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Why There’s Nothing Wrong with Being a Pessimist

Why There’s Nothing Wrong with Being a Pessimist

If fluffy, sunshine-y words of wisdom make you want to vomit, then you’ve come to the right place. I’m one of the many Eeyores of the world who doesn’t believe in positive thinking – if I’m having a crappy day, I don’t want to hear that “everything’s going to be alright,” or “things could be so much worse,” or I need to “find the silver lining.”

Just because my day wasn’t as bad as someone else’s doesn’t give anyone the right to trivialize my feelings and encourage me to frolic in a meadow singing, “The Hills Are Alive.” I want a stiff drink and the right to feel how I feel so I can regroup and move on.

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It’s called “defensive pessimism.”

Pessimism gets a bad rap because it’s commonly associated with doom and negativity, but for a lot of people, being a pessimist doesn’t mean expecting the worst of every situation or blinding themselves from what’s good in life. It’s a way to mentally and emotionally prepare for what might go wrong. You know, in case it does. We tend to go by the mantra, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” We set lower expectations (but expectations, nonetheless), so that if something does go wrong, we’re armed and ready to deal with it.

From personal experience, I’ve found it to be a fantastic strategy, especially as a freelancer whose livelihood depends solely on myself. It’s kind of like creating an emergency kit for your well-being. It helps you get through challenges with a level head, and is a serious confidence-booster once you’ve seen the problem through to the end.

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Plus, it helps you live longer.

Just because you talk about kittens and rainbows to ward off the potential health issues associated with being a pessimist (hypochondria, depression, and heart disease to name a few) doesn’t mean you’re entirely off the hook. In fact, a recent study revealed pessimists are more likely to live longer due to their cautious nature.

How to Be a Better Pessimist

The fact is, we need to be both positive and negative – pessimist qualities stem from our fears, and are part of our very survival. Here’s how you can use being a defensive pessimist to your advantage:

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1. Use Pessimism As Motivation

Although defensive pessimists have low expectations, they use them as motivation to exceed them and thrive. From personal experience, it’s a huge confidence boost!

2. Use Pessimism to Decrease Anxiety

When you’re feeling anxious about a particular situation, you can use defensive pessimism to decrease your anxiety and prepare for the outcome you’re worried about. By considering your fears and what could go wrong, you’ll more likely to eventually say, “Failure shmailure,” and make one amazing comeback.

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3. Don’t Let It Take Over Your Life

As they say, “everything in moderation,” and being a defensive pessimist is no different. You don’t want to wring your hands about every little thing – it’s a waste of energy you should be putting toward enjoying your accomplishments. To that end:

  • Restrict your pessimism to what’s important for you to accomplish – professionally and personally.
  • When something small goes wrong, don’t turn it into an Armageddon-esque tragedy. Keep it small. Clean up the mess. Move on.

4. Don’t Listen to Positive People

When you’re tackling an issue – especially a stressful one – the worst thing you can do is turn to Little Miss Prozac for advice. Research has shown when someone tries to pressure a defensive pessimist to look at the bright side the exact opposite happens.

5. Don’t Burden Others with Your Pessimism

It’s better to keep your pessimistic nature to yourself around those who are uncomfortable with it. To each their own – plus, you don’t want them to feel obligated to cheer you up. Instead, find a trusted friend with a similar perspective to turn to.

How do you use pessimism to your advantage?

More by this author

Krissy Brady

A women's health & wellness writer with a short-term goal to leave women feeling a little more empowered and a little less verklempt.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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