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Pessimism Never Won Any Battle

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Assignment 1---- Pessimism

Pessimism never won any battle


Most of the people believe optimism is always good even President Eisenhower stated that ‘Pessimism never won any battle’. We will face many challenges in life and the consequence may affect by our mental attitude. In this essay, we take academic achievement as an example. First we explore the definition of the pessimism. Second we build a bridge between pessimism and academic achievement and find the way to overcome the pessimism. Finally, we find out the exception--defensive pessimism.

What is pessimism

Pessimism is a mental attitude that is always looking for consequences. However, in the past, we tend to simplify the meaning of pessimism and in psychology, pessimism has a richer meaning and divided into different types (Norem,2001).

The dispositional pessimism refers to a holistic tendency, which is a tendency to look forward bad outcomes in the future (Rossman, 2010). Dispositional pessimists focus more on their limitations, generating a sense of anxiety which lead them show less perceived control and do not work hard for achieving their goals (Hammontree & Ronan, 1992; Norem & Chang, 2002; Shower & Rubens, 1990; Carlos & Mateos, 2008).

The attributional pessimism, also called the explanatory pessimism, emphasizes on the pessimistic tendencies of the attributional style. The attributional pessimism associate with beliefs that the causes of negative events are stable, persuasive and internal (Forgeard & Seligman, 2012). Different from dispositional pessimism, it emphasizes the interpretation of events in the past rather than expectations for the future.

Defensive pessimism refers to success in the past but in the face of new similar situations, still setting unrealistic low expectations and reflecting on the possibilities of things (Norem & Cantor, 1986; Shower, 1988). By imagine possible negative outcomes, defensive pessimists can take action to avoid or prepare for them and can take advantage of anxiety which might otherwise defeat them ( Norem, 2008; Norem & Cantor, 1986)

Pessimism and academic achievement

Examinations are often regarded as the basis of the academic achievement. Academic achievement which can be affected by many factors always has special importance for both students and those people around them (Freih Owayed, 2005). I take final exams in the end of every semester and still feel anxious about them but fortunately I passed all the exams.

The failure of the exam may be caused by the optimism attitude which lead to overstate our knowledge level and understate the difficulty of the exam but it is unlikely to happen. In most of the cases, there is a positive relationship between optimism and people’s success in many fields including academic achievement(Shepperd et al., 1996). In addition, optimistic people were found difficult to be disturbed when they face a variety of stressful situations including taking the exams (Segerstrom et al., 1998).

In contrast, pessimistic people are likely to understate their knowledge level and overstate the difficulty of the exam. In long-run pessimism may lead to low level of confidence, tiredness of study which make people feel exhausted and have no energy in preparing what they should do and put themselves in the state of helplessness (Carlos & Pedro, 2008).

Overcome pessimism

Both optimism and pessimism are considered to be reasonable approaches to life event (Scheier & Carver, 1985) but optimism has been proven to improve students’ ability to focus on their studies and to reduce the risk of failing the exam (Londoño, 2009). So it is important to overcome pessimism in order to get academic achievement. There are two elements relevant: certain personality traits and external environment.

There is a significant positive correlation between conscientious and academic achievement (Noftle & Robin, 2007) and a negative correlation between neuroticism and academic achievement (Ackerman & Heggestad). After doing the ‘Big Five personality test’ I found that I had a high level of conscientious and a moderate level of neuroticism. Neuroticism describes a person’s tendency to experience negative emotions including fear, anxiety etc. (Tompson, 2008). My score indicates I am neither overly reactive nor especially resistant to the stresses of academic achievement. Conscientiousness describes a person’s ability to exercise self-discipline and control in order to pursue their goals. My scores indicate I have definite goals and cetain desire and are more likely to get academic achievement (Zhang, 2002).

To overcome pessimism, external environment is very important especially when there is an evidence showing the pessimists are converting into depression. Pessimistic individuals experience more negative emotions and individuals negative assessment of themselves and the external environment is an important cause of depression ( Hankin et al., 2005). Thus, to overcome pessimism, there is a need of support from the external environment such as their families, friends, teachers, or other optimistic people around them. Sometimes optimists will try to persuade the pessimists to become outgoing and positive (Clarke & Edmond, 2002).

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