I Don’t Understand Pessimism

This is why Pessimistic was never promoted to captain. He never even tried. Enjoy your eternal reign as petty officer third class, Pessimistic Man.

This is why Pessimistic Man was never promoted to captain. He never even tried. Enjoy your eternal reign as petty officer third class, Pessimistic Man.

I know a lot of pessimists. (They like to call themselves ‘cynical,’ but that’s just an excuse.) I’m a cynical person but I’m still an optimist. I have to admit that I have a hard time understanding pessimism. As adept as I am at putting myself in other people’s shoes to see life from their point of view, it’s strange to me that people can have such a negative outlook on life as a whole.

Sure, you can say that if you’re a pessimist you can never be unpleasantly surprised, or that it prevents you from being hurt because if anything had happens, hey, you already expected it. But in doing a cost/benefit analysis of sorts, does that really outweigh the negative aspects of looking at everything for its worst possible outcome?

I think that a lot of what influences whether you’re a happy person or not comes from how you look at life. You can have two people encountering the same situations, but an optimist may be a happier person for it. I’ve found that your outlook on things can really influence how you are as a person.

I also have to wonder if this is something that happens by choice. I’ve thought about why I’m an optimist, but it’s hard to pinpoint. I can name all the perks of having such a mentality, but it’s hard to really say why I’m this way to begin with. Is it because it makes me happy to look at the positive aspects of certain situations? Is it because I’m trying to counter negativity and try to make people feel better when they encounter certain problems? I really don’t know.

What I do know is that I find it much more rewarding to look at the positives than the negatives. It helps me find that much more joy in good things, and I can take negative things in stride. Being an optimist isn’t just about the good things — whenever bad things happen they don’t really feel so bad because I can see positive aspects to things or find some way to not let them ruin me. Sure I may not be prepared for them, and they may not be what I’ve hoped for, but I can still deal with them as best as I can.

I like to look at everything and try to see the good in it all because it really helps. Maybe this has a lot to do with my years of going through some pretty harsh depression. I really, really had to try to find the positive aspects of anything. Happiness was difficult to come by, and very fleeting when it did. Overall I’ve become a much happier person, and I’m totally cool with this.

Now before I open the floor to discussion, I need to preempt this with a disclaimer. I asked whether people were optimists or pessimists on other social networks, and of the many, many responses I got, only about two people actually answered the question. If your answer states that you are any sort of “ist” that is not “optimist” or “pessimist,” please rest assured that there is no possible way known to man that I could care any less. It is not possible under the current laws of science and philosophy for me to care less than I already do about any answer outside the two available options.

…I guess what I’m getting at is that there are two choices, pick one or neither, it’s just for fun! (Also such responses on other networks may have bothered me just a little.)

So if you had to say, are you an optimist or a pessimist? Even if it’s not on any side to the extreme, do you tend to look at things and see their good parts, or do you tend to lower your expectations to avoid being disappointed by negative outcomes?

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4 thoughts on “I Don’t Understand Pessimism

  1. I like to think that I am an optimist… I always know that no matter how bad things may look/feel in the moment they always seem to turn out OK in the end… that things could always be worse and that the sun is always shining somewhere…

    (I was married to a pessimist for years and it was very draining – although he refused to admit he was a pessimist and declared himself a realist… :/ )

    • I do tend to notice that people who say they’re realists can seem pretty pessimistic. I think that being a realist means acknowledging the objective things and nothing more, whereas some people seem to mix up “realist” and “cynical.” (Not that you can’t be more than one, but I digress. It definitely can be draining!)

  2. Honestly, I tend to waver back and forth. I think it’s because, like you, I used to be extremely depressed, and I still carry some of that, so pessimism strikes me pretty hard. But I’m recovering from that and donning and optimistic habit. Onward and upward, I say, and that’s pretty optimistic, I guess.

    • I think so! I know what you mean about depression coming back or at least negatively affecting you sometimes, it happens to me a lot, especially with certain ‘triggers.’ But even during those times I can still look at it and say, hey, it’ll get better. Negativity is temporary!

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