Anxiety Makes Me a Pessimist

Anxiety Makes Me a Pessimist

Does Anxiety Change Who I Am

Anxiety clearly affects many aspects of my life. It influences whether I would go out and socialize, experience new things, my thoughts and emotions, how I think about myself and others, and how I view the world.  My perspective on virtually any aspect of my life can even be influenced by my anxiety.  A lot of the thoughts and perspectives I will feel are negative due to the fear and worry I experience from anxiety.  So then, does anxiety change who I am as a person?

Am I a Pessimist?

I am constantly worrying about what the weather will be like, should I go out, how do I get there, where do I park, who else will be there?  All these thoughts spiral down a deep hole of negativity.  People then perceive me as a negative person who is always thinking bad things will happen.  But what is really happening is that I am experience symptoms of anxiety.  I start to worry about everything and think negative thoughts.  Sometimes those thoughts affect the people around me and can feel like I ruined the day.

Always having to worry about everything due to my anxiety, people perceive me as a pessimist.  I am constantly over worrying about even little details that may be insignificant.  This attitude creates an image of myself being negative, always thinking bad outcomes, and can have a negative impact on social experiences.

My Job Requires Me to Be a Pessimist

Just to play devil’s advocate with myself, there is another side to this situation.  Part of my job I worked for over 6 years was to develop maintenance strategies for machinery.  To do so you need to understand all the possible failures (Negative outcomes) that can occur.  For example, your car needs engine oil to run. My job is to identify, what happens when the oil is expired and no longer performs its function, what happens to the engine if the oil fails, and how soon will the oil fail based on current operating conditions?  Once we know all the negative things that can happen, I can develop a strategy to prevent it from happening.  That is why they always say change your oil after 6000KM or 6 months.  Whether you use your car or not the oil expires overtime due to degradation.  All these questions are from a pessimistic standpoint but for the purpose of being proactive.  How can you prevent a failure from happening if you don’t think it will happen?  For this reason, my job requires me to be a pessimist.

The Optimist vs Pessimist

So is a pessimist a really bad thing?  It depends how you handle it.  If that negativity ends up consuming you and creating a lot of fear, worry, and anxiety than yes it can be a harmful to you.  However, if you take being a pessimist and use that to your advantage of being prepared for any situation then it can be a positive thing.

Let’s say I was to decide to go snowboarding in the back country where it’s not authorized by the park officials.  An optimist might think, this would be a wonderful experience that many would not get an opportunity to try.  However, if they are inexperienced and it is their first time in the back country, they may not understand the dangers of avalanches.  The optimist would still consider the risk, thinking it’s not likely to happen.  They may be right as the likelihood of an avalanche occurring might actually be very low. But if it does occur would they be prepared, probably not.  

The pessimist would think that it’s a wonderful opportunity as well but would take a moment to start thinking about the dangers associated with it.  They would weigh the experience versus the dangers associated with this adventure.  The pessimist would look at all the negative things that could happen such as, getting stuck in the back country, not being able to call for help if needed, worrying about food and water resources, and of course the avalanche itself.  They would consider the different options, what gear they would require, and safety equipment in the event of an avalanche occurring, or even take the necessary training to prepare themselves.  

If the pessimist does not let the idea of all the risks and dangers consume them, they can overcome it and be proactive in their approach to experiencing new things.  The pessimist can then be even more prepared than the optimist and still enjoy different adventures.

If you still aren’t convinced, here is one last example.  Think about sky diving.  We all know sky diving is a dangerous activity in itself.  Jumping out of a plane isn’t the smartest idea.  You don’t just get in the plan and jump out.  There are many things that have to be prepared for.  There is all the safety equipment, there is a proper way to fold your parachute, all the training you have to do.  For someone to do that they would have to take a pessimistic approach and look at all the negative outcomes and try to mitigate those risks.

Anxiety Does Not Define Me

Going back to my point, is my anxiety changing my personality?  Although it may seem like I act like a pessimist, I am actually an optimist.  I look forward to new experiences and usually do see things from a negative perspective.  I look at challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.

No, anxiety definitely does not change my personality.  Anxiety changes my behaviour, the way I act in a situation, and my mood.  It doesn’t change who I am as a person.  Anxiety is preventing me from being myself.  It restricts me from doing the things I want to do, acting the way I want to, being the person that I am.  But it does not change who I am personally.

I have lived with anxiety for most of my life and because of that people who have known me for a long time will perceive me as negative, unfriendly, and lazy.  But in reality, I am completely opposite of that.  When I am not experiencing symptoms of anxiety, I am an optimist, I look forward to taking on new challenges, finds opportunities where others may not and does not give up easily.  Although I am shy, I am usually very friendly and nice to people.  I am definitely not lazy; I get up at 5:00 am in the morning to get ready for work, I run and cycle regularly, and I am currently training for a marathon race!

Having lived with anxiety most of my life, how do I know which part of me is actually me, and which part is the anxiety.  When my anxiety isn’t taking over, my mind is clear and I am able to recognize which part is me and which is the anxiety.  I can feel who I am trying to break free from the anxiety.  My personality of wanting to experience things, to talk more, to sing a song wants to come out.  But my anxiety is holding me back from being who I am.  Some days are better than others.  For many years now I haven’t been able to be myself.  I was consumed more and more by my anxiety.  Until I was able to go to therapy and get help. Until I left my job, I didn’t really understand how much my anxiety was holding me back.

My anxiety, the symptoms I experience, my behaviour as a result of those symptoms is not who I am.  Anxiety does not represent what kind of person I am. People think, “oh he has anxiety, but he’s shy, doesn’t talk much, doesn’t go out much, that is who he is and it’s not a problem”.  That perception is totally wrong.  Anxiety doesn’t define who I am.  Anxiety prevents me from being the person that I am.

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