If people telling you to think positively makes you want to vom… well, welcome to the club. Would you care for a half empty glass of water?
If I’m having a shit day, the last thing I want to hear is “everything’s going to be alright,” or “it could be 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 be all kittens-and-sunshine during sucky moments in life.
If I was homeless, missing a limb, and a wheel just fell off my shopping cart, I can guarantee there’d be someone nearby to say, “At least you have a shopping cart.” I can also guarantee they’d end up under it.
Pessimism gets a bad rap, as if being a pessimist means you’re an unhappy, negative sourpuss who never sees the good in life—but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re just not fans of suppressing our dark side and pretending it doesn’t exist.
Called “defensive pessimism,” it’s a way to mentally and emotionally prepare for what might go wrong. You know, in case it does. Our mantra is, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” We set lower expectations (but expectations, nonetheless), so that if something goes wrong, we can handle it like a boss—and if nothing goes wrong, we’re uber-grateful and take the time to celebrate.
If it weren’t for pessimism, we’d never evolve. We’d never set goals. We’d never learn from our mistakes. We’d never grow. Dissatisfaction fuels us forward. I mean, if we were supposed to think positively all the time then we would, no?
It’s important for us to be both positive and negative—if you’re having a good day, then say so. But if you’re not, don’t pretend you are. How are you supposed to make tomorrow better if you’re not acknowledging what’s wrong today? Case in point: Global warming. Your glass can’t be half full in an effing drought.
Here’s why you should always think positively about being a pessimist:
1. Pessimism = motivation
Sure, defensive pessimists have low expectations, but that also means you’re more likely to exceed them and thrive. Bam.
2. Pessimism decreases anxiety
The harder you try to ignore your negative thoughts, the more intense they become. If you’re feeling anxious about a particular situation, you can use defensive pessimism to prepare for the outcome you’re worried about and come out on top.
3. Pessimism gives you a leg up
Because you’re more prepared for what could go wrong, you’re more likely to have a back-up plan in place. After all, how is everything going to be alright unless you make it so?
4. Pessimism may help you live longer
Just because you plaster on a smile to ward off health issues typically linked to being a pessimist (like depression and heart disease) doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. In fact, a 2013 study found pessimists are more likely to live longer due to their cautious nature. So there.
How do you feel about positive thinking?
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Image: Sad face photo