Pessimism is an Integrity Issue

I was reading the Integrity Life Coach Blog, by Patricia Eslava Vessey, and she writes about how she quit smoking as an act of integrity, and in reading her description, it clarified something I've been thinking about.

I've often felt that somehow pessimism is related to a lack of integrity but haven't quite figured out how or why that might be the case. Vessey's article has a series of questions to help her readers free themselves from limiting habits, and her first question answered my question.

The first question she suggests you ask yourself is: "What self-limiting lies have you been telling yourself?"

That's it! That's how pessimism and integrity collide. Pessimism is driven by lies. By misperceptions. By jumping to conclusions. Pessimism is not based on truth. No one really knows enough to be a pessimist, as Norman Cousins put it.

And now that I think of it, I should have known this already because I've read quite a bit about cognitive therapy (a therapy that has proven itself in hundreds of studies to be very effective for curing people of depression, anger, and anxiety disorders, and is mostly concerned with mistaken cognitions, or thoughts).

One of the best-known cognitive therapists, David Burns, relies primarily on straightening out people's screwy thinking using his list of ten "cognitive distortions." These are ways of looking at the world or thinking about the world that are fundamentally false, such as overgeneralizing.

If you make enough of these kinds of mistakes in your thinking, you'll tend to suffer from depression or anxiety or anger. The faulty thinking makes you suffer unnecessarily. The suffering comes from the violation of your own integrity. In other words, you're not telling the truth, so you suffer.

Pessimism doesn't do you any good, and it doesn't do any good for anyone around you, either. In fact, it does harm. Unnecessary negative emotions negatively impact your health. Pessimism makes you less persistent (and therefore less successful) and it makes you less happy.

That means if you are pessimistic, you are harming yourself with your own lies. This is not the road to integrity.

What self-limiting lies have you been telling yourself? What's the truth? What are the real possibilities for you that you have denied? Freeing yourself from false, pessimistic thinking is an important element in exploring integrity.

Adam Khan is the author of Self-Reliance, Translated and Principles For Personal Growth. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

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