Why Pessimism is a Killer (and How to Let it Go)
When we’re born, we’re a clean slate. All the potential and possibilities of the world are open to us.
However, as we grow up things happen to us that lead us to feel defeated and lose that sense of excitement and wonder for life. When this happens, the wound needs to be healed, otherwise, you risk living out the rest of your life unhappy and without peace.
Admittedly, this is easier said than done. However, it is no less important. To live out the rest of your life in this way is the same fate as death, so it’s critical you begin now to uncover the wound which has caused this negative outlook and begin the healing process.
Why Pessimism is a Killer (and How to Let it Go)
We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.
– Alphonse Karr
When I look into my son’s eyes I see a blinding positivity that is so pure. As a parent, it can be almost heartbreaking to imagine that, one day, that positive outlook will be challenged.
A pessimistic attitude isn’t anyone’s base state (and I’m not talking about clinical depression). This is a state which is often built up over years of setbacks and disappointments to shape our very outlook on life.
Sometimes, we can’t help it. The reality is life isn’t fair and sometimes we experience a combination of setbacks, disappointments, and tragedies that would bring anyone to their knees. But one thing is universal: no matter where this outlook came from, it can destroy any chance you have of ever being happy and successful until you’ve uncovered the cause and eradicated it.
At best, it leads you to question yourself constantly and think that nothing good ever comes your way, leading you to stop looking for opportunity. At its worst, everything you do you (often unconsciously) try to sabotage because you expect and fear failure and rarely try your best at anything.
It happens to all of us at some point, and when it does, you have two choices:
- Let it knock you down and live out the rest of your life as the walking dead, or…
- Get up and show the world who’s boss.
The reality is, you only have those two choices. I know, sometimes we want to kick and scream a little. I’ve felt the same way. Sometimes, we want to blame someone. I’ve felt that way too. However, none of that will get you anywhere because the solution lies inside of you, not outside in the world.
So, if you’re ready to get up and show the world who’s boss, this is for you.
How to let it go
Please, whatever you do, don’t ever listen to that guy or girl who tells you, “you just need to let it go,” as if doing so was some instantaneous act of will.
It’s true, it’s not so easy as to just “let it go”. However, there is a clear and dependable path to getting out of this place of paralyzing pessimism and into a life of greater confidence and positivity. It’s not a perfect science, but I’ve found three things to be critical in the path to uncovering these difficult and even painful experiences and changing your set point from pessimistic to optimistic.
1. Begin uncovering the pain
First, it’s important to understand that there are certain root experiences that have caused this outlook. Because of this, it can be very helpful to uncover any feelings you have in connection with the experiences (but it’s not always required).
Mindfulness meditation is a great tool because it’s all about developing clarity and uncovering the inner dialogue, the source of our negative self-talk which has been caused by these root experiences. Alternatively, you can get professional help if you’d prefer to have someone to speak with regularly and aren’t confident going it alone (and there’s nothing wrong with that).
Whatever route you go it’s important to start putting real work into gaining clarity about your life, what you’ve gone through, and what could have contributed to this outlook.
2. Bring more positivity into your life
Once you’ve begun gaining clarity, you need to start tipping the scales. It’s easy to live convinced that there’s no good in the world and that opportunity only leads to tragedy or corruption, but if you look around you’ll find enough examples to prove that’s not the case at all. Even a single example of love or goodness can completely obliterate your preconceived notions if you can experience it first-hand.
Ways to do this include:
- Volunteer: Feel what it’s like to help others without expecting anything in return. Volunteer or personally go donate canned foods or toys to a local children’s shelter.
- Meet people who give their life in service: Meeting other people who do the above for a living can also have the same effect. What you’ll notice very quickly is people in these situations are well aware of the challenges the world faces but have also come to know the joys inherent in those challenges as well and have a more positive outlook than the average person.
- Read uplifting stories of success: This can be any story of success in any way, whether personal success or other. The idea here is that there was a victory and someone lived out their life having pressed beyond the challenges to the light– and got there.
3. Be honest with yourself (and patient)
Once you’ve begun the process of uncovering your negative self-talk and the experiences that have contributed to it and started to influence the mind with stories and examples of positivity and success in people, all that’s left is to be open and honest with yourself throughout the process.
By shifting your mindset to one that is less pessimistic and more optimistic, you’re going to be challenged by truths that you may not want to face or admit. However, it’s critical that you allow yourself to be open to everything you’re going through if you ever hope to make real change.
This includes the positive stories and examples you’ll come across. Your pessimism will often want to reject certain stories especially if they resemble in some way your own challenges. This can then either be a useful experience for finding clues about your own challenges or just another chance at burying any opportunity for change. The choice is always up to you.
It’s also important to be patient along the way because this whole thing is a process. Significant experiences that root deep within us and go so far as to affect our outlook on life can dig real deep, meaning it will take time for us to dig them out. If you can be open, honest, and patient with yourself, though, you can begin to find freedom and space to breathe that you haven’t felt in some time.
Pessimism can be a real killer. If left untreated, it can destroy all ambition and leave you feeling defeated. A healthy dose of pessimism every now and then is healthy, but a deep-rooted sense of pessimism towards yourself can be altogether killer.
However, by opening up to yourself and diving in you can begin to uncover the experiences that shaped your pessimistic outlook and begin to unearth them, reframing your outlook and changing the script of your life.