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.
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.
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:
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.
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.