I Feel Bad About Being a Pessimist


Half empty?

It’s not something I’m proud of, but I am one of those people who see the glass as half-empty. Always have been. Those of you who know me might be surprised by this because I try not to fly my pessimistic freak flag very high. But let me tell you, it takes a lot of restraint.

I try to rationalize that I’m not really a negative person, I just like to be prepared for the worst, in case it happens. Not that I’m necessarily expecting the worst to happen, I just want to be prepared if it does. At least this is what I tell myself. 

For example, when we moved to Fort Worth 15 years ago, our newly built house was fairly close to some high voltage power lines. I was concerned about health consequences but the builder’s sales person showed us many studies showing no correlation between living near high voltage power lines and illness. The house and neighborhood and schools were great so we moved there anyway. But I worried the whole time we lived there in a warped form of “preparation.” I figured that if the universe knew how concerned I was about the power lines, it would prevent anything from happening to my family.

But the universe didn’t seem to get the memo. Because I got cancer anyway. Of course, I blamed it on living near the power lines. But who knows if that’s what caused it? It could have been the small asbestos-tinged pieces of the Berlin Wall I had hammered away on a visit in 1990 and stashed in a closet in the new house. It could have been all those years living in New Jersey. It could have been related to the mononucleosis I had as a 16-year-old. It could have been just a random rebel cell that decided to go rogue and have a party in my lymph system.

It could have been anything.

Here’s what it took me 42 years to figure out: being “prepared” for the worst to happen means prematurely experiencing bad feelings associated with the worst happening – usually for no reason (my cancer episode notwithstanding). But even if something terrible does happen, worrying about it ahead of time doesn’t do any good. For two years I obsessed about getting sick, then I got sick. All the worrying didn’t help a bit. It just made those two years less pleasant than they should have been. And people who believe in the Law of Attraction might say that all my thinking about getting sick caused me to get sick. Maybe they’re right.

My husband’s grandfather, a small-town justice of the peace and rancher in West Texas used to say, “No use worrying about ghosts what ain’t.” He was the most happy, relaxed person I’ve ever met. When I get anxious about something I need to remember to channel his colorful phrase, preferably in a nice, slow, relaxing Texas twang.

Grandaddy Sam hanging out at his ranch

“No use worrying about ghosts what ain’t.” — Grandaddy Sam

Anyway, I’ve come to realize that pessimism is really just an insidious form of fear. And living with fear all the time is not a good way to live.

So I’m trying NOT to be such a pessimist. I’m trying to be cheery and upbeat and happy for the blessings in my life. I’m trying to assume that good things will happen in the world. I’m trying to be optimistic. Gratitude is one of the ways I’m trying to beat back my pessimistic side. And it’s beginning to work.

But let’s face it, terrible things surround us all. Like terrorism. Like the tornado in Oklahoma. Like missing children. Like getting cancer. Like poverty and despair and depression and disease. And the elephants being killed for their tusks. And the sharks being killed for their fins. And global warming and deforestation and AIDS and unemployment and corporate greed and the rising cost of healthcare and the rising cost of education and overpopulation and racial inequality.

Oh my god, I’m exhausted just thinking about all those things. There’s so little one person can do about everything bad in the world. It’s hard NOT to be a pessimist in the face of it all.

How do you optimists do it?

Wait. Deep breath. Focus. Back to positivity and gratitude in case the Law of Attraction actually works.

I am thankful for having the time to write this cathartic little blog post today.

My novel revisions are going well and will continue to do so now that I got rid of Shoulder Frank.

I envision a publishing contract one day popping up in my email.

No use worrying about ghosts what ain’t.

Take that, pessimism.


12 thoughts on “I Feel Bad About Being a Pessimist

  1. Hey I just saw my blog in your Grateful for These Blogs list! Thank you so much! And I was over here as I wanted to tell you I am nominating you for a blogging award! What splendid timing! I will send you a message when I post the award piece. It probably won’t be until tomorrow morning (it’s night here now) as I need to get to bed. PS Great post!


  2. If you naturally veer towards pessimism, then if the Law of Attraction does work, surely by having to put more energy into your positivity and gratitude, they will have more meaning and power, resulting in an even better outcome! I think that sort of makes sense!


  3. I really enjoyed that. I actually learned much from your share. I always thought myself an Optimist. I’m not so pleasantly surprised right now….I never would have known that living in preparation for the worst was considered pessimism if you hadn’t pointed it out. My Mother just always taught us to ‘prepare for the worst–just in case’…? Wow…After many years living this way, I have always had practices of not making decisions based on FEAR. I have always had a spiritual life I believe that has kept me from feeling that I was. Pessimist I guess. My personal experiences and growth in the last two years have changed me, even if just a bit. One thing I have heard from an older gentlemen friend of mine from the kids park is his constant reminder to me: “DON’T WORRY” He says that when he looks back on his life he can say without a doubt, the worried time was the wasted time. I just have a whole new understanding because of his share and his perception on life. There is much to be learned from our elders as well….many thanks 😉


    • I still think it’s wise to at least consider that the worst will happen and sort of prepare. I don’t think I will ever be able to not do that. But I do think that part of me plays into some deep seated anxiety that I’ve always had. And I envy the people who don’t feel the need to do that, who instead think, if the worst happens, I’ll worry about it then. I agree, there is much to be learned from our elders. And I am sure that if I live a long time I will give the same advice to young people – to stop wasting so much time worrying!


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