The Terrible Truth About Pessimism

by Kathy Shalhoub

Are you someone who always seems to have bad luck, failed projects and a pessimistic view on life?

Why do these things happen to you and not to others?

It’s because you’ve learned how to be helpless.

Martin Seligman, a PhD in psychology determined that the primary cause of learned helplessness is pessimism!

Do you know what the defining characteristics of the pessimist are?

Take two people who sustain the exact same hardships of life. The optimist will tend to believe that:

  • defeat is only a temporary setback,
  • this setback is a one-time occurrence confined to this one case,
  • circumstances, bad luck, or other people have brought it about.

The pessimist on the other hand, believes that:

  • bad events will last a long time,
  • bad luck undermine everything they do, and
  • all unfortunate or unwelcome occurrences are their own fault.

Related post: Luck, Chance and All of That

The thing with optimists is that they are unfazed by defeat, they simply see it as a challenge and try harder next time. Pessimists on the other hand, give up more easily and are more often depressed.

So what’s wrong with being a pessimist?

You may be one of those people who actually need failure or bad luck to feel good about yourself. Why? Because then all that is happening is not your fault. You can blame circumstances for your situation and you don’t need to take responsibility for your own future.

So you are comfortable being helpless and nothing is your fault. Which means that you are likely to fail at anything you try to do because you believe that you control nothing!

Where does that leave you? Exactly where you are if you’re lucky, but you’re never lucky, remember?

Taking charge of your life and being in control of your career options is one great route to leaving the pessimist view behind. You can make use of your skills, be productive and earn money on

Related Link: Find jobs on (

The way you think about your life and your belief in your power to control an outcome can completely shape your future. Find out how to change your outlook in next week’s blog post: How to Unlearn ‘Learned Helplessness’.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Take this quiz and let us know!

P.S. I’m an optimist 80% of the time 🙂

I’m sorry to say this but…

By: Kathy Shalhoub


‘I’m sorry to say this but…’ Have you ever started a sentence with the following words?

‘You may not believe me but I really feel that…’

‘Please don’t take this the wrong way but I think that…’

‘I don’t mean to be an ass but…’

Someone I was speaking to the other day started by apologizing for something they believed in and it got me wondering. Why do we do that? Why are so many of us so worried about how people will view our beliefs, our opinions, our thoughts and our feelings?

When somebody says to me: ‘You may not believe me but I like capers.’ I find myself telling them: ‘Yes, I believe you. Believe me I believe you!’ It’s almost as if they’re not sure of their own beliefs and are looking for someone to validate them. Why wouldn’t I believe you?

The other thing I get to thinking when someone says for example: ‘I’m sorry to say this but your pie doesn’t taste very good.’, is: What are they sorry about? Why are they being apologetic? It’s almost as if they had something to do with making my pie taste like cardboard. Wouldn’t stating an opinion simply be so much better? ‘I don’t think this pie tastes very good.’ That’s it.

Now I ask you, why the apology? Why the qualifier before stating something you think, feel or believe? All it does is weaken what you’re saying. It’s undermining your credibility and your authority before you’ve even made a statement. When you start a sentence with a negative, you’re conditioning your listeners to look for negatives!

In a business context, this is so much more relevant. Try it. Say these two sentences out loud and tell me which one rings true to your ears:

‘You may not believe me but I interviewed 40 candidates.’

‘I interviewed 40 candidates.’

‘I don’t mean to be an ass, but this graph is completely out of scale.’

‘This graphic is out of scale, do you think you can fix it?’

I assure you your boss won’t believe you if you start by telling him not to! I assure you your colleague will think you’re an ass if you start by telling her you don’t want to be one.

Be assertive. Don’t condition people’s thoughts for them! Be firm and confident, say exactly what you mean and don’t defend yourself if no one has challenged you yet!

Blogger’s Bio: Kathy studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of Paris. She is also a writer and published her first book, Life as a Leb-neh Lover, in 2010. Kathy is fascinated by matters of the mind, self discovery, self acceptance and personal development and is currently researching these topics. Check out her blog, ‘like’ her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @Lebneh_Lover.

Image by: farconville