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Posted by on Jun 11, 2011 in Life | 37 comments

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.

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  • Jenny

    Love this post, you have just described me perfectly! I’ve always found my pessimism helps me cope by visualising potential situations and how I’ll cope.

  • bod for tea

    Thanks Jenny, sounds like you and I are classic DPs :D

  • bod for tea

    Glad it made you feel better. DPs always welcome here at Bod for tea :D

    I feel like I should start some sort of club. Defensive Pessimists Anonymous or something. But I don’t think anyone would join (hee hee, you see what I did there?)

  • bod for tea

    I agree with you, it’s good to have a balance in a relationship, one optimist, one err…. not so much :D

  • Mintyking (waterbirthplease)

    So glad I found this post! It’s totally me, except I rarely voice my negative thoughts so people don’t really know how dark they get. I too never used to be like this, but since loosing Mum and having Grace, I’ve become a nightmare. If my husbands late home I’ve already visualised the police knocking on the door and if Grace so much as sneezes then it’s PANIC time. This post makes me feel better – thank you :-D xxx

  • Mari Sterling Wilbur

    I’ve got to get my hubby to read this post. He’s a big time  Defensive Pessimist and I’m always nagging him to look on the bright side. I’m a happy-go-lucky optimist who finds the good in everything. Sagging economy? Housing foreclosure rate and unemployment at all time highs? “It will get better” is my response. “We’re doomed” is his. I often stop and think about what good care he’s taken of us financially, etc., etc. I think it’s a good thing he’s DP! If I were running things on my own I’d be in a pickle. :D

  • bod for tea

    Really? That’s encouraging! Thanks for commenting :D

  • I seem to remember reading that some research shows that being a pessimist is actually healthier … I am an incurable optimist, I just let all the miserable stuff out on my blog :)

  • bod for tea

    Ha ha! I knew I could count on you for something like this! I think you’re right – I’m probably just a miserable bugger too! lol

  • bod for tea

    I agree, labels not required. But useful when your other half is constantly telling you to stop being negative! Actually you make a good point about not letting it hold you back. I don’t either. Yay for us! Thanks for your wise words, as always :D

  • bod for tea

    Thanks Jo Jo :D

  • bod for tea

    Some days I think I’ve turned the corner into optimism but realise the GPS was just broken and I’m right back at pessimism again :D

  • Mother’s Always Right

    Good on you for embracing who you are. I don’t think it matters what “type” of person you are, as long as you’re honest about it and comfortable in your own skin. I don’t think you should need a label to be able to be happy with who you are, pessimistic or not. That said, I know what you mean about labels making something more legitimate.

    Personally, I’m probably a bit of both. A pessimist when it comes to myself but an optimist when it comes to certain situations or other people. That’s probably more of a confidence thing, but it’s something I’m aware of so try not to let it hold me back from doing anything.

  • northernmum


    I am just a miserable bugger :)

  • JoJo

    I am optimistic but my husband is so pessimistic. love the ending to this post x

  • Gill

    optimism does have a certain cool factor in some circles doesn’t it! I think I am mostly optimistic BUT I am a cynic and so I can’t help but question things – I’m not sure this is being pessimistic exactly though. Love that bit about leaving the black cloud at the door!. Gill xo

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