The Upside of Defensive Pessimism: The Potential Benefit Anxiety - Deepstash
The Upside of Defensive Pessimism: The Potential Benefit Anxiety

The Upside of Defensive Pessimism: The Potential Benefit Anxiety

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Defensive Pessimism

Defensive pessimism is a strategy used by people who are anxious about an upcoming event. They set unrealistically low expectations before going into a situation and take steps to avoid poor performance. Defensive pessimism involves over-preparation.

For example, someone preparing for a job interview might convince themselves that the interview is going to be a disaster. The anxiety of this likelihood helps to prepare them for the job interview. The result is that they do exceptionally well.

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Self-handicapping

Self-handicapping is where an individual will create obstacles for themselves before an ability-evaluating event. If it turned out poorly, the obstacles became an excuse or explanation for the failure. If it turned out positive, the obstacles became conquered hurdles.

Self-handicapping involves expecting the worst and self-sabotage.

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Benefits of Defensive Pessimism

When comparing defensive pessimists to anxious people who do not practice defensive pessimism, the defensive pessimists show these benefits:

  • Their self-esteem and satisfaction increase over time.
  • They perform better academically
  • They form more supportive friendship networks,
  • They make more progress in their personal goals.

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Defensive pessimism or strategic optimism

  • Research found that defensive pessimists will do best when they can think through possible negative outcomes.
  • Strategic optimists will do best when they avoid thinking about possible negative outcomes.

Pessimism can have positive effects. If you are an anxious person, try both strategies and see what works best for you.

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Defensive pessimism vs pessimism

  • Pessimists only expect bad things to happen. And this leads to increased anxiety and decreased perceived goal importance.
  • Defensive pessimists tend to reflect about, or plan for, their performance. This leads to increased perceived goal importance, increased levels of effort, hope and personal goal initiative.

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