The Upside of Defensive Pessimism: The Potential Benefit Anxiety
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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.
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.
When comparing defensive pessimists to anxious people who do not practice defensive pessimism, the defensive pessimists show these benefits:
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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Having a defensively pessimistic strategy can help one chart out a course of action to ensure that the mishaps that are envisioned do not turn into reality.
Example: Having a low expectation of an interview, along with brooding about what all could go wrong can help one practice harder and plan to avoid those outcomes.
While waiting for a piece of important news, being pessimistic has better health benefits than being overly optimistic.
If the news is not in one’s favour, the optimists take a bigger hit on their wellbeing, experiencing great disappointment, while the pessimists do not suffer as much, as they were already ready to take the hit.
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At the same time, pessimists can become paralyzed by stress and fail to take action while those who are overwhelmingly positive are unlikely to experience stress or anxiety.
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Their view of life already considers the worst possible outcome as the default one, and anything better than that can only improve it.
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Pessimism comes naturally to people because thinking about the bad stuff that could happen helps us to prepare for survival.
The problem is that pessimists think bad events are permanent and unchangeable. "I think my interview is going to be a disaster." We need to learn to recognize what we're saying to ourselves and then argue against it. "I've done many interviews in my life, and they generally turn out well."
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The physical symptoms of panic and anxiety, such as trembling, chest pain, and rapid heartbeat, are more obvious than the reason you are anxious. But, to get to the root of your anxiety, you need to stop and think about your thoughts and feelings.
Writing all that bothers you or talking with a friend can help you understand your anxious feelings.
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