If you are a natural pessimist, you no longer have to hide under a smiley face. Worrywarts have a lot to bring to the table, and in many fields have an advantage over optimists. Call it the upside to the downside.
In a glass-half-full culture, is there room for the natural worrywart?
You might not think so because — let’s face it — in 21st century America, the pervading drumbeat is upbeat. We are constantly urged to “look on the bright side.” We are exhorted to “accentuate the positive.” We are encouraged to focus on and celebrate our strengths, and not worry so much about our weaknesses. When someone asks us how we are, we are always expected to say, “Awesome.”
So where does that leave the naturally pessimistic type? You know who you are. You tend to be skeptical; you are detail oriented; you make not only a Plan B but a Plan C; and you definitely look before you leap.
Well, here’s some good news, beloved worrywart: Prudence has become a valuable workplace asset.
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After all, someone needs to stand at the ready with the antidote to what seems like an epidemic of optimism.
In fact, in certain fields the prudent pessimist has a clear advantage over the cock-eyed optimist. No one wants an aircraft mechanic to brush off his overalls and say, “Hey, I’m sure this plane is fine; I don’t need to run those boring tests.” Everyone would strongly prefer to hand over his or her life savings to the financial planner who takes a cautious, realistic, fact-based approach.
Of course a gloomy outlook has its gloomy side, too. Pessimists may become cautious to the point of closed-mindedness, and may overestimate levels of risk. Pessimists are often less creative than optimists, because they can’t help focusing on why a thing “can’t be done.” And it can be stressful to always have to be the vigilant one.
Obviously, a balance needs to be struck. Optimists should appreciate the pessimist’s role in keeping them from going off the deep end. And pessimists could probably stand to lighten up from time to time.
But the bottom line is this: If you are a worrier by temperament, there is not only nothing wrong with you, you have a great deal to bring to the table. And that’s something to be positive about!
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at email@example.com.