A pessimist is somebody who always sees the negative side. Pessimistic people expect the worst and are generally seen as unhappy, gloomy individuals. However, how thin is the line between a pessimist and a realist?

Traits of Pessimistic People

1. Always expecting the worst

This can relate to anything; the outcome of a job interview, the reason the phone is ringing, or how fun tonight’s party is going to be. A pessimist is a solid ‘glass half empty’ person and never has hopeful expectations that things will work out better than expected.

2. Finding it hard to see the joy in life

Somebody pessimistic doesn’t decide to be a downer; that would be a negative person who deliberately finds the bad in life. A pessimist might desperately want to feel as excited as everybody else but find it impossible to rationally think the same as others.

3. Difficulty with trusting relationships

As a natural pessimist, a person will take a lot of hard work before they can look to the future with positivity. It can, therefore, be really hard for these people to form close emotional bonds since their innate expectation is that it will turn out badly, and their trust will be crushed.

4. A tendency towards anxiety

Whilst the world around a pessimist will seem naïve, it can be tough to not feel overwhelmed by all the potential for things to go wrong. This can lead to stress and anxiety, feeling isolated with worries and concerns that nobody else can seem to see.

5. Excellent at contingency planning

A pessimist might see himself or herself as a realist; either way, they always have a Plan B. If you can’t accept the likelihood that plans will work out well, you will always be planning for the fallout, and have a back-up plan for when that happens. This makes pessimistic people excellent team members who can cope better than most with problems and challenges.

What Is the Difference between Pessimistic People and Realistic People?

Many pessimists will claim to be realists. They don’t have any other way of thinking and probably feel that all the optimists are gullible and reckless for not seeing the impending danger.

However, realism and pessimism are two different things.

Logic vs. assumption

Realists use their logistical reasoning to decide on what they believe is the most likely outcome. Pessimistic people don’t have this power of logic and will automatically assume the worst, regardless of the evidence to suggest otherwise.

Acceptance of other opinions

A pessimist finds it hard to accept that other people might feel differently from them. They might even feel it is their responsibility to convince others that they are right. A realist, on the other hand, can acknowledge different viewpoints and not take it personally if people disagree with them. They will be sure they are still in the right though!

Keeping control

Being incapable of seeing the positive in anything can be a demotivating experience. It often leads pessimistic people to experience anxiety and stress. Realists don’t suffer in the same way, knowing that their opinions are borne from fact and deduction.

What Are the Benefits of Being a Pessimistic Person?

It isn’t all doom and gloom. So if you think you may be a natural pessimist, there are some positives to take away from this personality trait!

1. Limited expectations

This may seem like a downside, but in fact, a pessimist who sets the bar for their expectations low will be more often happily surprised than other people. This can be an effective defense mechanism to cope with previous disappointments and mitigate the chance of being badly hurt.

2. Preventative healthcare

If you always expect the worst, you are very likely to be convinced that every lump and bump is a terminal illness. Pessimists tend to take very good care of themselves and react quickly to any potential health problems. This makes them much more likely to effectively manage any illnesses that do come their way.

3. Resistance to pressure

Pessimistic people are less prone to believing fake news or listening to bad advice than most of us. They use a negative outlook as a cognitive tool to analyze and respond to new situations. Thus, they have better courage in their convictions than most. This makes pessimists far less likely to buy into propaganda than any other people.

4. No forced feelings

An optimist will often be crushed when something works out badly. A pessimistic person will have seen it coming all along, so they will have been emotionally preparing for the fallout. Usually, an optimist will feel the need to continually be upbeat, to the point of faking it when they are feeling bad, which can be a stressful experience.

Conclusion

The reality is that most of us don’t choose our personalities and need to learn coping strategies to manage our less positive traits. However, there is always the capacity to change. Recognizing any tendencies that you would like to work on is the first step to effecting personal development.

There isn’t anything wrong with being a pessimistic person, much as there isn’t anything bad about being an optimist. Both have pluses and negatives, and both will leave you vulnerable to certain outcomes that will impact harder on your psyche than somebody with a different mindset.

Accepting who you are, and how best to deal with your personality to ensure it doesn’t negatively affect your relationships and social interactions is critical for all of us to make sure we are true to ourselves and living our best lives.

References:

  1. Psychology Today
  2. The Conversation
Lauren Edwards-Fowle, M.Sc., B.Sc.

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