The Benefits of Being a Negative Person

Defensive pessimism is seen as a way of protecting oneself against scenarios that could be adverse, which may have its benefits. However, if it becomes chronic, it turns against the person, their self-esteem, and their motivation.
The Benefits of Being a Negative Person

Last update: 02 August, 2021

Do you know the consequences of being a negative person?

“There’s no evil that lasts a hundred years,” an optimist would say. “Nor a body that can endure it,” completes a negative person.

These are two different ideas facing the same situation.

In times when a life with Instagram filters is celebrated, there are those who defend being negative.

How much truth is there in the fact that optimism makes us naive and that being an optimist is a social requirement? How much truth is there in that the benefits of being a negative person lie in self-protection?

Let’s see…

What is defensive pessimism?

A sad woman on the floor
Although it has its benefits, it’s important to know this behavior in depth.

Defensive pessimism, as its name indicates, consists of a defense strategy by which we seek to protect ourselves from a potentiallu negative effect by anticipating that situation and focusing on its negative aspects.

From this definition, we can start talking about anticipation. Anticipation is positive as long as it helps us to prepare ourselves and has nothing to do with having a negative outlook on life.

Many people tend to emphasize the benefits of being a negative person: negative thinking allows us to better assimilate what doesn’t go our way.

The disadvantage of this idea is that, over time, the person may always see themselves as being at a disadvantage. This devaluates their positive aspects and the resources or protective factors they have.

Even the permanent threat of the negative can generate anxiety. You train yourself to recognize all the unpleasant factors that cannot be controlled, prevented, or foreseen.

On the other hand, you must be careful with the messages that you’re giving yourself: “I don’t think I’ll pass the exam because I’m a loser” speaks to us of much more than defensive pessimism. It also suggests that our self-esteem is being punished.

Can being a negative person be beneficial?

As we mentioned, sometimes being negative can be an advantage because it can help us anticipate.

There are studies that indicate that people who think in a more pessimistic way are more proactive and take preventive measures regarding situations. Since they’re less trusting, this provides them with several advantages.

In a sustained manner over time, it isn’t the best way of thinking, however. This is because it can cause discouragement, lack of motivation to undertake projects, makes us stick with our problems and not seek the solution, among other things.

We must also think about what happens in the body when we feed on negativity: the brain secretes hormones such as cortisol and glutamate in the adrenal glands, which, when constant, have negative side effects.

Let’s look at some of the arguments that exist regarding the benefits of being a negative person:

The blow isn’t that hard when you’re a negative person

Negative people always think of worst-case outcomes and scenarios, so expectations are also lower. Therefore, when something goes well, they’re surprised and enjoy it, and when something goes wrong, they aren’t as frustrated.

We should also note that this often prevents them from enjoying the process and feeling excited, two very important components that are highly valued, whether the expected result has been achieved or not.

Keeping one’s feet on the ground is a part of being a negative person

working graphs
This can be useful in work environments.

Being governed by negativity would allow for a more detailed and realistic view of certain situations. The negative person may be more analytical.

So, having thought through different scenarios, they would also be more prepared. In this case, being negative is adaptive.

We must think that when defense modes become rigid, they become impediments. Defense mechanisms must be functional and situational. Instead of defending themselves in advance, it would be best for these people to be able to focus more on the resources they possess to cope with a situation.

Does defensive pessimism prevent suffering?

This is a good question to ask when we equate negativity with avoiding pain and suffering.

However, the idea requires nuance: we avoid the shock or surprise of a situation, but the discomfort is permanent. This is because the inability of thinking of ourselves as triumphant is as painful as it is frustrating. Anticipating anguish doesn’t avoid it, since we experience it in the same way.

On the other hand, while pessimism has bad press, the most appropriate solution or proposal doesn’t correspond to excessive optimism: all states that are at an extreme aren’t good.

Nowadays, there are different mandates about full-time happiness and seeing all the good things in life. This is what we know as toxic positivity. These ideas can be very healthy when they let us value the little things of everyday life and move away from complaining.

They can become limiting when they prevent us from expressing our emotions and managing them, when we have to “cover” what we feel because the discomfort makes us uncomfortable.

What’s the best way to think?

It’s important to try to find a middle ground, since in both cases, people are equally overwhelming.

It isn’t a matter of seeing everything with rose-colored glasses or storm clouds, but of learning to recognize the nuances that exist in multiple situations. In other words, it’s best to avoid overgeneralization.

There are no benefits to being a negative person if our ideas prevent us from achieving our goals because they paralyze us, discourage us, or interfere significantly in our daily lives. In such a case, it may be appropriate to consult a professional to analyze what beliefs are at the bottom of our negativity.

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