Pessimism Definition - 4 Ways A Bad Attitude Can Hurt You

Updated June 17, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault

If you knew that there was something that would cause you to have bad relationships, poor health, low self-esteem, and a job that you hate, would you do it? It seems like an obvious answer when you look at it that way. Who would actually choose all of those negative things in their life? Well, these are the results that you might be experiencing in your life if you have a pessimistic attitude. Many people think that being a pessimist is really not that big of a deal. And some even think that it’s an advantage because it protects them from potentially being in a hurtful situation. They think it helps to give them thick skin. However, the pessimism definition is very clear; and with a good understanding of it, you will see why this is not a good thing in your life.

Pessimism Definition

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the definition of pessimism definition is, “an inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome.” And, according to the definition is, “the tendency to speak, anticipate, or emphasize only bad or undesirable outcomes, results, conditions, problems, etc.”

A pessimistic person is someone who always sees the bad in the situation. They have a hard time believing that things will work out. They are a glass-half-empty and not glass-half-full type of person. Many pessimistic people believe that they are protecting themselves by always expecting the worst. They believe that if they expect the worst from the start, they will not be let down if it happens; and this is the way that they live their life.

If you can identify with the thoughts of a pessimistic person, you are probably thinking it’s better to be pleasantly surprised than constantly let down. However, being pessimistic can be very hurtful to different areas of your life.

1. A Bad Attitude Hurts Your Relationships


It’s often hard to be in a relationship with a pessimistic person. The pessimism definition explains exactly why that is. People who are chronically pessimistic have a hard time trusting other people. Therefore, when you are pessimistic, you may end up making unfair accusations. You often assume the worst, and so you look for the worst to happen. When you do this, you can actually create problems that don’t exist. You might fabricate things in your mind that will support your pessimistic attitude.

It’s also hard for pessimistic people to plan the future with another person. Because you are constantly expecting something bad to happen to ruin the relationship, it’s difficult to see past that and have hope for the future. However, your significant other may only put up with this for a certain amount of time because they likely want to be able to make plans and know where the relationship is headed.

Relationships are difficult. Every relationship is different and comes with its own challenges. However, when you add a pessimistic person into a relationship, it goes to a whole new level of difficulty. Pessimistic people will not show their true feelings easily. This means they will hold back from being open with how they feel. In an effort to protect themselves, they’re actually withholding the words that their significant other would like to hear. This also causes them to not work on their relationship when there is a problem. Because they assumed that there was going to be a problem before it happened, they don’t feel that there’s any point in working on it.

2. A Bad Attitude Hurts Your Health

Your thoughts are closely tied with your physical health. People try to separate health into mental health and physical health, with some even adding emotional health; but these all correlate together. There is no way to truly separate different parts of health. Your mental health affects your physical health, and your physical health affects your mental health.

When you have a bad attitude and are pessimistic, you may be hurting your physical and mental health. Pessimistic people have a negative mindset. When you have a positive mindset, you believe that you have control over your life and the things that happen to you. When you are pessimistic, you don’t believe that you have that control.

Studies have found that pessimistic people are less likely to diet, exercise, or see a doctor when they need. They are also more likely to smoke. If you are pessimistic, you may believe that your poor health is a reason why you have a bad attitude, and constantly expect the worst; but the truth is, your pessimistic attitude may be the reason why those things are happening.

Pessimism Is Found To Relate To Heart Disease

One Finnish study came up with interesting results about pessimism and heart disease. There was a study conducted on over 2,000 people over a period of 11 years. These people were initially given 6 statements to rank on a scale of how they thought that the statement applied to them personally. There were positive and negative statements. At the end of the study, there were 122 people that had died over the 11 years from coronary heart disease. The researchers took into effect things like diabetes, smoking, and other risk factors, and determined that the most pessimistic people were twice as likely to die of heart disease.

Pessimism affects your mental health because it constantly feeds you negative thoughts. A negative mindset can lead to anger and depression. If you are struggling with anxiety, worry, anger, rage, or depression, you can speak to a professional therapist to help transform your pessimistic attitude. They can help you identify areas that are triggering your pessimism and help you to overcome them.

3. A Bad Attitude Hurts Your Career


Being pessimistic can be a big drawback in the workplace. There have been studies conducted to test the difference between a pessimist and an optimist in the workforce. The numbers are overwhelmingly in favor of having an optimistic attitude in your career. Pessimistic people are more likely to give up when they encounter a difficult situation at work, are less likely to learn valuable lessons from their failure at work, and are more likely to stab others in the back in the workplace.

When you understand the pessimism definition, it’s easy to see why it’s a drawback at work. Employers are looking for people that have a growth mindset. They want people who are going to persevere through difficult times and challenges to find a solution. They want team players to be working for them. And often employers prefer employees that do not create drama in the workplace.

4. A Bad Attitude Hurts Your Self-Esteem And Confidence

Pessimistic people are not just hard on other people; they are hard on themselves, too. Some people were not pessimistic from the start. They developed these tendencies, and thought processes after going through hurtful situations in their life. After being constantly disappointed, let down, or hurt by other people, they decided that it would be easier to expect the worst from the start. It’s an effort to protect themselves from being hurt in the future. However, this often backfires and hurts them even more.

True confidence comes from believing that you have control over situations in your life and that you can be part of making good things happen. But, if you have pessimistic tendencies, then you don’t believe that you have the same control in your life. Many people who are pessimistic tend to have low self-esteem and their pessimistic attitude causes them to think that they are unable to make a change. This leads them to be more pessimistic, which leads to having even lower confidence. So, in an effort to try to protect themselves they’re actually hurting themselves further.

How To Change From Being A Pessimist To An Optimist


The good news is it’s not too late to change, even if you have been pessimistic for your entire life. It isn’t always easy to do, but if you work through the process with a licensed therapist, it’s much easier as they will guide you step-by-step. Cognitive behavioral therapy would be a typical approach for therapists to use in session with someone who is pessimistic. Learning to alter distorted ways of thinking and adapt more healthy, rational thoughts can have a positive impact on one’s mood.

Becoming a more optimistic person will transform your life in many ways. As you begin to look for the good in situations instead of the bad, you will begin to see the good. As people, we tend to find whatever it is that we are looking for. That means if you look for the bad, you will find the bad. But, if you look for the good, you will begin to find the good. You will also begin to see that you have more control over the outcome of your life than you previously believed.

A Brighter Outlook With BetterHelp

Research shows that online therapy platforms can provide beneficial tools for those experiencing difficult-to-process feelings associated with pessimism. For example, in a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, researchers examined the effects of an online psychological intervention on individuals described as pessimistic. Researchers found that the online treatment helped increase feelings of optimism, happiness, and self-esteem, and could improve overall psychological well-being. Online platforms allow individuals to remotely access valuable resources, such as interactive exercises, audio and video educational files, and counseling services, in order to help reinforce important concepts and ideas. Similar studies have found that online therapy is more accessible than in-person therapy due to its cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and mitigation of perceived stigma.

With online counseling through BetterHelp, you’ll have the option of interacting with your counselor from the comfort of your home—no more dealing with traffic, sitting in a waiting room, or skipping your lunch. The mental health professionals at BetterHelp have helped many people develop a more optimistic outlook on life. Read below for counselor reviews, from those who have experienced similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

“She has been amazing. She has helped me in such a short time have an optimistic outlook on life on a whole new level.”

“I’ve only had a couple of sessions so far, but it’s clear that she is experienced and knows her field. I’m already feeling more optimistic as we begin my journey to a happier life.”


As you continue to grow and develop your attitude your relationship could improve, your career might improve, and your health could improve. But the biggest change that will happen is the belief in yourself to be able to make a difference in your life, which is by far the greatest thing.

Previous Article

What Is Defensive Pessimism, And Is It Healthy?

Next Article

Feeling Worthless And What To Do About It
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist Today
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.