A declaration of love to our pessimistic tendencies.
Eternal pessimists are what we call people with a darker world view, whose glass is always half empty, who regard everything that happens as ominous and who always expect the worst.
A basic negative attitude is the pessimist’s view of the world (Latin: pessimum – the worst, the most wicked). Optimists have an easier time. Yes, literally, because they take life easier, expecting good things to happen and looking positively into the future. This uncomplicated, care-free and positive attitude also appeals more to our fellow human beings, and so optimists in society are usually more appreciated than eternal skeptics. Pessimists, on the other hand, have a harder time, their basic attitude is normally only “accepted”, and they are expected to have at least a minimum amount of optimism. But since the world is neither completely black nor completely white, both worldviews have their justification.
So-called “dispositional pessimism”, i.e. the tendency to expect something negative, is not in itself negative. It can even be beneficial to health and well-being, as long as it does not cause problems in everyday life.
We have collected reasons why even pessimism is important to a certain extent. So, cheers to our doomsayers:
- Studies maintain that pessimists live longer, the reason, one suspects, is that people with a more negative attitude to life are generally more cautious. People who feels frightened, tend to pay more attention to their safety.
- Pessimists have more stable relationships. A pinch of pessimism makes couples become more active and work on solving problems in their relationships, while optimists tend to suppress what they need to work on. Pessimism also makes people more sensitive. Anyone who has often experienced discomfort and anxiety, is more sympathetic towards their partner. This promotes trust and strengthens the relationship.
- Pessimism promotes productivity. If you worry about something, you are trying to find out what is important to you which means you can work on an improvement. Those who think “defensively pessimistic”, i.e. imagine what might go wrong, can take preventive measures to avert it. Those who are prepared for the “worst case” often achieve more.
- Pessimism helps against anxiety. Anyone who imagines what could go wrong can therefore concentrate on finding a solution and, thus, can often deal better with fears than people who tend to suppress them.
- Pessimists are the better gamblers. Anyone who approaches gambling with a pessimistic attitude also learns from bad results and reduces his willingness to take risks. Pessimism, therefore, often protects one from a devil-may-care attitude.
- Pessimists are better planers. They do not underestimate situations and are prepared for difficulties that may arise. They plan how to deal with breakdowns, and often not only have a plan B, but also a plan C, D or E. Pessimists are better analyzers, fostering their problem-solving ability.
- Pessimists are more open to happiness. This initially sounds contradictory, because pessimists normally expect something negative. Doubts are sometimes very unpleasant, but the more often you experience them, the sooner a positive turn will be perceived as such, thus creating stronger feelings of happiness.
There is often more motivation in pessimism than in optimism. Those who worry build up internal pressure. Although this is not a nice feeling, it motivates us to make changes.
Optimists may find living easier but see less need to work on their personal happiness. If you are a pessimist, you may realize earlier what you want to avoid, what you need and how to succeed in getting it. Excessive pessimism can also be paralyzing and let us lapse into anxiety. Healthy pessimism, in moderation, helps us try to keep life in balance and get ourselves into a better equilibrium.
Neither the pessimist nor the optimist is always right, because life itself is not just black or white. We have the potential for both tendencies in us, and perhaps the art lies in allowing enough pessimism to take hold of one’s own happiness, but also enough optimism to continue, despite disappointment, striving towards a more desirable state. So, in the end, it’s good for the optimist and the pessimist in us to join hands, because there are countless gradations between black and white, where a portion of both can be helpful.