Some pessimism can have a positive effect on your life
Science & Tech / /
There is almost not a chance that you haven’t been told that something great will happen as long as you believe it is possible--the advantage of positive thinking. But what about the people who see the glass half empty? Is being pessimistic a bad thing? The latest research suggests that some pessimism may be beneficial.
Pessimism isn’t just about negative thinking; it is also about expectations over the outcomes. While optimists expect positive outcomes to be more likely, pessimists expect negative to happen more often.
There is a type of pessimist, the so called defensive pessimist, that takes the negative thinking to a new level. Research has shown that this way of thinking is not only beneficial for the success, but also brings some unexpected rewards. Comparatively, the other main form of pessimism involving simply blaming oneself for negative outcomes, has less positive effects.
Performance and confidence
Researchers see defensive pessimism is a strategy that people who are anxious use to manage their anxiety, which otherwise might make them give up their goals rather than pursue it.
As reported by the Popular Science, the crucial factor is setting low expectations for the outcome of a particular plan or situation—like expecting that you won’t get hired after a job interview—and then envisioning the details of everything that might possibly go wrong to make these worst-case scenarios a reality. This gives the defensive pessimist a plan of action to ensure that any imagined mishaps won’t actually happen, such as practicing for the interview and getting there early.
The benefits of defensive pessimism also applies to actual performance. One study shows that this has to do with negative mood. When subjects of the study were prompted to be in a good mood, defensive pessimists performed poorly. However, when they were put in bad mood by being instructed to imagine the negative possible outcomes, they performed way better. This suggests that they use their negative mood to motivate themselves in order to perform better.
Pessimism can also be more beneficial compared to optimism when waiting for news about an outcome without an opportunity to influence it (a job interview). If the outcome is not as good as optimists had expected, than the disappointment and the negative mood they experience is bigger than in case of pessimists.
Strangely enough, this type of pessimism can even boost confidence. In a study that followed university students throughout their study concluded that those who were defensive pessimists experienced significantly higher levels of self-esteem comparing to anxious students. It was estimated that their self-esteem over four years of the study almost rose to the levels of the optimists. The reason for this may be the increases in the defensive pessimists’ confidence to anticipate and successfully avoid the negative outcomes they imagined.
Now it is more clear why being a pessimist isn’t necessarily bad—though it may be thorn in the eye for someone.