Hello, my name is Mark and I’m a pessimist.
This is how I used to ask girls out on a date when I was in high school:
“You wouldn’t want to go out on a date with me, would you?”
When they said no, as they usually did, I would reply:
“I didn’t think so.”
I’ve found that there are advantages to being a pessimist. You seldom get disappointed. On the flip side, you are pleasantly surprised when good things happen. And you’re not surprised by bad news. When reading the headlines “unbelievable” is rarely used in my vocabulary . It’s more like “of course”.
My wife Linda makes goals for herself like not eating carbs for a week. Kudos to her. Most times she is successful but occasionally she won’t meet a goal. She ends up feeling a bit deflated and I jokingly say “that’s why I don’t make goals”. But there’s some truth to it. It’s not that I don’t have things I want to accomplish. For example, I think about how nice it would be if I worked out today (knowing full well that there’s a good chance I won’t). If I don’t, oh well, there’s always tomorrow. And if I do, kudos to me.
Being a pessimist is helpful to avoid wasting time. If I’m working on a project, like trying to fix the damn sliding screen door that keeps sticking, and I know I’m not going to be able to fix it, I give up. There’s no shame in giving up on something you know you can’t do. It’s a waste of time and energy. Heaven knows I don’t have a lot or either.
There’s a study by the American Psychological Association that says pessimists may live longer, happier lives. I’m a bit pessimistic about that but if it’s true, cool. That said, high levels of pessimism can be harmful for people who struggle with depression.
When something good happens I embrace it without too much fanfare because things can go sideways real quick. Most of my dreams start out like rainbows and butterflies… a peaceful picnic on a deserted beach. By the end of the dream I’m usually running for higher ground trying to avoid the huge tsunami that’s crashing above my head.
Another benefit to being a pessimist is that you are simply more careful because you know something is gonna go wrong. My daughter teased me once because I took FOREVER, OMG, to complete a transaction online. I read the summary at least twice, checking all of the information while my finger hovered over the return button for what seemed like an eternity. “JUST PUSH IT” she cried over my shoulder.
A couple of years ago she accidentally booked a flight to Brussels instead of Amsterdam. She doesn’t tease me anymore.
When it comes to mental health, I find that a pessimistic view helps keep me calm. When you’re optimistic about something you tend to get a bit nervous and stressed about the possibility of a big let down. I find that I can be even keeled in most situations, which is good for my mental state and accounts for my low blood pressure.
When you’re a pessimist it’s hard for people to let you down. Tease me all you want. Whatever. It’s hard to offend me which is a fault of mine. Sometimes people ask Linda “do you think I offended Mark?” and she just laughs. I tend to laugh off micro aggressions when they’re directed towards me. I’m conscious of changing my reaction and calling people out in this current climate of awareness. I’m just not calling it a goal.
Finally, I want to clarify that being a pessimist (for me) doesn’t mean being a “downer”. I believe that people truly enjoy my company. I try not to project my pessimistic views on other people’s optimism, dreams and goals. I just keep my “yeah, that’ll never happen” to myself.
Meh, no one will probably read this anyway.
Mark Quon is a guest blogger and social media manager for Mind Your Mind Central Oregon