Optimism is the tendency to believe that everything will go well, something that helps to face difficulties in a more confident way, with courage and perseverance. Against is pessimism, which is the opposite idea . A pessimistic person is one who thinks that things are going to go wrong , so he concentrates is to avoid a difficulty that for other optimistic people does not exist. All this leads to creating more anxiety and stress, and all from worrying excessively.

As in many other aspects of life, extremes are never good, so you have to specify a concept that is defensive pessimism and that a priori seems to help, although that does not always have to happen. The psychologists Julie Norem and Nancy Cantor (Wellesley College, Massachusetts, USA) defined in their book ‘The positive power of negative thinking’ the concept of defensive pessimism, a concept that Fernando Rojas talks about in his book ‘The force of optimism ‘.

These authors approached it as something effective and useful when facing difficulties. When you prepare for the worst it is easy to get pleasant surprises , and if the worst happens you are already prepared for it, in this way anxiety is better controlled because expectations are low. A person who adopts defensive pessimism is better prepared for failure because he seems almost certain in his thinking. Although it seems counterintuitive, thinking negatively helps these people use less effort and energy on the end itself .

How does a defensive pessimist behave?

What happens with this type of person is that they protect themselves against an unfavorable situation, and in this way, if something has really gone wrong , this pessimism acts as a protective factor and failure, inadvertently, seems to hurt less. The main difference between a pessimist and a defensive pessimist is that they are active, and deep down they hope that everything can turn out better than expected if they fight hard enough. It is a way to protect yourself, because it is better for you to face a problem than the result of that problem, although it may be a good thing.

Relationship with self-esteem

Unintentionally, this concept is closely linked to self-esteem, since people with high self-esteem accept failure and fight again to achieve what they want despite having failed. While a person with low self-esteem does not try again and even leaves. People with low self-esteem choose to be defensive pessimists, although it is something that happens unconsciously and that will depend on the way of being of each one.

In order to dissociate yourself from defensive pessimism, there are some things that will help you associated in turn with protective factors so that a loss, when the time comes, is less. The facets, contexts or feelings that surround a person are very important to understand life in one way or another. For people who are identifying with defensive pessimism, there are several ways to take it in another way and it is internal to change the perception of things. While it is true, self-esteem is rooted in the personality of each entity, but that does not mean that it cannot be changed.

What are the ‘symptoms’ of a defensive pessimist

    • A defensive pessimist is afraid of failure and doubts his own ability to perform well.
    • On the other hand, they experience a lot of anxiety, so at times they can be out of control.
    • If they decide to face something, they try very hard to avoid success and stay as far away from failure as possible.
    • Their level of performance is equal to or higher than those using optimistic strategies.
  • They live in constant contradiction between past successes and the chances of outright failure, which could affect their success story.

Consequences of being a defensive pessimist

    • Such a pessimist is stressed and hopeless.
    • On the other hand, on a large scale it can give way to anxiety, insomnia and depression.
    • You are frustrated and dissatisfied.
  • And he has low self-esteem.

The benefits of being pessimistic

Although to a lesser extent than with optimism, sometimes negative thinking can have benefits. There are those who say that it is a strategy for anxious people to control anxiety. A study published in the journal ‘Personality and Individual Differences’ showed that it all has to do with negative mood. Paradoxically, this type of pessimism can help increase confidence , and is that sometimes this becomes a ‘kick’ of energy because it brings pleasant surprises also creates a lot of satisfaction. Defensive pessimists tend to be more cautious and they try to have everything under control and as much as possible. 

Elle Mcdonald

I am Elle Mcdonald Specializations in Psychology . Graduated in psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2000. Diploma of Advanced Studies in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and psychological treatments with excellent results.

First Level of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Center for Behavioral Therapists (recognized with a scientific-professional nature by the College of Psychologists)

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