12 Warning Signs of Pessimistic People That Might Be Holding You Back

woman mad at work

We all know someone that’s the ultimate Debbie Downer.
 
But here’s the thing:
 
99.9% of the time, they don’t even realize it.

Because when you ask pessimistic people about their negativity, you usually get a blank stare and a “What do you mean?” kind of response.
 
But even the most positive person can fall into a negative trap.
 
So how do you know when you’ve fallen into that trap?
 
Here what it comes down to:
 
Negativity isn’t always about being rude. And it doesn’t always mean you fire off a lot of smart-ass remarks, either. But the first step in fixing negative behavior is to actually know the signs of a negative person.
 
So let’s get started:

1. Success Doesn’t Mean Much

coworkers high fiving

A glaring sign of negativity is how you handle something positive.
 
For example:
 
You get a promotion at work. Great! But you can’t stop your mind from worrying about your new responsibilities. 
 
Or you chalk up the promotion to good luck instead of hard work.
 
Here’s the deal:
 
Sometimes when something good happens, we automatically search for the downside. 
 
Why? Because if we get let down, we think we’ll be less disappointed because we “mentally prepped” for it.
 
…or at least that’s what our negative self-talk convinces us.
 
In reality, it’s stopping you from celebrating your wins.
 
So what does a positive person do instead?
 
They see someone else’s success as proof that they can do it too. The negative person sees the opposite.
 
They’re just as negative about other people as they are about themselves.
 
Oh, well they went to a good school.
 
They had rich parents.
 
They knew the right people.
 
They must’ve been in the right place at the right time.
 
…basically, any excuse other than that person worked hard for what they wanted.
 

2. You’re Too Old

woman stressed

…for everything.
 
Listen:
 
There are things we can’t do at 35 that we did at 16.
 
But if the phrase, “I’m too old for that” creeps into your regular conversation, then it’s time to adjust your thinking.
 
It’s essentially saying, “I’d rather just not try.”
 
And it can manifest itself in other areas of your life.

What’s the bottom line?
 
For pessimistic people, evolving beyond default mode is not an option.
 
Refusal to try anything new (even when it could bring positive change) is usually rooted in fear.
 
That fear keeps us stuck in the same place forever. 
 
Successful people try, fail, and applaud themselves anyway.
 
They live by, “There are no mistakes – just lessons” mentality.
 
But here’s the kicker:
 
There’s neurological reasons on why people fall into the negativity trap.
 
It has to do with a part of our brain called the amygdala.
 
The amygdala is like our internal alarm system:
 
It’s constantly searching for fear, bad news, and danger. Many scientists and researchers believe this is our brain’s “default” position.
 
But it doesn’t have to be – negative people just become comfortable there.
 
So instead of getting out of their comfort zone, they just stay in their default position.
 
After all, it’s what requires the least amount of effort.
 

3. You’re Oversensitive

two women having business meeting

Negativity makes us oversensitive to comments, critiques, and feedback.
 
So over-sensitivity is a damaging and yet, a common effect of pessimism. 
 
Think about this:
 
Do you ever feel like there are certain people you walk on eggshells around?
 
Or someone that’s always taking things the wrong way?
 
They’re defensive and it makes you feel like you can’t do anything right.
 
Those are the kind of people that we distance ourselves from.
 
Why?
 
Because the last thing you want to do is tell an oversensitive person that they’re oversensitive.
 
Here’s the thing:
 
Positive people believe the best about people. They don’t think people are out to get them all the time.
 
This is a common trait of negativity and we have to be careful not to fall into it.
 

4. The Focus is on the Problem, not the Solution

woman mad at work

Pessimists are great at pointing out all the problems with a plan and terrible at bringing solutions to the table.
 
So when there’s a problem, pessimistic people highlight it even when it’s obvious to everyone else that something has gone wrong.
 
And mistakes tend to get blown out of proportion.
 
Do you take note of when other people mess up? Do you have a hard time letting that go?
 
It’s easy to assume that negative people just target others, but here’s the thing:
 
They’re the hardest on themselves.
 
A small oversight at work tends to blow up in their mind as a major screw up.
 
Even when there are valid reasons for the mistake, they’re more likely to think, “I’m so stupid. I can’t believe I did that again.” instead of brushing themselves off.
 

5. Maintaining Relationships is Hard

group of friends hanging

Maintaining relationships (friendly or romantic) is hard for negative people.
 
After all, isn’t it easier to blame others than do a little self-reflection? For negative people, yes.
 
Oh, I stopped talking to so-and-so because they did (fill in the blank).
 
But if they stop and think about how they acted, it wouldn’t be a big surprise that their relationships fail.
 
Here are two things to look for:
 
Jealously Strikes Often
 
This is a common sign of negativity. 
 
For example, pessimists might complain that their friends “don’t include them enough.”
 
They want to be the center of attention or they’re worried about being the third wheel.
 
When they ask what your plans are, you almost hate telling them that you’re hanging out with someone or doing something fun.
 
Why? Because they’ll have something negative to say about it.
 
They Frequently Feud
 
The most chronically negative people I know are always fighting with someone about something.
 
At work, at home, neighbors, that random chick on social media, the mailman – everyone.
 
And sometimes when you mention someone, they’ll have a story about them.
 
Like how they got into a fight with that person or how they disagreed with something they posted on Facebook.
 
This is also one of the most common signs of a bad attitude.
 

6. Unexcited About The Future

woman looking out over mountains

Here’s the sad part:
 
Pessimistic people tend to be underachievers.
 
Their lack of success could be due to many things, but negativity is definitely one of them. 
 
They aren’t smart enough, good enough, rich enough, or don’t know the right people. Everything is a threat to their success.
 
But actually, the real threat is the fact that they cripple themselves with constant pessimistic thoughts and behavior.
 
So as a result, they wind up doing a whole lot of…nothing.
 
And since they’ve already made their past and present difficult – they aren’t exactly excited about their future.
 
Stalled out careers, a history of job changes, trouble with money, and broken relationships are warning signs of this behavior.
 
 

7. Staying Stuck Prevents Future Plans

man looking out over water

Have you ever noticed that pessimists hardly discuss future plans in a positive way?
 
And actually, they might not even talk about plans at all – because they’re too stuck in their present misery.
 
Positive people have goals and dreams, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles they’ll face.
 
They just push forward anyway.
 

8. Bad News is Exciting

man and woman talking over coffee

Have you heard the terrible news?
 
Did you hear about Sarah and her husband?
 
They can’t wait to tell everyone about the latest gossip.
 
Gossiping and snarky comments might seem fun and harmless, but it’s a sign that they feel negative about themselves and others. Not to mention, it comes across as nosy and judgmental.
 
Negative people tend to be hyper-critical and overly opinionated.
 
It leaves you wondering:
 
What do they say about me behind my back?
 
Romantic partners start to worry they’ll never be good enough. 
 
Again, another reason why it’s so hard to maintain relationships.
 

9. Compliments Are Hard to Accept

business man and woman talking

Pessimistic people undercut themselves. It’s not about being modest. It’s about internalizing negativity and letting it rob your success.
 
It also means brushing off people’s compliments which screams:
 
I can’t take a compliment, I’m insecure!
 
And it dismisses the other person – whether you meant to or not. Learning to say, “Thanks, it was hard work, but it really paid off” allows you to acknowledge your hard work.
 
Plus, it feels good to make other people feel good, so avoid dismissing compliments.
 

10. There’s a Negative Spin Put on Good News

woman sitting at work desk

You’re excited to share great news about your new job, engagement, or new home. But when you think about sharing the news with a negative person, you hesitate.
 
Why?
 
Is it because they always find a way to make it sound bad?
 
Will they caution you to not be too excited?
 
Or flood your mind with all the things that could go wrong?
 
It’s because their natural thought process goes to the worst case scenario. Next thing you know, they’ve built up several reasons against something. 
 

11. Never, But, and Always Are Favorite Words

man texting

Pessimists still say positive things and give compliments. 
 
Here’s the problem though:
 
They regularly finish their thoughts with “but,” to turn positive into negative.
 
It looks like a nice restaurant, but I wonder why you didn’t book a table outside.
 
or
 
The beach is so nice, but it’s always so crowded.
 
You see, pessimists have a habit of seeing the world in an all-or-nothing type of way.
 
When a friend can’t make it to hang out, it’s because they “always flake.” When a job interview doesn’t land them the job, it’s because they “never do good at interviews.”
 
When we see things as absolutes, it leaves little to no room for improvement.
 
Sadly, pessimistic people rarely know what they stand for; they only know what they stand against. 
 

12. Overly Bossy

man using laptop

When someone starts telling you what you should and shouldn’t do with your life, it’s one of the clearest signs of a negative person.
 
So what’s the bottom line?
 
People with the most unsorted personal issues have the tendency to give the most unsolicited advice.
 
Besides, it’s much easier to tell everyone else how to live their life.
 
Can you identify yourself or someone you know in this negative attitudes list? Let us know which traits stood out to you.
 
Thanks for reading.

Madison Eubanks is a Clinical Psychiatrist with over 13 years of experience in diagnosing mental health issues, cognitive therapy, handling relationship dynamics, and overseeing individuals and couples therapy. Connect with Madison on LinkedIn.