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Pessimism

Death Cab For AlbieDeath Cab For Albie Registered User regular
edited June 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
So...i'm a terrible pessimist. In pretty much every facet of life, I have a generally shitty outlook. Whether it's my job (I always assume I'm going to be fired, despite the fact that i'm constantly praised by my boss), the girls I date (I always assume they don't actually like me, regardless of how into me they are), my health (whenever I get any sort of illness/health quirk, I assume it's like something fatal), the sports teams I follow (I constantly bitch about them), it doesn't matter, I always assume the worst.

It's to the point where it's a habit. The first things that always come to mind whenever anything happens, are the pessimistic thoughts. I know I could seek counseling for it, and I probably will eventually, but does any one here have any advice on how to beat it? I mean, I'm healthy, I have a good job, a good education, i'm reasonably attractive and yet i'm ruining what should really be some of the best years of my life because of my crappy outlook on everything.

Any advice on ways to approach this would be awesome.

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    eternalbleternalbl Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Good old comedy movies always put me in a good mood for days. Like Caddyshack, Revenge of the Nerds, Strange Brew.

    Setting myself on a bigger task and then following through on it also always improves my outlook for a while.

    eternalbl on
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    MetroidZoidMetroidZoid Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I know a long strain of particularly hard work days really tires me out, to the point that I want to do nothing, even the basic points of hygiene and such things as making food. A couple things that help me are basically giving me boosts to my own ego: play a game that I'm really good at, on a difficulty that's no problem, and just ace it. Or sing a relaxing song that I can sing fairly okay along with. Or go out and garden, because I know I'm growing things right and I can see the literal fruits of my labors.

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    DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    A lot of us are trained to look for how things could fail, be it a practical or intellectual venture. You learn early on that shooting things down earns you praise/respect. This can lead to a pessimistic outlook. This can also lead to apathy, because focussing on how things could fail does not help motivate you towards action.

    When you only see failure/negatives, look for how things can succeed, actively try to interpret things in an optimistic light.

    It's real easy to get stuck in the devils advocate position. If you find yourself in that role and you're dissatisfied being there, GTFO. Even a fatuously optimistic perspective is better than a paralyzingly pessimistic outlook, cause failing fantastically is so much better then never taking action.

    If you cannot will it, get some regular vigorous exercise. If that doesn't help, get some counselling.

    Djeet on
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    FandyienFandyien But Otto, what about us? Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    embrace your pessimistic tendencies

    that means in any event you will either feel either unexpectedly happy or validated

    Fandyien on
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    LurkLurk Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Do more dumb fun things. Watch comedies, read feel good things and other stuff that has no real world impact but can't go wrong. Get out of the habit.

    Lurk on
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    HadjiQuestHadjiQuest Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    My best to you.

    I've been having this same problem on and off for years.

    HadjiQuest on
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    stawkstawk Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    i smoke cigarettes now... not really recommending it... just saying it helps me a bit...

    stawk on

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    SaddlerSaddler Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Reasoning probably won't help, or you would have reasoned yourself out of it by now with all the good things you have going for you. So try to add a little more exercise to your routine. I have similar problems, and that seems to help me.

    Also, try not to let your pessimism make you an asshole.

    Saddler on
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    KhavallKhavall British ColumbiaRegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    Alright, so I was in a similar situation a few years back. I am a musician, and basically I wrap my entire life up in that, and since I was very aware of people who were better than me, just assumed I was trash. I ignored anyone worse than me, just thinking they didn't count. After all, I am the shittiest musician on the planet, therefore anyone worse than me just isn't even worth mentioning, right?

    I still maintain some pessimism about myself, which hurts my ability to get into relationships, but eventually I realized something. Mostly this happened last year, when I had the militant lesbian kid of two psychiatrists basically dress me down as to everything that actually was flawed about me.



    Eventually, I reached a point where I can look at myself objectively and realize just how good I am in certain areas, and recognize my flaws without obsessing over them.

    You know what the biggest things that helped me were?

    First, realizing that everyone feels that way. There is literally no one who doesn't worry about what other people think about them, or who is secure in the way that they deal with people. Everyone worries about themselves, everyone worries about people liking them, everyone worries about how they're doing in their job, everyone has some degree of a self-pessimism. You know those people who totally seem in control of everything and have no problems expressing themselves and seem to be happy? They still wonder, they still worry, they just think that if they act the way they do people will like them more. Seriously, everyone worries about that shit.

    Second, taking a step back and recognizing that I fit into a gradient. Yeah, there are people better at my job than I am. Some will remain that way even if I work my ass off to make sure I'm the best. But people who are worse than me are worth noting. If random douche who has no real social skills can score, so can I. If a musician who's worse than me can get a job, so can I. Etc.

    Everyone has doubts. If you're being praised for your job, if girls are into you, you're doing something right. There's a certain point where you just have to accept things as they are.

    I'm always eager for people to criticize me, because I always strive for self-improvement and want to figure out what I can improve. The point is recognizing that and making it work for you.

    Time will help, and talking to people will help. Once you've had enough friends telling you that you're good at your job and are attractive, you begin to accept parts of it.

    Khavall on
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    Toastie ToastToastie Toast Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    My thoughts are a bit disorganized, so this is going to be a lot of dribble. Believe it or not, you've already done something very important to help yourself get over your problem - you've identified that you're overly pessimistic, and determined that it isn't good for you.

    Pessimism is a funny thing. People who are pessimistic tend to be more realistic about themselves and the world around them. However, the majority of people are optimists and they also happen to be more productive and happy (well, duh). There are a ton of studies out there that show that most people believe they're well above average in various traits, which is statistically impossible. People are optimists because it's advantageous in evolutionary terms. You'd get nothing done if you were always crippled by fear of your own failure or unmotivated because of pessimism.

    Then there are things like self fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you feel that you're not worth talking to or dating, you're going to be less confident and less social around your girlfriend. If you're fixated on the idea that she doesn't really like you, you're going to show that in your body languages and speech, and eventually the girl will pick up on the cues and wonder why it is that you don't see/appreciate how much she likes you. Then the relationship will actually start to go downhill, thus the self fulfilling prophecy caused by pessimism.

    You may also start feeding your own pessimism with confirmation bias, where you interpret information so that they only confirm/support your pessimistic thoughts. For example, the girl breaks up with you and instead of feeling "well, it's hard to find a compatible mate and relationships are very tricky. This is part of the process and I've enjoyed our time together and learned a few lessons," you might feel "I knew it. I'm no good. Nobody will ever like me," thus confirming your fears. With your sports team example, you might focus on every mistake and loss instead of thinking "well there are about 30 teams in the league that are trying just as hard to win. It's exceedingly difficult for my team to be the best, and sports is just entertainment anyway. It doesn't reflect anything bad about me or my life." It's important to pay attention to these things.

    It's one thing to just think about it, but it's a whole other ball game to really identify and analyze your emotions and behaviors and try to fix them. You should of course seek professional help if it's a really crippling problem for you. Different schools of clinical psychology will tell you different ways to deal with it. For example, in grossly simplified terms, CBT (Cognitive-behavioral therapy) will tell you to monitor and identify dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors, see how they can be incorrect or unproductive, and change/replace them with more productive/realistic thoughts and behaviors. If you also experience anxiety with pessimism, mindfulness and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) are also useful in that they'll teach you how to respond to your negative thoughts instead of automatically reacting to them and further being drawn into your pessimism. Or concentrate more on the present instead of worrying about possible future failures etc. Of course, if you think your pessimism is due to some deep-rooted underlying issues or your past, you might go the psychoanalysis route and talk to a shrink on the couch about yourself in order to uncover these issues and work them out.

    The good thing about CBT is that they're pretty self-help friendly. You can get started by paying attention to your emotions and behaviors, identifying the negative and unproductive ones, and turning them into more realistic, positive, and productive ones. Even if you go see a professional, CBT sessions tend to be short affairs in which the therapist will teach you techniques to do the above and send you on your way. It sounds simple, but really actively doing this and changing your behavior takes work. Make a list, give yourself homework, meditate, read up on the subject, look up "cognitive distortions" and see which pitfalls apply to you and pay attention the next time you find yourself thinking that way.

    And don't be pessimistic about your pessimism. It's really not so bad ;-)

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    EggyToastEggyToast Jersey CityRegistered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I used to be more pessimistic, and then I got married. Not that it's something you can just "do," obviously, but for me it cleared away what some plans I had for the future would be. No more worries about staying with my girlfriend, or making big life decisions by myself, for example.

    In other words, for me it was a larger problem of worry about the future that made me pessimistic. When I took a more concerted effort to make decisions about my life that I liked -- such as practicing an instrument (taking lessons), moving into a nicer place, buying a cat -- I started to feel better about myself. It's kind of a silly way to think about it, but for me it's true -- I made myself happier by doing more things that made me happy. By doing so, the stuff that pissed me off before seemed rather trivial, and I just didn't worry about it.

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    DalbozDalboz Resident Puppy Eater Right behind you...Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I suffer from a similar problem, but to the point where it leads to anxiety. Let me tell you that you've taken the first big step is recognizing that it's a habit. The key here is to keep recognizing it, at least to start.

    Pessimism is a defense mechanism. Basically, you're imagining the worst that could happen in order to prepare yourself for the worst. Now, what you need to do is think of how many times the worst has actually played out. When you think about it, you'll probably realize that it rarely if ever do. What's happening is that you've gotten so used to imagining the worst that you're not distinguishing between fantasy and reality. The worst is usually only in your mind, but in reality it's no where near as bad, if bad at all. There really aren't any tricks to it. You really just need to keep catching yourself whenever you do it, and don't beat yourself up when you do catch yourself, but just calmly remind yourself what your imagining is just that and probably has little bearing on reality.

    Dalboz on
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    cooljammer00cooljammer00 Hey Small Christmas-Man!Registered User regular
    edited June 2009
    I've found a way to be pessimistic and yet productive.

    Think of it this way. Your boss praises you. Girls hang out with you. And so forth. These people don't give enough of a shit about you to lie to you, so they must actually think you are a good worker and sexy man.

    Though about the sports thing, I can't really help. I live in NY, so I have a couple of bandwagons I can jump on at any time.

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