• Ella Sylvie

Why I'll Always be a Pessimist

All my life, I’ve seen the worst in things. I’ve tried to change that occasionally, but my pessimism always gets the best of me and I slip back into old habits. The thing is, I don’t mind it anymore. My family and friends get frustrated at my apparent insistence on expecting the worst at all times, but it’s just the way my mind makes sense of the world. Not to be too emo or anything… Anyway, throughout my eighteen years of pessimism, I have concluded that I’m glad to be this way. Let me explain why.


Firstly, life for an optimist must be exhausting. I can’t imagine having to constantly seek the silver lining that every cloud apparently possesses. Surely that’s just too hard? I mean, wouldn’t you have to get creative at some point? Because not everything has a positive side, and not everything will go your way. Feel sorry for yourself, have a cry if you want, then move onto something that might turn out better.


Being the cynic I am, though, I never assume that anything will turn out better than the last thing I tried. This has - believe it or not - led to a far preferable mindset and higher self-esteem than I would’ve otherwise had if I’d gone through life with permanent positivity. I think so anyway. I’m rarely disappointed and, especially relevant in recent times, I can cope better than most with difficult situations - because I expect them. My brain automatically concocts the worst imaginable outcome of a scenario, decision, action, etc; that way I’m able to avoid the unpleasant surprise element of a bad thing happening.


A prime example in my life right now is university applications. I’ve finished the entire process and am now waiting on decisions from various institutions. Guess how many I’m expecting to get into? That’s right - none! This isn’t because I think I’m unintelligent or entirely useless; in fact, my average grades would thankfully get me into every uni I applied to comfortably. I just don’t think I’ll get in. What if my personal statement appears really obnoxious to the admissions staff who read it? What if this year’s applicants are all geniuses who I can’t possibly compete with? What if I’m just ‘not what they’re looking for’? The possibilities are endless and rejection isn’t impossible, despite my friends, family and teachers having every confidence in me. If I get rejected, at least I’ll be mentally prepared! I won’t be disappointed… okay, maybe a little, but I won’t be surprised. That comforts me.


Despite literally everything I’ve just said, I do think I could use a bit more positivity floating around in my mind sometimes. Not so much that I become an optimist—hell no! A little could go a long way, though. In some ways, it already has. For example, I used to hate myself. Throughout my secondary school years until age sixteen, I thought I was truly the Scum of the Earth. I don’t even know why! And I feel totally differently now; not because I’ve changed a lot externally (even though I’ve done this coincidentally) but because my mindset has gradually shifted to a better place through my efforts. What I’m saying is, I’ve done it before and can do it again. In some ways, pessimism is helping me make sense of things, like with uni. However, I also could do with some alterations elsewhere.


I always assume the worst in other people. It sounds so bad to articulate this, but I genuinely just accept that I probably don’t like them. Yeah, I should definitely change that. I’m going to have to live and work and meet with new people throughout my life, so in this case, I’d say it’s probably more tiring to be like me than an optimist. As well as this, I can be pretty mean… this sounds like such a lame excuse, but it’s often not on purpose. I forget that not everyone expects the worst as I do, and at times that’s come across as me actively discouraging other people from trying to achieve big things. I would never do that! If optimism, manifestation or even plain old realism works for them, I need to just chill and let them be. There are many routes to the same destination—just because their approach is different from mine doesn’t make it wrong.


To add a sprinkle of positivity to my daily life, I’m trying to adopt some habits. I’ve started journaling, and I’m sure to include at least one happy occurrence each time I write - an achievement, something I’m grateful for, a nice snack I had that day, anything! It has actually made me more mindful and self-aware. I’m also massively trying to be more sustainable this year. I’m going vegetarian, replacing some of my plastic products like toothbrushes with biodegradable alternatives, and making moves towards giving up fast fashion altogether. The full-on, super-pessimist old me would’ve called this a waste of time because the planet is screwed already, but the new me dares to hope otherwise.


These things may not seem like huge changes, but notice I only ever claimed to be adding a sprinkle of positivity to my mindset! If I added too much, I wouldn’t be a pessimist anymore, and that is not my aim. I don’t think I even want to become a realist. Being a pessimist has taught me to be prepared, enjoy my own company and actually to push myself even harder, so that the worst possible outcome would still turn out to be satisfactory. The new habits I’m getting into will help me to be more appreciative, perceptive and environmentally aware and eventually, those things will become second nature too. They will never change my fundamental pessimism though. I hope nothing ever does. I hope to stay comfortably solitary, infrequently disappointed and, perhaps paradoxically, ambitious.