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15 Subtle But Surefire Signs You're a Pessimist

Your negative outlook could be making you unhappy.

If you're constantly seeing the glass as half-empty, you're far from alone. In the 2018 Life Is Good National Positivity and Optimism Index, 25 percent of the 3,500 individuals polled considered themselves pessimists. However, it's not just a consistently negative outlook that might indicate you're always looking for the worst-case scenario. Below, we've highlighted some of the surefire signs you're a pessimist.

Optimistic people annoy you.

annoyed white man next to smiling asian woman on a brown background

Do you find yourself constantly bemoaning the fact that your friends are always looking on the bright side? According to Chicago-based licensed clinical social worker Rebecca Ogle, that's probably an indication you're a pessimist. "For pessimists, it's easier to interpret optimists' happiness as naïve or stupid than to reconsider that their entire worldview could be contributing to their unhappiness," she explains.

You don't pursue the things you actually want.

Stressed out man

When you assume you're going to fail at everything you do, it's easy enough to find reasons not to do difficult things like fight for a promotion or negotiate the terms of a loan. "By not even asking, you eliminate the possibility of being rejected or disappointed, " explains Ogle. "Unfortunately, you also squander the chance of living the life you dream of."

You're shocked when things go according to plan.

senior man having trouble with his phone.

When you wake up every day on the wrong side of the bed, it can feel pretty shocking when things actually go your way—so much so that it feels like that positive outcome is actually a mistake. "For instance, if you get hired for a job you really wanted, you think, 'Maybe they got my resume mixed up with someone else's,'" explains Ogle.

You see the negative even in good situations.

young indian man looking off in the distance

When you're a pessimist, even getting the things you want can leave you feeling a sense of foreboding about what will happen next. Ogle says that this can manifest in a number of ways; for instance, "if you get a promotion, instead of celebrating, you think, 'This job is so much more work. I'm probably going to fail.'"

You assume people aren't actually attracted to you.

young asian woman crying at dinner

No matter how many times people tell you they find you genuinely attractive, you just can't seem to believe that what they're saying is true. If this sounds familiar, it might mean you're a bonafide pessimist.

"When we believe the negative stories we tell ourselves, we set ourselves up for self-fulfilling prophecies," explains New York-based therapist Alison Bulman, MSW. Similarly, if you're certain someone won't be interested, "it can be like wearing doom and gloom glasses that actually make people appear less attractive," she adds.

You don't think your relationships are likely to work out.

unhappy white woman facing away from middle eastern man on his phone outside in the cold

The only explanation for feeling totally in sync with your partner? If it's some kind of cruel trick, of course.

"Pessimists are often more likely to expect a relationship to go poorly or end quickly," notes clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD. Unfortunately, she says that these expectations often lead to self-sabotage.

You have imposter syndrome.

man seriously talking to his boss who appears to be upset

When it feels like you don't have any of the necessary qualifications for a new position at work—even if your résumé says otherwise—it's hard to convince yourself to even apply. "When you never think you're right for promotions at work, you're less likely to recognize those that might actually be right for you," says Bulman. This type of negative thinking can sabotage your chances of success over time, so work on seeing how you are qualified for things rather than how you aren't.

You think people are always thinking about your flaws.

young indian man inspecting face in mirror

Pessimism isn't always just about harsh self-judgment. In many cases, it manifests as believing that other people feel the same way about you.

"A pessimist may often expect others to find them lacking or inferior in some way," says Manly. For example, when dating, a pessimist might believe their date is just waiting for someone better to come along.

And you're quick to point out flaws in other people.

Shutterstock/Happy Together

Deflection is the name of the game for may pessimists, meaning they're quick to point out any perceived flaws in others. "Pessimists mirror their internal emotions to external situations and people, so focusing on what's wrong with other people is only natural for them," explains sex therapist Robert Thomas, co-founder of Sextopedia.

You engage in negative self-talk.

asian man in a suit sitting on a bench with his head in his hands

For many pessimists, negative self-talk is just a part of day-to-day life. "A pessimist might engage in subtle negative commentary to themselves (and others) such as 'I'm not very much fun' or 'I don't have any good luck,'" says Manly.

You refuse to get excited about the possibility of good things continuing.

disappointed woman on failed blind date, relations difficulties, awkward moment

Even when there's no evidence that a situation will end badly, pessimists can convince themselves that there's some catastrophic finale around the corner. "Pessimists can subtly take the joy out of a situation by finding the one little fly in the ointment," says Manly.

You're always thinking about what could go wrong in any given situation.

bike wheel attached to bike rack after bike is stolen
Shutterstock/Markos Loizou

Pessimists are quick to assume that the worst could happen at any moment—even when the odds are miniscule. For instance, Thomas notes that if a pessimist wants to buy a bicycle, they might avoid doing so because they assume it'll immediately get stolen. "Positive emotions from getting a new bike are counterbalanced with what might go wrong," he explains.

And you assume a snowball effect when something does go wrong.

headshot of worried young woman

When something does go badly, most pessimists believe that's just the tip of the iceberg. "Pessimistic people tend to pay less attention to neutral and positive events. Thus, they're likely expecting things to go from bad to worse for them," explains Thomas.

You're resistant to change.

deal breaker, couple arguing, break up, fight, mistakes married couples make

Maintaining the status quo is a major win for many a pessimist. "Resisting change may be a sign of pessimism as you perceive it as a threat to the current situation," explains Thomas.

You're always reminiscing about the past.

older white couple looking at photo album

Everyone reminisces about the past from time to time. For pessimists, though, there's a revisionist aspect to doing so that results in anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction. "Remembering the past better than you perceived it at the time may hint that you are pessimistic about the future," explains Thomas.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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