I’m a pessimist and apparently it’s ok
It’s not sexy or cool like optimism, but it’s the truth and I have to own up to it. I’m a pessimist. I expect the worst and hope for just ok. I scare myself witless thinking about all the bad things that could happen. I wasn’t always like this. My pessimism feels like a protective blanket, cushioning me from pain. If things aren’t as bad as I think they’re going to be then I’m pleasantly surprised. But if they are, I’m not shocked. I’m not knocked reeling like I have been in the past.
And I’ve just discovered today that my own particular brand of negativity has a name – it’s called ‘Defensive Pessimism’. Coined by Dr Julie K Norem, Defensive Pessimism is a strategy of imaging the worst-case scenario of any situation so that you can manage anxiety and work more productively. She even wrote a book about it; The Positive Power of Negative Thinking. Apparently Defensive Pessimists (like me) lower their expectations to help prepare themselves for the worst. Then, they mentally play through all the bad things that might happen. This helps them to focus away from their emotions so that they can plan and act effectively. Yep, that’s me all right.
Isn’t it funny how labelling something can legitimise it? I feel so much better knowing that my negativity is my ‘defensive strategy’. So the next time I’m thinking the worst about something, I’ll stop kicking myself in the butt and pat myself on the back for preparing to be more effective.
I tend to be at my most pessimistic at home. I’m usually a pretty cheerful soul when I’m out and about, at play dates or going about my daily business. The black cloud stops at the door. But now I’m wondering if I should let it out of the house? If I should proudly display my Defensive Pessimism badge for all to see. Yes, I’m expecting the worst today, how about you? It would certainly make meeting new people a lot less troublesome if you knew up front they were a DP and not just a whinging moan-bag.
Are you a Defensive Pessimist? According to Dr. Norem if you’re tired of always being told to “look on the bright side”, criticized for imagining worst case scenarios, or wish your optimistic friends would just leave you alone and let you be negative, then there’s a good chance you’re a Defensive Pessimist too. Come on, dive in. The water’s probably cold.
Image credit: despair.com