I’ve been slightly obsessed with the idea of pessimism lately.
I keep thinking about how it harms us, but also how it serves us. Lot’s of note jotting and talking to Siri about it.
I used to be a hard-core pessimist. Things are better these days, and I’m generally quite capable of swapping out negatives narratives for positives ones. But there are still times when I struggle to think positively about others and myself.
I acknowledge that my self-directed pessimism does me little to no good. It’s caused me heaps of world-ending anxiety over the years, which as of recently has led to some rather severe health issues (you can read about them here.)
So overall, I’m trying to focus all my activities and thoughts on positive things, with the exception of a bit of what I’m calling healthy, outwardly directed pessimism.
Because sure, it doesn’t serve me to berate myself with thoughts like, “you’re going to screw this up and no one will like you anymore.”
But it does serve me to think, “He’s going to be difficult to deal with so I better take a moment to prepare myself for how I will respond to any hostility, so as not to make the situation any worse.” Do you see how this might help a sister out?
I think this whole idea of pessimism as a survival tactic is extremely valuable.
I started thinking about it when I saw this YouTube video on pessimism by School of Life a few months ago. The idea that it could be used to my benefit was fascinating to me.
Because I harmed myself for years by being pessimistic. And then I beat myself up by harshly judged myself for doing it. Now, to find a way to use it to my advantage – that’s some cool shit right there.
And talk about empowering: the very thing that caused me heaps of problems can be refurbed into something that makes my life easier.
Needless to say, I’ve tossed out a lot of emotional baggage over the years. I overhauled the contents of my belief system and started afresh. Many steps forward were taken. Many fear-laced steps were taken back. And lot’s of tears and mini emotional break downs were had.
But here we are today: today is good. Save for some soon to be sorted out health issues, I am solid. And I’m here because I decided to let go of all of my past beliefs.
Save for my buddy pessimism.
Here’s the logic: in order for me to be the bad ass boss woman I am today, I can’t be pessimistic about my skills, my drive, or my abilities. No room or time for that.
But what has served me so very well over the past few years has been a dose of pessimism when I’m dealing with other people.
Case in point:
- an ego-centric employer who is incapable of thinking of anyone but himself (True story. Read about it here)
- a family member who flings his insecurities onto others via heavy snark
- a friend who got a pink slip for shaming me (yep, this happened too – and I wrote about it here)
The common denominator in all three of these scenarios is that everyone was struggling with their ego. That sucker was running the show and keeping them from one incredibly valuable act: connection with others. Because who the hell wants to hang out with people who are mean and unsupportive?
And their eg-sponsored unkindness was reliable. So after many a repeated acts of ego, and dealing with my exhausting emotional response to it (“Why is he/she doing this? Why are they being so mean? Waaaahhhhhh!!”) I realized I needed to get reliable with my use of pessimism.
I needed to start assuming they were going to act shitty, and amp myself up to set a good example. I needed to not respond to their aggression (well, sadness is what it really is) with more aggression.
So I needed to not give them what they unknowingly wanted: more fuel to keep their pain fire burning.
The way I use pessimism these days is in a diluted, based-in-kindness form. So I think stuff like:
“I know this guy is struggling to function, so I’ll commit to calling out the rudeness in a calm and kind way, if and/or when something comes up that’s not appropriate.”
“This guy is a righteous asshole and I know he is going to f*** with me today – so I’m going to get myself jacked up with come backs for his inevitable insults to my character.”
Harsh, yes. But not far off from the old me.
The past is the past. So I do my damnedest to stick to the first scenario these days and wow, does it work well for me when I do. I can focus on doing my best, and not get so rattled or obsessed with other people’s perceived inefficiencies. ‘Cause we all got ’em.
Which brings me to another act that makes life easier: accepting that I will never be perfect. That I make mistakes. That I do not always get things right, but that I’m doing my very best, and that has to be enough.
And that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been able to use pessimism in such a healthy way. Because I am hyper accepting of the fact that as humans, we were made to be flawed.
Some days my best is just not my best. And I sure as hell don’t have it all figured out. But when I do struggle or screw up, I’ve always got writing to help me make sense of it all. Storytelling heals, so cheers to that!