Battling Pessimism (and Winning)

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I share something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life. Last week, I saw a beautiful photo on Facebook, posted by Annabelle Bryant. I shared the picture with the following status update:

FB status update

Yes, it’s true. I’m a natural pessimist. Whenever I begin something, I can easily list of all of the things that could end badly. I believe in Murphy’s Law, that anything that can go wrong likely will. I get a niggling sense of doom whenever things are going too well, like the universe is out of balance and something bad is bound to happen to regain equilibrium.

I’m seriously jealous of the natural optimists around me. They seem so, so . . . happy.

So I battle the pessimism. I figure that I don’t have to surrender to natural negativity. How? Here are my tips:

Look for beauty around you. It’s the age-old “take time to smell the roses” suggestion. Maybe the reason that proverb has hung around so long is that it works. I intentionally look for rainbows after rainstorms, colorful sunsets, shapes in the clouds, constellations of stars. I look for animals doing their thing around me, whether it’s the amazing web spun by a small spider or a blue heron flying over our yard or a cat jumping to a height I never imagined it could. I pause to gaze at pretty architecture, beautiful art, and my hunk of a husband. I take note that there is beauty in the world to be savored.

Count your blessings. Yep, an attitude of gratitude goes a long way toward contentment. Instead of focusing on everything that could go wrong, I try to recognize everything that’s going right. And the list is pretty long. On a day that my car breaks down or my novel isn’t coming together or even my cat dies, I have so many things to be thankful for. I have a home, friends, family, reasonable health, pets, music, books, chocolate, bacon,. . . and the list goes on. Most people figure out their lives look pretty darn good when they count their blessings.

Think what’s the best & what’s the worst that could happen. When I’m worried about something going badly, I do better to consider all of the possible outcomes. Usually I discover that the best outcome is really awesome and the worst outcome is survivable. So regardless of what happens, I’ll be okay. I don’t know if this one works for everyone, but this exercise settles my nerves and pushes down the pessimism.

Act like an optimist. Yeah, sometimes I just fake it until I make it. I slap on a smile, do my thing, and see how it goes. Thankfully, pessimists are often wrong, and things go just fine. Sometimes if you act as if, then things fall into place after all. And I avoid having wasted unnecessary negativity.

I am indeed a natural pessimist, but I doubt that my friends and acquaintances would say that about me. Because I’m battling my pessimism. And I think that I’m winning. (How’s that for some optimism?)

ROW80 Update

This wasn’t in my ROW80 goals, but I did write a short story this week–a YA paranormal (not my usual genre). Here’s the rest of my progress:

1. Edit/rewrite SHARING HUNTER, a YA contemporary novel. No more progress.

2. Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. Already done.

3. Read 10 fiction books. I’m up to 9. Here’s the list:

White CatRed Gloveand Black Heart by Holly Black
Firelands by Piper Bayard
Almost a Scandal and A Breath of Scandal by Elizabeth Essex
Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World by Kristen Lamb
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

Started Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells on Saturday.

4. Finish craft book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson. Read another chapter. Typed up more notes. Four short chapters left.

5. Visit and comment on five ROW80 blog posts per week. Done.

6. Attend at least one RWA meeting. I’ve attended the Northwest Houston and West Houston RWA meetings. I’m planning to attend the Bay Area RWA meeting this Tuesday.

Are you a natural optimist or pessimist? How do you handle that approach? And how was your week?

30 thoughts on “Battling Pessimism (and Winning)

  1. You are totally winning, Julie. 🙂 Before we were married, I lived in Chicago and I was coming in to see Jeff one weekend. I asked him if the tulips were blooming yet. He said, no. Well, we both laughed when we drove through the town, because tulips were blooming in a big way, lol. My husband is totally a pessimist. I do think knowing it is half the battle and you’re both winning on that count. 🙂 Have a great week.

    1. Thanks, S.J.! The crazy thing is I’m married to a pessimist too. Aarrrggghhh! I do work on keeping spirits up. If the glass is half-empty, I try to put some more liquid in, so to speak. 😉

  2. I try to be an optimist, but I think I’m a pessimist. When my home baseball team (Cincinnati Reds) started losing ballgames, I said (agreeing with my friend, who is definitely a pessimist), “Stick a fork in them–they’re done.” They started winning and have a chance to be in the playoffs, but they just lost two games to the worst team in the league…
    My week can only be described as crazy…job layoff, difference of opinion with a good friend, a problem I’ve been worried about for months got solved, writing and reading…and chocolate chip cookie dough bon bons on the last day of work for (I hope) not too long.

    1. Hey, I live in Houston, where these days the word “Astros” automatically gets a pessimistic response from all but the most gullible optimist. I totally understand.

      So sorry about the job layoff and the conflict with a friend. Hang in there!

  3. I’m a coward, not a pessimist. So that means battling fear. Twice in the last two years, I’ve found my daughter on the floor, needing a trip to the hospital. I am so grateful she was not so badly hurt. Now I go down the stairs carefully. And I write — and submit slowly, very slowly. That’s where ROW80 comes in. Your goals are clear and measurable (I’m going to copy that strategy you use for tracking your reading!) You’re making excellent progress and appreciating that half-empty glass. What could be better? Do the happy dance when you can and cherish each day.

    1. My worst fear is–and this is perfect for a natural pessimist–fear of failure. Doesn’t that seem like a winning combination for declaring, “Hey, I think I’ll be a writer!”? Luckily, my sense of humor outweighs both my fear and my pessimism.

      I’m so sorry about your daughter. I hope she is doing much, much better. Hang in there. Thanks for your encouragement!

  4. First of all, major {hugs} on the lose of your fur baby.

    Pessimism/Optimism — I walk the line all the time. In some areas of my life I’m very much the optimist and always have been. Yet in others I’m very much the pessimist. :shrug: I blame it on my Fire element 😀 — Destructive/Creative

    Great progress with your goals Julie. Hope you have another wonderful week!

    1. Thanks, Raelyn. I miss my cat, but there is still lots of fur around here. So I’m getting comforted by other kitties.

      I do find myself optimistic in a few areas–for instance, I have high hopes and expectations for the ones I love. Just not as much for my own self somehow. (I may need to look up what element I have. I don’t even know what that means.)

      Have a great week, Raelyn! I’m optimistic about it for you. 🙂

  5. I believe I am an “ambimist.” I’m generally optimistic in the way I approach life, however, I’m generally a pessimist in regards to how other people will act in any given situation, or when faced with a plan I didn’t help create. I’m not sure what this combination equates to, but I call it an ambimist. I think it is good to think in a pragmatic way and some of what you describe surely fits within the definition of pragmatic. Really, when one considers it, were it not for pessimists, we probably wouldn’t have most of the safety devices and processes we do, because everyone would think things would always turn out without an issue, even after they’d turned out badly more than once. Every type and personality serves a purpose.

    Nicely done on your goals. Have a fantastic and safe week, Julie. 🙂

    1. Ambimist? Now that sounds like a good word. I agree that we need both Polyannas and naysayers for balance. We pessimists need to make sure we hang out with optimists to keep ourselves in check, and vice versa.

      Looking forward to a great week! (How’s that for optimism?) Same to you, Gene!

  6. Wouldn’t have guess you were a pessimist, Julie. You’ve always seemed upbeat when I’ve been around you.

    I’m an optimist to the point of being foolish sometimes. To keep writing with my book sales requires both optimism and foolishness.

    1. Thanks! I often get the “You’re not an introvert” and “You’re not a pessimist” lines. I figure that’s good because it means (as I’ve said) that I’m winning. I’m able to shift into what I need to be in different situations with much more ease than I used to.

      And all writing seems foolishness, David. As John Steinbeck said, ““The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.”

  7. I refer to my outlook on life being a positive pessimist. I’m actually a very happy person who has no problem appreciating where she is at any given time (something the love of my life has had a lot to do with *g*), but I’m uncomfortable expecting the best, for fear I’ll be disappointed. I would rather have lower expectations and be jubilant when things turn out better than I expected. Does that make sense? 🙂

    Congrats on finishing the short story! That’s something even an out-an-out pessimist has to appreciate, right? *g*

    1. “I would rather have lower expectations and be jubilant when things turn out better than I expected.” Exactly, Ruth! That’s entirely how I feel about pessimism. It works well because I don’t get disappointed so much, and I get pleasantly surprised at times.

      And yeah, I definitely appreciate the finished short story. I really thought I’d get through half of it at most (pessimistic expectation) and was pleasantly surprised to get ‘er done this week. 🙂

      1. Yes, but I wouldn’t have responded to that lovely photograph in the same way you did. *evil grin* So you still have some work cut out for you to be a truly *positive* pessimist! 🙂

  8. Oh great post! Love this. It’s a great thing to admit pessimism, but to deny it its power over you. Good for you!

    I’m with Ruth. I’m naturally optimistic, but I like to keep a sensible hat on because I hate being let down. Of course, I throw that hat right off if those realistic expectations are exceeded. And that’s the payoff. 🙂

    I do have phases where pessimism takes over though, and like you I have to battle with it. But I think that’s more down to having bipolar disorder than anything about my natural outlook. Mostly, I’m always searching for the good in people and my world. My husband says I trust too easily, I forgive too easily, and I’m vulnerable because of this. But I trust until I’m let down and forgive so that I don’t waste time and emotion on holding a grudge. I just think about those who suffer their lives everyday, which makes me sad, but also so very grateful for mine.

    I think my positivity comes from struggling with mental health and personal trauma for the first half of my life, until finally finding a little peace. My life now, although not perfect, exceeds the dreams I had years ago, so how can I not feel grateful? All I really want now is the cherry on the top, the icing on the cake. Writing this comment has reminded me of that, which feels pretty good.


    Shah X

    1. That makes me think: Perhaps positivity can come from all kinds of struggles, Shah. When you’ve been through something especially difficult, maybe you become more grateful for those times when life is at least okay if not amazing. Great point!


      1. Exactly Julie. Wanting the stars is a wonderful notion, but we must also be grateful for the journey to them, otherwise the dissatisfaction with outlast any momentary pleasure we gain from more minor achievements. X

  9. Oh Julie, you have the right attitude at least. My husband is the eternal pessimist. No matter what I suggest or say I want to do, he’s got a hundred reason why it won’t work, why it won’t be fun, why it’ll be too expensive, and on and on it goes. Most of the time I just do it and then tell him about it after the fact.

    Good for you for working on it.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    1. Eternal pessimism is hard to work around. I call those people the Eeyores of life. For them, the glass isn’t half-empty…it’s just empty. I hope he can learn to enjoy the small things of life.

      Best wishes, Patricia!

  10. I think many of us are naturally pessimistic. It’s easier and a bit harder to be optimistic all the time with all the bad news the media throws at us. Yet, we need to be optimistic. It helps us have a better outlook on life and be happier. No one wants to be a downer all the time. Hey, here in NYC we are all a bit jaded to begin with!

  11. You’re doing really well!

    Having been out of work since the first part of the month has me less an optimist than a pessimist. I’m doing what I can to stay positive and focused on updating skills and finding good opportunities, but sometimes I get what my mother would call “realistic” (i.e. “pessimistic”). These hints will help me stay positive and optimistic. Thanks!

  12. Fantastic tips, Julie. I’m a middle of the roader – not really a pessimist ( I leave that for my husband who is a treed and true one) and not really an optimist though I lean more to that side. I just have that feeling that whatever comes my way I’ll figure out how to handle it.

    1. Maybe it’s just me, but I consider it a form of optimism to think “whatever comes my way I’ll figure out how to handle it.” 😉 I’m sure you will, Donna. Thanks for commenting!

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