How to Tackle Pessimism On The Go
– Saima Eman
What makes you focus on things that you did not achieve?
Are there some of you who tend to focus disproportionately on something negative uttered by someone; refusal to a job, research paper for publication, attendance at an event, negative feedback on something you are struggling to achieve? Is it not like a trip to Pizza Hut and suddenly a phone call makes you return empty stomach? Or is it like a reaching a grand party venue and finding that the event is over?
Probably, this is the case with most of us! We fret on our losses instead of looking at the brighter side of losing that opportunity. Is it depression, perfectionism or pessimism? Expecting perfection from oneself means an inability to tolerate loss or accept responsibility for loss. According to Sherry, Hewitt, Flett, Lee-Baggley, & Hall (2007) perfectionism is one of the core reasons for various personality problems. One of the hallmark features of perfectionism is inability to expect that something could go wrong. It becomes very hard to accept something, which had not been anticipated. One might freeze in that moment, thinking, “Why me?”, “What a bad day, just because of this bad news!”, “This is terrible!”, “It should not have happened!”
Our inner voices, which were developed through the voices of significant others around us keep on criticising us. That self-criticism over and over again becomes an obsession and that obsession turns into restlessness when we keep inviting such thoughts. Thus daily activities might not be pursued in a smooth manner as a result of a single mistake made, or a bad piece of news received. Therefore, these voices have to be disregarded as unrealistic perceptions, which can disrupt everyday activities and performance (Harvey, Moeller, & Williams, 2011; Firestone, Firestone, & Catlett, 2002).
The question, however, is what are the underlying causes of such perfectionist tendencies? According to a very interesting story of person (Flett, & Hewitt, 2007), who tried to attempt suicide after making a minor error in his published book and consequent misfortunes, shows how an extreme level of conscientiousness can lead towards perfectionism. A high standard for one’s own performance is key reason for perfectionism (Kearns, Forbes, Gardiner, & Marshall, 2008).
Now, there are different ways of coping with loss. If one becomes depressed and fixated, it means that progress towards other goals would be hampered which could result in pessimism in the long run. On the other hand, if one takes it as a challenge to improve and grab other opportunities, it might be labelled as an optimistic coping strategy and you might become an opportunist. “Don’t fret! That job was not for you! You missed it for something better!”
Did you hear the story of a girl who would not give up her beautiful pearls? The day she gifted her pearls she received new larger ones. So instead of spending the energy to remove the huge rocks, one should look for the holes in the rock that lead towards sunshine!
The writer is a PhD Commonwealth Scholar at University of Sheffield, United Kingdom. She is also representing Pakistan at Psychology Department, University of Sheffield, and student representative at University Research Ethics Committee, University of Sheffield. She is a Lecturer in Psychology and the member of International Resource Center at Lahore College for Women University, Lahore, Pakistan, employed by Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. She has presented papers at a number of international and local conferences in Pakistan, UK, and USA.