By: Christian Baker.
Why do you not just look on the bright side of things? Why can’t you be positive? I hear these questions very often from optimists. Commonly, they say pessimism will lead to depression. Contrary to that opinion, most pessimists do not have depression. As an example, I am a pessimist, a worrier, but I am not depressed. Pessimism is a real state of mind that helps people.
Throughout the world, people misunderstand what exactly pessimism is. Despite what people believe, there are more than one type of pessimism. The two types are “defensive pessimism” and “hopeless pessimism.” The latter is what people think of when they hear the word pessimism. Hopeless pessimism is related to depression. Clearly, this form of pessimism is not good. The pessimism that is helpful is defensive pessimism. I am talking about being prepared for the worst outcome, but not letting the worst outcome’s existence stop any action from taking place. It is unrelated to depression. This pessimism can be protective and prevents disappointment. Explaining the difference, Julie Norem, professor of psychology at Wellesley College, says that “defensive pessimists, in contrast to other pessimists, have hope” (Norem). They move forward in life and are prepared.
A major benefit of being a defensive pessimist is an increased likelihood of running a successful business. A study from the University of Bath, which is ranked as one of the top business schools in the United Kingdom, found that “business owners with above average optimism earned some 30 percent less than those with below average optimism” (University). One of the reasons for this earning difference is being prepared. Due to pessimist worrying, they tend to prepare for possible problems. Running a business, owners will have problems appear. As pessimists will have prepared solutions, in order to stop worrying, they will be able to deal with the problem easier than optimists.
Defensive pessimism can be helpful in other situations. Being a defensive pessimist will help keep emotional stability. For example, when someone breaks my trust, I am prepared and know how to deal with the betrayal of trust.
But what do optimists say about this? Ayo Olaniyan, professional life coach, says that optimism will “[enable] you to handle emotions… [and it] gives you peace of mind” (Life). While optimism does help someone handle emotions, “defensive pessimism” also provides an increased ability for someone to control their emotions. Further, a defensive pessimist usually has as much peace of mind as an optimist. They sweat out their worries and gain peace of mind. I personally do this. I sit in a chair and brainstorm what can go wrong in multiple situations the next day. Once my ten to fifteen minute long worry session is done, I go through the next day prepared. They just tend to face reality more often.
Some people will argue that optimists can be prepared too. However, they will not be as prepared as pessimists. This is because optimists will expect the result they want and ignore many of the possible worse outcomes. Taking that into account, it is clear that pessimists tend to be better prepared than optimists.
Although the world believes in optimism as the best outlook, pessimism offers benefits that optimists struggle with. So when you have a worry, don’t bury it inside you. Take it and prepare yourself so that worry helps you be prepared. A pessimistic outlook will help prepare you for the real world.
Diaz, Cristina. “The Positive Power Of Negative Thinking.” The-Benefits-of-Positive-Thinking.com, http://www.the-benefits-of-positive-thinking.com/the-positive-power-of-negative-thinking.html.
“It Pays to Be Pessimistic, Shows New Research into Entrepreneurs.” Press Release – University of Bath, University of Bath, 2018, http://www.bath.ac.uk/announcements/it-pays-to-be-pessimistic-shows-new-research-into-entrepreneurs/.
Norem, Julie K. The Positive Power of Negative Thinking: Using Defensive Pessimism to Manage Anxiety and Perform at Your Peak. Basic Books, 2002.
Olaniyan, Ayo. “45 Benefits of Optimism.” Life Optimizer, 2010, http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/2010/03/24/benefits-of-optimism/.
“THE UPS OF BEING DOWN; Optimism has cost the world a financial meltdown. It’s high time we recognised the benefits of negative thinking, says confirmed pessimist Ariel Leve. And science is right behind her. Portrait by Paul Stuart.” Sunday Times [London, England], 19 July 2009, p. 42. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com.ezp1r.riosalado.edu/apps/doc/A206001784/AONE?u=mccweb_riosalado&sid=AONE&xid=7b564281. Accessed 7 Mar. 2019.