?


I guess it depends on if you have the glasses on or not 😉

Before we dive into the meaning, here’s some fun thoughts about where the phrase comes from –

  • There’s the idea that map-makers once used rose petals to clean the lenses of their glasses and then see the details they wanted to see. And over time, the roses left a tint on the glass…

  • There’s the logic that seeing the world with a soft pink glow might count as comforting and "nice”, or that rose gardens are associated with happiness and good things.

  • There’s the science that tinted lenses (of various colours) are used for therapeutic purposes – rose coloured ones for migraines.

  • And the somewhat morbid concept that it heralds from the rosy cheeks of a child in the 1500’s who survived the plague and was therefore healthy and lucky.

  • One of the most entertaining theories suggests that the "rose-coloured glasses" were a reference to viewing the world through the bottom of a glass containing red wine or rose-coloured spirits – optimism through inebriation!


To be honest, it’s most probably derived from the word rosy, which came into use during the latter half of the 1700s – as the phrase has existed in literature since the 1800’s.


Definition –

  • a disposition that is upbeat, hopeful, brimming with optimism and positive thinking. (Grammarist)

  • An optimistic perception of something; a positive opinion; seeing something in a positive way, often thinking of it as better than it actually is. (Wiki-dictionary)

  • a happy or positive attitude that fails to notice negative things, leading to a view of life that is not realistic (Cambridge dictionary)


The first sounds like one of the primary big picture missions of the (incredibly large and successful) well-being industry. Who wouldn’t want to obtain this sunny disposition?


The second adds in a framing filter – better than it actually is.  This also is a key part of many psychological and resilience interventions – taking something that is clearly terrible and finding ways to see it as valuable or useful, or not as traumatic as our Brain and Heart remember it.


As we approach the final definition though, the human cynic slips in, and we start to measure the failure rather than the success, and call these previously celebrated eye-wear fashionistas as unrealistic.


And maybe that’s the point.


Wearing rose coloured glasses makes life more fun when things are good – being hopeful about the future, enjoying the little nice things that might otherwise be missed, getting a huge amount of joy from the good times.


Putting them on is particularly useful when something is trying to drag us down a rabbit hole, and not letting ourselves settle into the depths of negativity will allow us to get more out of life, and maybe even get through a difficult situation less scathed.


But like sunglasses, or glasses for reading, there are times when wearing them actually makes our vision worse. When you are already in the dark rabbit hole, the sunglasses will just make things harder to see, and trying to move around more unsafe. If you are driving the car at 100km/hr down the freeway, the last thing you want to do is put on your reading glasses.  And trying to stay positive, and unrealistically ignore the difficult, painful, sad things, actually at best delays the process of grief or learning, and at worst, can build new traumatic wounds, triggers and walls that make that next step harder, and the real world around you that little bit further away.


There are times in our life where we should definitely put our rose-coloured glasses on. Especially when forming a new relationship. Definitely go jumping into a van or handing over large wads of cash to a Nigerian prince but there are definitely times when an assumption of good intention and a little optimism would go a long way. Like on that first date when they decide you should split the bill – when everything looks pink, you see this as the other person respecting your independence and seeing you as an equal. Without this filter, you might think they’re a cheapskate and think twice about a second date.
Putting on those glasses can go a long way… with waitstaff, checkout people, colleagues, and the occasional stranger. It leaves us more open and accepting of what people offer us.


The more we know people, though, the less we should need to wear them. In particular, any red flags we should be seeing can disappear behind the pink filter. It’s important to recognise the line between being open and optimistic and clouding your vision to the point of danger. And when relationships, as they can do, come full circle, it might be worth putting those glasses back on. Just for a little bit. Enough to look around and see what good they did in your life so you have an opportunity to be grateful for the experience (or the lessons) and move on. Maybe, what’s important to remember with rose-coloured glasses is that they should only be worn when they benefit the wearer, not the subjects of their vision.


Because like everything, it seems moderation and timing are essential. And these useful fashion accessories are best used on certain occasions only. As Anna Wintour says “It’s always about timing. If it’s too soon, no one understands. If it’s too late, everyone’s forgotten.”… okay so that doesn’t quite make sense, but you know what I mean 😉

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