Defensive Pessimism and How It Can Help Students in School

 05 - 22 - 14
Learning News

by Maddy Bertelsen

We are told that pessimism is bad, while optimism is good. They say optimistic thoughts will help people achieve their goals and wants. Pessimism on the other hand, makes people weak, depressed and uninspired. Pessimism is said to make the will of a person low, that he easily gives up in achieving his dreams.

There are many pessimistic people around the world. Studies say that 42% of people living in Greece don’t see good things happening in their future. Likewise, countries like Czech Republic (33%) and Portugal (32%) believes that their lives are going to get worse.

Pessimism is highly prevalent in school too. Everyday students encounter stress in their classes, exams, essay projects, and reports. They also feel negative about wide spread bullying in school. Negativity eventually leads to poor academic performance, dropping out of school, and sometimes even serious health and mental conditions.

Students are easily attacked by negative thoughts because of their vulnerability characteristics. But pessimism can actually help them with their studies. They can harness good things from bad thoughts, resulting to a healthier lifestyle.

In a study conducted by Julie K. Norem, PhD, a professor of psychology at Wellesley College. There are 30-35% of American citizen who uses a calculated form of pessimism to help them cope and manage stress. This is called defensive pessimism.

Defensive pessimism is an approach to manage anxiety, stress and fear. Dr Norem said that “Defensive pessimists prepare for a situation by setting low expectations for themselves, then follow up with a very detailed assessment of everything that may go wrong.” This results to mental preparation and readiness, so that when the worst case scenario happened, they are ready to face it.

So how can defensive pessimism help you in your studies? Let us look at how you can turn your negative ideas into positive results:

You prepare for tests and reports to avoid low grades

Defensive pessimists don’t want to have poor grades in school so they do what they can to avoid having an F. They study, read notes, review, and memorize harder than optimistic students. This is an advantage on your part because the more you know your lessons, the better your performance will be.

You are less likely to cheat because you think you’ll get caught

When it comes to cheating, pessimists believe that they’d rather have a difficult time writing their essays, than cheat. They also want to stay late at night, reviewing than get caught copying in an exam. This attitude will reflect on students’ performance, and may also help them become a successful person.

You think of worst case scenarios and plan to avoid or solve them

It’s normal for defensive pessimists to think of bad scenarios while studying, but it helps them become ready for whatever happens. They get detailed analysis of the pros and cons of things and they do everything to avoid them. With this characteristic, students with defensive pessimism tend to have a sense of control in every task given to them.

You are in control of your stress and anxiety

Since this type of people sees the full range of bad things that might happen, they become ready for it. They become in control of their emotions because they understand how it can further impact the results of their projects. Likewise, students can use pessimism to manage their emotions by accepting problems, and looking at it as something they can resolve.

You use pessimism to excel

There is always a room for improvement for a pessimistic person. They are not always satisfied with their performance, even if it is good enough. Whether in exams, projects, recitals, or discussions, they always strive to be the best. They know that working hard, minimizes the window for mistakes and failure.

You are likely to be a successful person

According to Lawrence Sanna, Phd, of the University of North Carolina, defensive pessimists actually turn out to be the most successful people. These people push themselves harder, and make sure they perform better than other people. They are competitive and self motivated. And if they experience failure, they look at it as an opportunity to become better.

Pessimism is not actually bad. It’s only destructive if you let it affect your mind and emotions. You can actually use it to good use and become a better student.

Are you familiar with defensive pessimism? How do you use it to good use?

Guest Post by Maddy Bertelsen
Maddy Bertelsen is a writer, blogger, and newsletter contributor. She is currently taking her MA in business administration, while working as a writer for

Reviews are closed.