It’s only human to play out different scenarios when dealing with problems. As you’re brainstorming for solutions, you must consider the positive and the negative. But what if you assume the worst in every situation?
You have enough experience to know that the world isn’t all sunshine and roses. You have a better outlook when you see that the good often outweighs the bad. Unfortunately, it’s much easier to be negative than it is to be positive.
Psychologists call this mental phenomenon the negativity bias. It means that humans are more likely to focus on negative aspects, even when they are more favorable. No wonder the news media has so many people hooked on their latest stories of doom and gloom, but somehow you must be informed yet not consumed by what you hear.
7 Surprising Ways That You Harm Yourself When You Assume the Worse
Being smothered by a negative outlook can affect you and everyone in your circle. It goes beyond just being grouchy and saying the worst is yet to come. Here are six adverse outcomes when you assume the worst will happen.
1. When You Assume the Worst, It Limits Thinking and Creativity
When you assume the worst about your life, you put unnecessary limitations on your potential. You get so used to saying you “can’t” do something that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As you see the adverse outcomes you expected, you feel justified in your negative attitude.
Consider the classic experiment with fleas in a glass jar. If you attract some fleas into a glass jar and close the lid, they’ll try to escape. Each time they hop, they bang into the cover, and soon they get tired.
After a while, you can remove the lid, and the fleas won’t escape. The top has conditioned them to how high they can jump. Although they can quickly jump out now that the cover is gone, they can’t see past their negative conditioning.
Likewise, negative thinking can limit you in many ways, including your creativity. It makes you wonder why you should ever try. In reality, the only limits you have on your potential are those you enforce on yourself.
2. Increased Tendency for Anxiety and Depression
An article published by Behavioral Research and Therapy discusses repetitive negative thinking and mental health. It’s linked with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Undue stress can jeopardize your mental health.
If you contemplate past hurts and failures, it can wrap you in thick clouds of despair. Then, you may assume the worst about your future, which can cause endless anxiety. Thankfully, through cognitive behavioral therapy and other treatments, you can learn to control your stress and get rid of the negative mindset.
3. Interpersonal Relationships Are Compromised When You Assume the Worst
It’s difficult to enjoy any relationship if you always assume the worst. Relationships with your family and friends can become strained because you’re always thinking they are against you. Such assumptions can make you seem so paranoid and unsettled that even loved ones keep their distance.
Romantic relationships often don’t last because this mindset undermines trust and intimacy. You may constantly worry that your partner is cheating or losing their love for you. Some of this mistrust may stem from broken relationships you had in the past.
Such negativity can also cause severe problems in the workplace. It won’t fare well if you assume that your coworkers are all liars trying to get you fired. You also may have difficulties with your supervisors and clientele.
Consider the case of a young accountant named Troy. He is an intelligent fellow who graduated top of his class. He won an academic scholarship and got a free ride to his chosen university.
One would think that he would enjoy his successful life with gratitude. Over the years, however, Troy has become more cynical. His boss passed on him several times for a promotion in his firm. Plus, he has been in and out of relationships, and none have ever lasted.
You’d never notice just by looking at him. He is handsome, intelligent, and well-spoken. Unfortunately, his negative attitude has made his circle of people much smaller.
4. If You Always Assume the Worst, You Increase Stress and Impair Your Coping Skills
Maintaining a positive mindset doesn’t always mean your world is perfect. They’ll be times that you feel down and don’t know where to turn. However, your optimism is an efficient tool to help you better cope with stress.
Conversely, assuming the worst in every situation can limit your coping abilities. According to the law of attraction, since negativity attracts even more negativity, you feel stressed and like nothing will ever go right in your life again.
5. More at Risk for Health Problems
Not only can a negative attitude affect your mental health, but it can be a risk to your physical health as well. An article published by the University of Minnesota explains negative thoughts and chronic stress. It can upset your brain chemicals and lower your immune system.
Chronic stress can lead to a host of serious diseases like hypertension, diabetes, heart issues, stroke, and even premature death. All the time you spend worrying about the worst-case scenario can threaten your life.
6. Lower Self-esteem and Confidence
Assuming the worst in your life does little for your self-esteem. The more negative your outlook is, the less confidence you’ll have in your abilities. Since you figure you’ll fail anyway, you’ll become what you speak and believe.
You may also miss out on opportunities that may never come your way again. It can cause self-loathing, and substance abuse can become an issue. Pessimism doesn’t allow you to feel blessed, grateful, and content.
7. Negativity is Contagious, So Your Loved Ones Will Also Start to Assume the Worst
Remember the beloved children’s story about Chicken Little? He was a tiny chick wandering around the farm when an acorn fell and hit his head. Chicken Little didn’t bother looking up to see the acorns dangling from the oak tree overhead. Instead, he made a false assumption that the sky was falling, and everyone was doomed.
It’s another case when a cute little children’s fable teaches a profound lesson. Many people are spreading their messages of disaster and hopelessness in today’s world. Like Chicken Little, they can only see the negative and sound a false alarm that affects everyone around them.
If you’re generally an upbeat person and spend time with someone chronically negative, you’ll feel the effects. No matter how cheerful the conversation, these folks have some sarcastic rebuttal. If you’re around them enough, your blue skies may begin to turn gray, too.
You Know You Tend to Assume the Worst. How Do You Break the Habit?
Are you tired of seeing the world through negative lenses and expecting the worst? You can’t change everything around you, but you have the power to change your perspective. These are some helpful ways to bring joy back into your life.
1. Change Your Self-talk
Just because your negative self-talk is painting you a bleak picture doesn’t mean it represents reality. Start challenging your negative assumptions by asking yourself if they’re true. For example, will your whole life be ruined if you aren’t chosen immediately for management?
Then, try to bring your focus to a positive aspect. It doesn’t mean that you create a delusion. So, if you don’t get chosen for management this time, you can learn more skills to be a better candidate. Your outlook is positive while still grounded in reality.
2. Limit Your Worrying Time
Anyone who says they never worry is just fooling themselves, as everyone worries about something. It’s part of being human, and you’ll always catch yourself fretting at one point. The idea is not to let your fears consume your present and dictate your future.
Instead, schedule a time each day to write as many worries as you can in a notebook. Set a timer for 20 minutes and worry, fuss, and wring your hands all you please. When the timer buzzes, close the notebook, deciding that you’re not going to worry about anything again until tomorrow.
3. Create an Uplifting Atmosphere
One of the many reasons people stay in the downtrodden is because they surround themselves with negativity. You may overindulge in negative media stories and movies that are tragic and violent. Also, you may hang around people who have nothing better to do than grump, whine, and find fault with everything.
With such an unsettling atmosphere, it’s little wonder that your soul feels exhausted and hopeless. The good news is that you can make changes that will free you from the shackles of negativity.
Lighten your atmosphere by surrounding yourself with beautiful things that make your soul smile. Place limits on your exposure to negativity in the media or online. Try to include more positive people in your circle and avoid the negative ones as much as possible, as you don’t want folks around you who always assume the worst.
Final Thoughts on Negative Outcomes When You Assume the Worst
It’s comforting to realize that most of your worries never happen. You can still hope for the best while being prepared for worst-case scenarios. You can get more out of life when you start focusing on your many blessings instead of your problems.