How to Overcome Martyr Syndrome

If you feel like you have martyr syndrome, the good news is there are things you can do to overcome it and start living a happier, more positive life. By learning to express your feelings more, challenge negative beliefs and expectations, and set some healthy boundaries, you’ll quickly start to notice a big difference in how you feel about yourself, your circumstances, and other people. If you’re not quite sure where to start, don’t worry—this article will help guide you through the process of addressing your martyr syndrome and overcoming it.

Part 1

Expressing Your Needs Download Article

  1. Image titled Overcome Martyr Syndrome Step 1
    1
    Stop expecting others to read your mind. If other people were going to understand your needs without you telling them, they would have understood by now. Good communication skills involve both speaking and listening. A simple conversation can clear up a big misunderstanding. If you’re trying to express yourself via pouting, sulking, or otherwise acting out, you cannot expect to be understood. Recognize that the only way another person will understand you is if you reach out to that person.[1]

    • For example, you feel you’re being asked to do too much at work. Have you told people in your office you need help or have you simply acted cold towards others?
    • If you have not told anyone you need help on a project, chances are they don’t know. Being cold towards your co-workers is not really communication and, chances are, no one knows what the problem is on your end.
  2. Image titled Overcome Martyr Syndrome Step 2
    2
    State your feelings directly. The first step to direct communication is stating your feelings. When expressing yourself, focus on what you’re feeling. Try to abandon any mentalities you have convincing yourself you’re inherently the victim or things are inherently stacked against. All you can know for sure are your own feelings, so focus on expressing these.[2]

    • Start with the words, “I feel…” when expressing yourself and then briefly state your feelings and the behaviors causing them. This reduces blame as you’re focusing on your personal reactions over objective facts.
    • For example, do not say, “You guys gave me too short notice for this project and now I have to work harder than everyone else in the office.” Instead, say something like, “I feel overwhelmed because I didn’t get enough notice about the project.”[3]
    • Focus on the present moment. Express how you feel now. Do not let past emotions or problems control how you act now.
  3. 3
    Express your needs. People with martyr syndrome may hesitate to express their needs or ask for help.[4] Rather than reaching out and explaining what people can do to help, you may prefer to view your situation as hopeless and harbor resentments. However, this is unhealthy long term and can lead to strained personal and professional relationships. If you need something, say so.[5]

    • For example, if you need help, just ask. Say something like, “I could really use some extra help on this project if any of you have any downtime.”
  4. 4
    Avoid escape mechanisms. People with martyr syndrome may have built in escape mechanisms to help them avoid communication. If you are frustrated or upset by a situation, think about the ways you handle that other than communicating directly. Learn to recognize and avoid these mechanisms to begin with.[6]

    • Some people may behave in a negative fashion in order to entice others to guess what’s wrong. Instead of expressing yourself directly, for example, you may sulk or act cold towards someone who’s upset you.
    • You also may complain about the issue in ineffective ways. For example, you may whine or complain continually, refusing to listen to advice or suggestions. You may also complain to other people around the person who’s frustrating or upsetting you while withholding information from them.
    • You may also find excuses for not communicating. For example, you will convince yourself you’re too tired or too busy to talk things out directly.
    • Writing in a journal is a great way to confront your daily life and to process your emotions in a healthy way.
Part 2

Changing Your Thought Patterns Download Article

  1. 1
    Examine your own feelings. Understanding the causes and issues behind your martyrdom can help you make positive changes in your life. Try to get into touch with your own emotional state. Question why you might act like a martyr. If you can identify the cause, you can identify the solution.

    • Do you have low self-esteem? Do you ever find yourself thinking that you are worthless or unable to control your own life?
    • When you feel upset, can you identify what is causing it? Or are you unsure?
    • Do you often hold grudges? Is there something from the past that you can’t let go of?
    • Do you often see situations as hopeless? Why is this? Does it help you avoid uncomfortable situations? Does it help you justify your current state of life?
  2. 2
    Recognize you have choices. Martyr syndrome is often marked by a feeling of helplessness. You may feel you are inherently the victim in life and that will not change. While there is a lot one cannot change about any given situation, learn to recognize where you can make choices. This will help you feel more in control of your life.[7]

    • For example, everyone finds their job stressful at times. Having to do things you dislike at work is part of life, and you cannot fully control stressful situations from occurring. However, you can control your reactions and coping mechanisms.
    • The next time you encounter stress at work, pause and remember you have choices. Think to yourself, “I can’t completely get rid of these stressors, but I can control how I react. I can make a choice to stay calm and deal with this effectively.”
    • When faced with a difficult situation, sit down, and make a list of everything that you can do to make a difference. This will help you feel as though you have more control in your life.
  3. 3
    Stop expecting to be rewarded for your suffering. Some people volunteer to endure pain and neglect with the hope of being rewarded somehow. People feel that being a martyr will lead to things like recognition, love, or other rewards. Think about how you expect to be rewarded for your martyrdom.[8]

    • Think about how often you talk to other people about your martyrdom. Do you think that you use this behavior to get attention from others?
    • Many people are relationship martyrs. You may find yourself putting a lot more into a relationship than you’re receiving. Oftentimes, people feel giving and giving to difficult people will eventually result in those people changing and becoming more loving and caring.
    • Ask yourself whether this has ever really happened. In most cases, giving more than you receive in a relationship does not result in the other person changing. It only builds resentments and frustrations on your end.
  4. 4
    Identify your unspoken expectations. People with martyr syndrome often expect a lot from others. You have ideas of how people should behave that are not always reasonable or realistic. If you find yourself frequently feeling victimized by others, pause and check your own expectations.[9]

    • Think about demands you place on others. Ask yourself what you expect from people around you and whether these demands are reasonable.
    • For example, in a romantic relationship, you may expect your partner to match you in certain ways. Say you prefer working out with your partner, but your partner prefers to work out alone. You may find yourself assuming you’re the victim. You may feel your partner should want to spend time with you so they’re automatically in the wrong.
    • Ask yourself whether this is really reasonable. If you’re unsure, you can ask a trusted family member or friend for their perspective.
  5. 5
    Examine your beliefs. Martyrdom is closely associated with certain religious and philosophical beliefs. If you have martyr syndrome, it may be related to your underlying worldview. Think about whether you choose to suffer for your beliefs. Consider whether you’re trying to live up to an impossible standard or demanding perfection from yourself.

    • If you feel guilt, spend some time examining how you view the world. Your worldview could contribute to your martyr syndrome.[10]
Part 3

Cutting Back on Your Work Load Download Article

  1. 1
    Lower your standards. Many people with martyr syndrome feel overwhelmed or victimized because they both take on too much and expect a lot from those around them. Ask yourself what you expect from yourself and examine whether this is realistic.

    • What you expect of yourself is often the same as what you expect from others. Adjust your expectations to a more reasonable level. This will improve both your relationship with yourself and others.
    • Accept not everything will turn out the way you wanted. If you expected yourself to complete a certain amount of work within the day, do not beat yourself up if you miss the mark. Instead, appreciate what you did get done.
    • Appreciate others for what they do, even if they don’t meet your exact expectations. For example, say your spouse brings home the wrong brand of toothpaste from the store. Instead of getting angry, be appreciative that you have toothpaste at all and this is one less thing for you to do.
  2. 2
    Focus on spending quality time with others. Rather than running yourself ragged all the time, spend time with others. This will help you learn to appreciate people in and of themselves, regardless of whether they meet your expectations. Strive for small relaxing interactions, such as chatting over lunch, as well as taking a day off to unwind with friends and family members.[11]

    • Keep in mind that not everyone is good company. If certain family members or classmates make you feel bad about yourself, don’t spend time with them.
    • Focus on spending time with people who make you feel happy and relaxed. Avoid people who drain too much of your energy, as interactions with them may leave you tired.
  3. 3
    Seek help from others. People with martyr complex may convince themselves they cannot ask for help. If you feel the inclination to ask someone for help, you may find yourself making excuses as to stop yourself from reaching out. For example, you may convince yourself that person is too busy or that you don’t want to burden them. Remember everyone needs help sometimes and there’s no shame in reaching out.

    • The worst that can happen is that someone will say “No.” Even if someone is unable to help, they probably will not think less of you for having to ask for help. Almost everyone has needed to reach out to others for help at some point.
  4. 4
    Learn to set effective boundaries. Every time you say yes when you mean no, you’re sabotaging yourself. You can learn to politely and respectfully decline to do what people ask you do. Before you agree to someone’s request, ask yourself some questions. Ask yourself if you truly have time. Commitment should make you feel good about yourself and not bitter and overwhelmed.[12]

    • You can say “no” without ever actually saying “no.” For example, you can say, “Sorry, I can’t commit to that right now” or “I already have plans.”
    • Think about the commitments that really make you happy and prioritize them over things that drain you. Say “Yes” that things that will make you feel personally fulfilled and pass on other commitments.
  5. 5
    Do something for yourself every day. Even if it’s something small, doing something for yourself every day can help you feel like less of martyr. Find ways to give yourself a small treat. For example, take half an hour before bed every night to unwind with a book.[13]

    • Make it a ritual or a habit, such as spending an extra 5 minutes in the shower, relaxing, or meditating in the morning.
    • Consider treating yourself to something bigger once every week or so, such as a manicure or bubble bath.

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  • Stop trying to be perfect. Rather, aspire to be better than you were yesterday. Nobody is perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. Correct the mistake and move on.

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About This Article

Elizabeth Weiss, PsyD
Co-authored by:
Clinical Psychologist
This article was co-authored by Elizabeth Weiss, PsyD. Dr. Elizabeth Weiss is a licensed clinical psychologist in Palo Alto, California. She received her Psy.D. in 2009 at Palo Alto University’s PGSP-Stanford PsyD Consortium. She specializes in trauma, grief, and resilience, and helps people reconnect with their full self after difficult and traumatic experiences. This article has been viewed 554,565 times.
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Co-authors: 36
Updated: July 22, 2021
Views: 554,565
Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 554,565 times.

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How to Mend a Relationship With an Estranged Child

Being estranged from your adult son or daughter can be extremely painful. Repairing a relationship is possible, but it takes time and will require patience. As the parent to your son or daughter, recognize that the first steps to repair the relationship fall on you to try to initiate contact, whether or not you believe you did anything wrong to cause the estrangement. Honor the boundaries your adult child has set with regards to your relationship and do not push back against them, but set your own boundaries as well. Learn to accept your adult child for who they are, and acknowledge their independence and ability to make their own choices.

Method 1

Reaching Out to Your Child

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    Be clear on what went wrong. Before you attempt to reconnect with your child, it may be helpful to find out why your adult child is upset or angry with you. You may be able to get the information directly from your child, or you may need to find out from someone else who knows the situation. In order to mend fences, find out the problem first.[1]

    • Once you have a sense of what has gone wrong, you will have some time to think through your next steps, and what you want to communicate to your son or daughter.
    • Reach out to your adult child and ask. You could say, “Renee, I know you aren’t speaking to me right now, and I would like to know what I have done to hurt you. Could you please let me know? It’s okay if you don’t want to talk to me, but please write or email. I can’t fix the problem if I don’t know what it is.”
    • If you do not hear a response from your son or daughter, you could get in touch with another family member or mutual friend who might know what’s going on. You could say, “Jack, have you talked to your sister lately? She’s not speaking to me, and I can’t find out what the problem is. Do you know what’s going on?”
    • While discovering the reason behind the estrangement would be optimal, be aware that you may not be able to find out what is going on. However, don’t let that stop you from pursuing reconnecting with your child.
  2. 2
    Do some self-reflection. Spend some time thinking about the reasons behind the estrangement. Was it triggered by something from the past? Has there recently been a huge change of life that caused the rift (such as a death in the family, or a birth of a child)? Perhaps you even refused to communicate with your child for a period of time, and now find your child unwilling to communicate with you.

    • Keep in mind that many adult children become estranged from their parents because of their parents’ broken marriage. Children from a broken marriage experienced their parents prioritizing their happiness over the needs of the child (even if the divorce was for the best). Often, in these types of situations parents may speak badly about the other parent not realizing that their children are absorbing everything that is being said. This can have a drastic negative effect on the type of relationship an adult child may have with their parents. Especially, if there was was one parent that had little to no contact during the child’s upbringing. Adult children of divorce may be dealing with the pain of feeling like a low priority to their parents.
  3. 3
    Put the ball in your own court. Whether you have done anything wrong or not, parents are generally the ones who have to take the first steps toward reconciling with their estranged children. Look past the unfairness of the issue and leave your ego behind. If you want to reconnect with your child, know that you will need to be the one to reach out…and continue reaching out.[2]

    • Whether your child is fourteen or forty, they still want to know that they are loved and valued by their parents. A way to show you love and value them is that you are willing to fight for your relationship. Keep this in mind if you struggle with the unfairness of the burden of work it takes to reconnect.
  4. 4
    Contact your child. While you may want to meet with them in person right away, it may feel less intrusive to your son or daughter if you reach out via phone call, email, or letter. Honor their need for distance and give them the opportunity to respond at the time of their choosing. Be patient and allow a few days for your child’s response.

    • Rehearse what you want to say before making a phone call. Be prepared to leave a voicemail, too. You could say, “Tommy, I would really like for us to get together to talk about how you’re feeling. Would you be willing to meet with me sometime?”
    • Send an email or text message. You could write something like, “I understand you’re dealing with a lot of pain right now, and I am so sorry that I have hurt you. When you are ready, I hope you would be willing to meet with me to talk about it. Please let me know when you are. I love and miss you.”
  5. 5
    Write a letter. Your child may be unwilling to meet with you. If that’s the case, you could decide to write them a letter. Apologize for the hurt you’ve caused, and acknowledge that you understand why they feel the way they do.

    • Writing a letter can be therapeutic for you, too. It clarifies your feelings and helps you regulate your emotions. Plus, you can take as much time as you need to get your words just the way you want them.[3]
    • Suggest that the two of you meet when they are ready. You could write, “I know you are upset right now, but I hope that, in the future, we can get together and talk about this. My door is always open.”
  6. 6
    Accept limits they set. Your adult child may be open to communicating with you, but not be ready for a face-to-face meeting (and may never be). They may only want to email you or talk on the phone. Avoid guilt-tripping your child while keeping the door open for future encounters down the road.

    • If you are in an email-only relationship with your adult child, you could write, “I’m very happy that we are communicating via email these days. I hope we can get to the point where we feel comfortable reconnecting in person, but no pressure.”
Method 2

Having a First Conversation

  1. 1
    Arrange for a meeting. If your adult child is willing to talk with you in person, get together in a public place for a meal. Sharing a meal in public is a good idea, as you will be more likely to hold your emotions in check, and sharing a meal with someone is an act of building community.[4]

    • Make sure it is just the two of you meeting. Do not bring your spouse or other supportive person along. It may give your son or daughter the sense that they are being ganged up on.
  2. 2
    Let your adult child lead the conversation. Listen to your child’s concerns without arguing against them or becoming defensive. They may also come to your meeting expecting an apology right away. If you sense that is the case, do so.[5]

    • It may be helpful to start off your meeting with an apology to let your adult child know that you understand that you caused them pain, and give them a sense of “leveling the playing field.” Once you apologize, you could ask your child to tell you more about what they have been feeling.
  3. 3
    Listen to your child without judgment. Remember that their point of view is valid, even if you disagree with it. Healing can occur when a person feels listened to and understood, and you remain open to their perspective.[6]

    • Listening without judgment and defensiveness allows a person to be honest in their responses. What you hear may be extremely hurtful to you, but understand that your child probably needs to say it and get their feelings out.
    • You could say, “I feel so terrible that I made you feel this way, and I want to understand. Can you tell me more?”
  4. 4
    Shoulder your share of the blame. Understand that you can’t get far in reconciliation without acknowledging how you may have contributed to problem. Adult children want their parents to take responsibility for their actions. Be willing to do so, whether or not you believe you are/were wrong.[7]

    • While you may not understand why your son or daughter is upset with you, recognize that they are. Don’t try to defend your behavior. Listen instead, and apologize for causing them pain.[8]
    • Try to understand where your child is coming from. Showing empathy doesn’t mean you agree with someone, just that you understand their perspective. Understanding their perspective is an important part of resolving conflict.[9]
    • You could say, “I know I pushed you a lot growing up. I wanted you to be successful. But I can understand how you thought that I was never happy with you. That is not at all what I intended, and it is not at all true. But I can see how my behavior made you think that.”
  5. 5
    Avoid discussing your feelings about the estrangement. While it may seem unfair, now is not the time to bring up your sadness and pain around not being able to communicate with your child. Recognize that they needed some space to deal with their emotions and sort some things out. Bringing up your feelings of sadness, anger, and resentment may make your adult child feel like they are being guilt-tripped, and they may feel less likely to re-enter into a relationship.

    • You could say something like, “I’ve missed talking to you, but I know sometimes you need to take some space.”
    • Do not say anything like, “I’ve been so depressed that you haven’t called me” or “Do you know the agony that I have been through, not hearing from you?”
  6. 6
    Apologize. A good apology must clearly name what you did wrong (so that the listener knows you understand), express remorse, and offer to make amends in some way. Offer your son or daughter a heartfelt apology that acknowledges the pain you have caused them. Remember, apologize even if you believe your actions to be correct. The point is now about your child’s pain, not whether someone is right or wrong.[10]

    • You could say, “Tina, I’m so sorry I hurt you so badly. I know you had to deal with a lot when I was drinking. I feel terrible that I made so many mistakes in your childhood. I understand you wanting to keep your distance from me, but I hope we can work through it.”
    • Do not make any attempts to justify your action when apologizing, even if you believe you have a legitimate excuse for the action you took. For example, “I’m sorry I slapped you five years ago, but I did it because you talked back to me,” is not an apology and puts the other person on the defensive.
    • Remember that an effective, genuine apology apologizes for your action rather than someone else’s reaction. For example, “I’m sorry that my behavior hurt you,” is an effective apology. “I’m sorry if you got hurt,” is not. Never use “if” in an apology.[11]
  7. 7
    Consider family therapy. If your adult child is willing, you may wish to seek out family therapy together in order to discuss your feelings in the presence of a trained professional. A marriage and family therapist will guide family members to identify dysfunctional family behaviors and develop their own solutions to a problem. Family therapy also works to acknowledge and enhance the connections family members have with each other.[12]

    • Family therapy is generally short-term and focuses on one problem plaguing the family. You or your child may be encouraged to see a therapist separately to focus on individual concerns.
    • To find a marriage and family therapist, you could ask your family doctor for recommendations, ask your community resource center or health department, or look online for a therapist near you.
Method 3

Respecting and Establishing Boundaries

  1. 1
    Start slowly. Resist the urge to jump back into a relationship. In most cases, a broken relationship won’t mend overnight. Depending on whether the root cause of the estrangement is mild or severe, it could take weeks, months, or even years to return to “normal.” You may also find a new normal.[13]

    • Keep in mind that you may need to have several hard conversations about the estrangement as both of you process your feelings. It is unlikely that you will have just one conversation, and then everything will be back the way it was.
    • Increase contact slowly. Meet your child alone in public places at first. Don’t invite them to loaded family events, like holiday parties, unless they seem ready and willing to attend.
    • You could say, “We’d love to have you join us at Thanksgiving, but I completely understand if you don’t want to. No hard feelings if you don’t, I know you need to take your time.”
  2. 2
    Recognize that your child is an adult. Your child is now an adult, capable of making their own decisions. You may not agree with some of their decisions, but you need to let your adult child be independent and live their own life. Meddling in your adult child’s life may have caused your child to put some distance between the two of you.[14]

    • Don’t offer unsolicited advice. Resist the urge to fix your child’s life and let them make their own mistakes.
  3. 3
    Avoid giving parenting advice. Parents can be easily upset by outside parenting advice, however well-intentioned it was meant to be. Do not offer your opinion unless asked. You’ve already raised your children, now give the next generation a chance to raise theirs.[15]

    • Let your child know that you will respect and defer to their parenting values and wishes. For example, if your grandchildren are limited to an hour of TV a day, let their parents know that you will abide by that rule in your house as well, or ask them first if it the rule needs to be broken.
  4. 4
    Seek counseling for yourself. Dealing with an estranged child can be a very stressful, painful event in your life. It may be worth seeking out a qualified mental health professional to help you deal with your emotions and develop effective communication and coping strategies.[16]

    • You may wish to find a therapist who specializes in family issues. Keep in mind, however, that your individual therapist may refer you to a different therapist if you would like to have you and your child work out your issues with a counselor present. This is so the counselor can remain objective.
    • You may also be able to find assistance in online support group forums. You will be able find other people dealing with similar issues, and can talk through your problems and share success stories.
  5. 5
    Be persistent, but not overbearing. If your son or daughter is refusing to respond to your attempts to communicate, keep trying. Send cards, write emails, or leave voicemails, letting them know you are thinking about them and want to talk.[17]

    • Make sure you give the person some space, however, and respect their need for privacy and distance. Contact them no more frequently than once a week, and reduce contact if you find out that your adult child finds this intrusive. But continue to stay in touch.
    • You could say, “Hi, Marisa, just wanted to say a quick hello and let you know I was thinking about you. I hope you’re doing well. I miss you. You know you can come to me whenever you want to talk. I love you.”
    • Don’t try to visit them. Acknowledge their boundaries and keep up with less intrusive forms of contact.
  6. 6
    Let go if necessary. Your adult child may see even your less intrusive attempts at getting in touch as overstepping boundaries and being too much. They may still not want to have anything to do with you, even if you have apologized and acknowledged your actions. In that case, it may be best to come to a place of acceptance for the sake of your own mental health, and step back from pursuing a relationship.

    • Put the ball in your child’s court. Send a note or leave a voicemail that says something like, “Peter, I understand that you want me to stop contacting you. Though it upsets me, I will respect that and will not contact you after this. If you ever want to reconnect, I will be here, but I will honor your wishes and not be in touch again. I love you.”
    • Keep in mind that reconciliation may be difficult in cases of substance abuse, mental illness, or an unhealthy relationship in your child’s marriage/partnership (for example, your child is married to a controlling spouse). Your estrangement may only be the result of these problems, but you may not be able to do anything about it until your child addresses these underlying issues.
    • If your child requests no contact at all, consider finding a therapist to help you work through your grief. This is difficult terrain to navigate, and you may find yourself needing additional support.
Method 4

Accepting Who They Are

  1. 1
    Accept that your child sees life from a different perspective. You all may have lived in the same house and spent most of your days together, but one person’s perception of a situation could still be completely different than another’s. Acknowledge that your adult child’s recollection or perspective is just as valid as yours.

    • A person’s view of the situation may be totally different based on age, the power dynamic, or closeness of relationships. For example, moving to a new city may have been great for you, but your children may have struggled because they had no choice but to tag along.[18]
    • Separate realities are a part of family life. For example, when you were a child, your parents may have taken you to a museum. Their memory of the day may be of interesting exhibits and a fun family outing. You may remember being too hot in your coat and that the dinosaur skeletons scared you. Neither your or your parents’ recollection is invalid, they are just different points of view.[19]
  2. 2
    Accept each other’s differences. You may be estranged because one, the other, or both of you do not approve of the other’s life choices. While you may not be able to do much about your child’s attitude toward you, you can show your child that you accept them for who they are, no matter what.[20]

    • Take steps to show your child your change of heart. For example, if your child is gay, and you belong to a conservative congregation, find a congregation that is more liberal and accepting.
    • You could let your child know that you are reading a certain book to try to understand their point of view.
    • If your child is not speaking to you because they disapprove of your life choices, it will be more difficult. Be firm and confident in who you are, and keep showing them you love them. Do your best to keep communicating with them and looking for opportunities to see them.
  3. 3
    Respect their right to disagree with you. You don’t have to change your opinions or beliefs, just refrain from showing disrespect for theirs. You can disagree with someone and still respect and love them. Not everyone’s opinion needs to be the same.[21]

    • Honor their differences of opinion as best you can. If you are religious and your adult child is an atheist, for example, you could decide to skip church the weekend they are visiting.
    • Find different topics of conversation than your contentious issues. If your adult child starts to engage you in conversation on topics that have made you argue in the past, you could say, “Will, let’s agree to disagree on this for right now. I think the only thing we do when we talk about this is upset each other.”

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About This Article

Mental Health America
Co-authored by:
Non-Profit Organization
This article was co-authored by Mental Health America. Mental Health America is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting overall mental health for all. Their work is guided by the Before Stage 4 philosophy – that mental health conditions should be treated long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process. This article has been viewed 349,503 times.
114 votes – 81%
Co-authors: 20
Updated: May 6, 2021
Views: 349,503
Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 349,503 times.

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How to Be Optimistic

Is your glass half-empty or half-full? How you answer this question may reflect your outlook on life, your attitude toward yourself, and whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic — and it may even affect your health.[1] [2] .Every life has its ups and downs, but having an optimistic outlook on life has been found to have a significant positive effect on quality of life, such as one’s mental and physical well-being. Optimism is also considered a key component in managing stress.[3] Optimism doesn’t mean ignoring the hard or challenging things in life, but it does mean changing how you approach them. If you’ve always had a pessimistic worldview it can be difficult to re-orient your perspective, but it is possible to highlight the positive in your life with a little patience and mindfulness.

Part 1

Learning to Embrace Your Emotions Download Article

  1. Image titled Be Optimistic Step 1
    1

    Recognize the good and bad in your life and examine how you’ve been affected by each. Optimism doesn’t mean you have to feel “happy” all the time. In fact, trying to force feelings of happiness during potentially traumatic experiences can be unhealthy.[4] Instead, attune yourself to the full range of emotions in your life, accepting that the negative as well as positive feelings are a natural part of human experience. Trying to repress a certain type of emotion can cause severe emotional distress.[5] Not focusing more on one type of emotion than the other can actually help you become more adaptive and proactive in future unexpected situations.[6] This will increase your ability to be optimistic and resilient in the face of uncertainty.[7]

    • Negative feelings can become a conditioned habit over time. Avoid blaming yourself for negative emotions and associations. Blame is unhelpful because it doesn’t look forward to how you can grow; it looks backward at what has already happened.[8]
    • Instead, focus on being mindful of when these negative emotions occur. A journal could help you do this. Write down when you experience negative feelings or thoughts, then examine their contexts and explore alternative ways of responding to them.[9]
    • For example, imagine that someone cuts you off in traffic. You respond by feeling angry, honking your horn, and perhaps yelling at the driver even though s/he can’t hear you. You could write in your journal what happened, how it made you feel, and what your immediate response was. Don’t judge yourself as “right” or “wrong,” just write down what happened.[10]
    • Next, take a step back and think about what you’ve written. Was your response in accordance with your values and the type of person you want to be? If not, what could you have done differently? What do you think you were really responding to? For example, perhaps you weren’t really angry at the driver; maybe you had a stressful day and allowed your stress to explode on that one person.
    • Look forward when you write these entries. Don’t use them just as a place to wallow in negative feelings. Think about what you can learn from the experience. What can you use to grow as a person? Can you use this experience to inform other experiences? If you encounter a similar situation next time, how might you respond in a way that is in line with your values? For example, perhaps realizing that you responded with anger because of your stressful day could help you realize that everyone makes mistakes and encourage you to feel more empathetic with other people the next time someone shows anger toward you. Having a pre-existing idea of how you want to respond to negative situations can also help you in the tough moments.[11]
  2. Image titled Be Optimistic Step 2
    2

    Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a key component of optimism because it encourages you to focus on acknowledging your emotions in the moment without judging them.[12] Often, negative reactions arise when we try to struggle against our feelings, or when we allow ourselves to become so blinded by our emotions that we forget that we can control how we respond to them.[13] Focusing on your breathing, accepting your body and your feelings, and learning from your emotions rather than denying them can help you become comfortable with yourself, which is important when those negative emotions arise.[14]

    • Mindfulness meditation has been shown by many studies to help with feelings of anxiety and depression.[15] It can actually reprogram the way your body responds to stress.
    • Look for mindfulness meditation classes in your community. You can also find guided meditations online, such as at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center[16] or BuddhaNet[17] . (And of course, there are several great tutorials on Wikihow.)
    • You don’t have to commit a huge amount of time to meditation to see its effects. Just a few minutes a day can help you become more aware and accepting of your emotions.[18]
  3. 3

    Identify whether your inner monologue is an optimist or a pessimist. Our inner monologue is a great indicator of whether we naturally take a positive or negative outlook on life. Pay attention to your inner monologue over the course of a day and see if any of the following forms of negative self-talk (that is, your inner monologue) are appearing regularly: [19]

    • It can help to keep a “thought log” throughout the day. Write down any negative thoughts you have, then come up with something more positive you can focus on instead.[20]
    • Magnifying the negative aspects of a situation and filtering out all of the positive ones.
    • Automatically blaming yourself for any negative situation or event.
    • Anticipating the worst in any given situation. The drive-through coffee shop gets your order wrong and you automatically think that the rest of your day will be a disaster. [21]
    • You see things only as good or bad (also known as polarization). In your eyes, there is no middle ground.
  4. 4

    Look for the positives in your life. It’s important to re-orient your inner monologue to focus on the positive aspects of both you as an individual and the world around you. Although positive thinking is only one of the steps towards becoming a true optimist, the effects of positive thinking for both your body and mind can be significant, such as: [22]

    • Increased life span
    • Lower rates of depression
    • Lower levels of distress
    • Improved immune system
    • Better psychological and physical well-being
    • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
    • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
  5. 5

    Remember that true optimism is different from blind optimism. Blind optimism occurs when an individual believes that nothing bad can happen. This can lead overconfidence and naivety, and it can lead to disappointment or even danger.[23] True optimism doesn’t just ignore challenges or pretend that negative feelings and experiences don’t exist. It acknowledges those challenges and then says, “I can work through those!”

    • For example, deciding to go skydiving without ever taking a lesson or reading up on the subject because “it’ll all work out” is an example of blind (and dangerous!) optimism. It isn’t realistic, and it doesn’t acknowledge that you have to work to overcome obstacles. A decision like this could put you in real danger.
    • A true optimist would look at skydiving and recognize that it’s a complex sport that requires a lot of training and safety precautions. Rather than getting discouraged by the amount of work required, an optimist would set a goal (“learn to skydive”) and then begin working toward it, confident that s/he can achieve it.
  6. 6

    Write yourself daily positive affirmations. Writing down short statements can help us believe in the potential of an action we want to accomplish. Jot down a few affirmations that remind you of what you’re trying to change about the way you see the world. Put them in places where you’ll see them every day, such as on your bathroom mirror, the inside of your locker, on your computer, and even taped to your shower wall. Examples of positive affirmations can be:[24]

    • “Anything is possible.”
    • “My circumstances do not create me, I create my circumstances.”
    • “The only thing I can control is my attitude towards life.”
    • “I always have a choice.”
  7. 7

    Avoid comparing yourself to others. It’s easy to be envious, but this can often lead to purely negative thinking (“They have more money than I do.”, “She runs faster than I do.”). Remember, there’s always someone who has it worse. Avoid negative comparisons with others, focusing instead on the positive. Studies suggest that complaining about one’s problems may be linked to depression and anxiety.[25]

    • Practicing gratitude in your daily life can be a great way to get out of the cycle of negative comparisons.[26] Write letters thanking the people in your life or tell them in person. A focus on these positive elements in your life can dramatically increase your mood and feelings of well-being.[27]
    • Say “thank you” silently to yourself as soon as you wake up in the morning. While you don’t have to have anything to be grateful for, repeating this mantra will put you in a positive mindset.[28]
    • Consider keeping a gratitude journal. Research has found that men and women who wrote a few lines each week about things that had occurred recently that made them feel grateful tended to feel more optimistic and better about their lives overall.[29]
  8. 8

    Work on improving your perspective in 1 or 2 areas of your life. Pessimism often stems from feelings of helplessness or lack of control. Identify one or two key aspects that you’d like to change in your life and work on improving them. This will help restore your faith in your own power and ability to effect change in your daily life.[30]

    • See yourself as a cause, not an effect. Optimists are known for their tendency to believe that negative events or experiences can be overcome by their own effort and abilities.
    • Start small. Don’t feel you have to take on everything at once.
    • Positive thinking can lead to positive results. In one study, training male basketball players to attribute positive results—for example, making a free throw—to their ability and negative results to their lack of effort was found to significantly improve their subsequent performance.[31]
  9. 9

    Smile as often as you can. Studies have shown that putting a cheerful smile on your face can actually make you feel happier and more optimistic about the present and future.[32]

    • In one study, subjects who were asked to hold a pen in their mouth (causing them to make the facial muscle movements characteristic of a smile) rated cartoons to be funnier than other subjects did, even though they were unaware that it was only the smile that was boosting their reaction. Consciously changing the facial muscles to reflect a positive emotion sends a similar message to your brain, elevating your mood.[33]
Part 2

Increasing Your Optimism Stores Download Article

  1. 1

    Realize how you are connected with the world around you. Optimism isn’t something that simply originates inside your own brain and emanates outward; it grows between you and the world in which you live. Learn to recognize those aspects of your environment that you aren’t happy with and invest your time and energy into changing them.

    • Work toward changing the world for the better in concrete ways, one interaction at a time. This could take the form of joining a social justice movement or political cause that is important to you.
    • Remember, however, that there is a wealth of diverse cultures in the world, of which yours is only one. Don’t get caught up in the idea that your culture or way of doing things is superior or the only way. Embracing the diversity in the world and working to help others on their own terms can teach you to see beauty and positivity in many things.[34]
    • On a micro scale, even rearranging concrete things like your furniture can help break up old, unhelpful patterns of behavior and allow you to form new ones. Studies have shown that breaking a habit is easier if you change up your routines, because this activates new areas of your brain.[35] [36]
    • This goes hand in hand with learning to accept and work with a broad range of emotions, as it’s impossible to experiment with what you never have to encounter. Instead of trying to micro-manage your emotions by living out the same habits every day, experiment with each interaction and try to find ways to improve things about the environment you share with others.
    • Build goals and expectations for the future from your concrete interactions with other people and the environment. In doing so, you can avoid creating unrealistic expectations for yourselves and others.[37]
  2. 2

    Try thinking about what your life would be like without the positives. This exercise comes from researchers at Berkeley, who recommend that you take 15 minutes once every week to practice. Thinking about how your life would be different without something you love or are grateful for can help you cultivate optimism by countering the natural tendency to assume the good things in life are “givens.” Remembering that we are lucky for every positive thing that has occurred, and that those things were not inevitable, can foster an attitude of grateful positivity.[38] [39]

    • Start by focusing on a single positive event in your life, such as an achievement, a trip, or anything that’s meaningful to you.
    • Remember the event, and think about the circumstances that allowed it to happen.
    • Consider the ways in which those circumstances might have been different. For example, you might not have learned the language that led you to take that trip, or you might not have read the paper the day you found the announcement of the job you now love.
    • Write down all of the possible events and decisions that might have gone differently and kept this positive event from occurring.
    • Imagine what your life would be like if this event had not happened. Imagine what you would be missing if you did not have all the other positive things that have been created by that event.
    • Come back to remembering that the event did happen. Reflect on the positives it’s brought to your life. Voice gratitude that these things, that did not have to happen, worked out to bring you this joyful experience.[40]
  3. 3

    Find the silver linings. It’s the natural human tendency to focus on what goes wrong in our lives rather than what has gone right. Counter this tendency by examining a negative event and finding the “bright side.” Research has shown this ability to be a key component of optimism, and it also helps with stress, depression, and your relationships with others. Try it for ten minutes a day for three weeks, and you’ll be surprised how much more optimistic you’ve become.[41]

    • Start by listing 5 things that make you feel like your life is good in some way today.[42]
    • Then, think about a time when something did not go as expected, or caused you pain or frustration. Briefly write down what that situation was.
    • Look for 3 things about that situation that may help you see the “silver lining.”
    • For example, you might have had car trouble that made you late for work because you had to catch the bus. That isn’t a pleasant situation, but you might consider the following as potential bright sides:
      • You met new people on the bus that you don’t normally interact with
      • You were able to catch the bus, which is much cheaper than having to take a taxi to work
      • Your car is fixable
    • Even if they’re small things, make sure to find at least 3. This will help you become practiced in changing your interpretation and response to events.
  4. 4
    Spend time on activities that make you smile or laugh. Give yourself permission to laugh. The world is full of humor: immerse yourself in it! Watch TV comedies, attend a stand-up comedy routine, buy a joke book. Everyone has a different sense of humor, but focus on finding things that make you laugh. Go out of your way to make yourself smile at least once a day. Remember, laughter is a natural stress reliever.[43]
  5. 5

    Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Optimism and positive thinking have been closely connected to exercise and physical well-being. In fact, exercise has been shown to be a natural mood enhancer, helped by the endorphins produced when you engage in physical activity.[44]

    • Engage in some kind of physical activity at least three times a week. Physical activity doesn’t have to be a workout at the gym. Go for a walk with your dog. Use the stairs at work instead of the elevator. Any amount of physical movement can help to improve your mood.
    • Limit mood-altering substances, such as drugs or alcohol. Studies have found significant links between pessimism and the abuse of drugs and/or alcohol.
  6. 6

    Surround yourself with friends and family who lighten your mood. For example, play dress up with your kids or go to a concert with your sister. Spending time with other people can often be a great way of lessening isolation and loneliness, which can produce feelings of pessimism or skepticism.[45]

    • Make sure those in your life are positive and supportive people. Not everyone you encounter in life will have the same orientation and expectations for life as you, and that’s entirely okay. However, if you find that another person’s attitudes and behaviors negatively affect your own, consider detaching yourself from that person. Humans are extremely susceptible to “emotional contagion,” in which the feelings and attitudes of those around us affect how we feel ourselves.[46] Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways. [47]
    • Don’t be afraid to experiment with your relationships. You never know whether someone, even if s/he is very different from you, may bring something valuable to your life. Consider the process a kind of chemistry. It’s important to find the right combination of people in order to cultivate an optimistic outlook towards the future.[48]
    • A change of mood doesn’t mean a change of personality. Being an optimist is not the same as being an extrovert. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be an optimist. In fact, trying to be someone you’re not could leave you feeling depleted and sad, not optimistic.
  7. 7

    Be positive in your actions toward others. Optimism is infectious. Showing positivity and compassion in your interaction with others not only benefits you, it can create a “ripple effect” where others are encouraged to be positive towards even more people.[49] This is why charity work or volunteer activities have long been associated as a significant factor in mood improvement.[50] Whether it’s buying a stranger a cup of coffee or serving earthquake victims in another country, positivity in your actions toward others pays off in increased optimism.

    • Charity work has been cited as a natural boost for self-confidence and self-esteem, which may help battle feelings of pessimism or helplessness.
    • Serving or giving to others can also make you feel good about your contribution to the world. This is especially true if you can make your contributions in person, rather than anonymously or online.[51]
    • Volunteering can help you make new friends and contacts, surrounding you with a positive community that can boost optimism.[52]
    • Smiling at strangers is a cultural behavior. For example, American culture generally considers it as friendly, but Russian culture views it with suspicion.[53] Feel free to smile at others in public, but be aware that they may have different traditions than you do, and don’t get offended if they don’t return the gesture (or even seem disturbed by it).[54]
  8. 8
    Realize that optimism is a cycle. The more you engage in positive thinking and action, the easier it will be to maintain the trend of optimism in your daily life.[55]

Expert Q&A

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    How can I be more positive in my daily life?

    Sandra Possing

    Life Coach
    Expert Answer

    Support wikiHow by unlocking this expert answer.

    I would recommend practicing gratitude as much as you can. Try repeating “thank you” silently to yourself every morning to put yourself in a positive mindset. You can also text a friend something you’re thankful for each day to remind yourself of good things in your life.

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Tips

  • Try to remember that validation can come from within. You don’t necessarily need accomplishments or praise to prove your self-worth.[56]

  • Everyone has times of weakness. You may stumble at times and go back into bad habits but remember past feelings of optimism and remind yourself that positive feelings are in reach. Remember: you are not alone. Reach out to your support networks for help in getting back to positive thinking.

  • Smile and look at the mirror. According to facial recognition theory, this can help you to remain happy and maintain a positive flow of thoughts.

  • Count the positives and negatives, or pros and cons in a situation. But focus on the positives.

  • If you’re trying to be optimistic about a certain event- like that college acceptance letter, try to focus on the outcome. If you don’t get in what is something positive that came from it? Maybe you got into another good college that will be better for you in the long run or you learned something from it.

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Warnings

  • Don’t confuse pessimism with depression. Depression can be a serious medical condition and it is important to consult trained professionals if you think your negative outlook may be a sign of this condition.

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References

  1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950
  2. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_cynicism_can_hold_you_back
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894461/
  4. Kelley, T. M., & Pransky, J. (2013). Principles for realizing resilience: A new view of trauma and inner resilience. J Trauma Stress Disor Treat 2, 1, 2.
  5. http://www.personal.kent.edu/~dfresco/CBT_Readings/JCP_Blackledge_%26_Hayes_2001.pdf
  6. Todd, R. M., Cunningham, W. A., Anderson, A. K., & Thompson, E. (2012). Affect-biased attention as emotion regulation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16(7), 365–372. http://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/abstract/S1364-6613(12)00129-5?_returnURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1364661312001295%3Fshowall%3Dtrue
  7. Kelley, T. M., & Pransky, J. (2013). Principles for realizing resilience: A new view of trauma and inner resilience. J Trauma Stress Disor Treat 2, 1, 2.
  8. L’Abate, L. (2013). The Criterion of Concreteness: Seven Psychological Orphans in Search of a Theory—Toward a Neo-Behaviorist View. In Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy as a Science (pp. 131–147). Springer New York. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4614-4451-0_6
  9. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/201309/the-good-and-the-bad-journaling

About This Article

Sandra Possing
Co-authored by:
Life Coach
This article was co-authored by Sandra Possing. Sandra Possing is a life coach, speaker, and entrepreneur based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sandra specializes in one-on-one coaching with a focus on mindset and leadership transformation. Sandra received her coaching training from The Coaches Training Institute and has seven years of life coaching experience. She holds a BA in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. This article has been viewed 1,511,287 times.
52 votes – 93%
Co-authors: 165
Updated: May 6, 2021
Views: 1,511,287

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 1,511,287 times.

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How to Be Social at a Party

Whether you’re shy or you want to get better at being social, there are lots of things you can do to let loose and have fun at parties. Make some new friends by talking to people and getting to know them through conversation. Do an activity that gets people together to have fun. If you feel uncomfortable, bring friends to the party or hang out with people you know before you meet new friends.

Method 1

Making New Friends

  1. Image titled Be Social at a Party Step 1
    1

    Look approachable. If people are avoiding you or not coming up to talk to you, assess your body language. Notice if you’re crossing your body and try to uncross your arms and legs. If you’re looking down (or on your phone), look up and try to make eye contact with other people. Smile and look friendly.[1]

    • If you appear open and friendly, people are more likely to approach you.
    • Stand near the action of the room. If you’re standing far from the crowd, it may be harder for people to approach you.
  2. 2

    Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Find someone you don’t know and introduce yourself. Keep it simple and don’t overthink it. Once you know each other’s names, you can start a conversation or find things you have in common.

    • For example, go up to someone and say, “Hi, I’m Liv. What’s your name?”
  3. 3

    Ask questions to get to know people better. Asking questions shows that you’re interested and engaged in conversation. Make a point to ask open-ended questions so that the person can elaborate on their answers and build on the conversation. You’ll get to know each other better and keep the conversation going.

    • Ask questions such as, “How did you end up in Los Angeles?” and, “What kinds of things do you do for fun?”
  4. 4

    Talk to new people as they arrive. Meeting new people is easy if you’re the first person they interact with once they get to the party. If you notice somebody new show up, go up to them and introduce yourself. If there’s food at the party, offer to get them a drink or show them the food table.[2]

    • If you and the person are of age to drink alcohol, offer them a drink.
  5. 5

    Find ways to connect with people. Search for things about someone else you can connect with. You might find someone who attends the same school or university as you, is from your hometown, or is wearing a similar shirt. You have more things in common with most people than you might think.[3]

    • Comment on what you have in common. For example, say, “I like your shirt! I have the same one.”
  6. Move around the room. Avoid staying in the same place all night. Get in the habit of moving around and seeing the room from different vantage points. This will help you observe what other people are doing and if you want to meet other interesting people present at the party.[4]

    • Moving can help you seem alluring to others and might keep people guessing. Aim to move every 10-15 minutes or so.

      6
Method 2

Being Social in a Group

  1. 1

    Join groups slowly. If a bunch of people are together talking and you want to join the group, hang back for a moment and listen in to the conversation. You don’t need to walk up and contribute right away. Wait until you’re caught up on what’s being discussed, then chime in with a question or a statement.[5]

    • For example, if people are talking about sports, say, “I couldn’t believe the game last night!” If people are talking about school, say, “Who else has an exam tomorrow?”
  2. 2

    Start an activity to get people engaged. Especially if it’s a big party, it’s likely that people will break off into smaller groups. Suggest a card game or board game and invite people to play with you. It may be easy to talk to people while you play the game and being in a smaller circle can make you feel more comfortable.[6]

    • Put on some music and get people to dance.
    • Ask people you don’t know, “Do you want to play cards? We’re getting some teams together.”
  3. 3

    Include others in group conversations. If you successfully join a conversation with other people and someone new walks up, invite them to join the conversation. Let them know what everyone is discussing or invite them to contribute to the discussion.

    • For example, say, “Tim just got a puppy and we’re discussing dogs. What do you think about having a puppy?”
Method 3

Leaning on Friends to Feel More Comfortable

  1. 1

    Bring friends to the party. It’s easier to be social if you know other people at the party. Meet up with your friends at the party or go altogether. Knowing that your friends will be there can help you feel more comfortable and at ease.

    • Make sure you can invite people to the party and it’s not invite-only.
    • Invite people that you know well so you can talk comfortably around them.
  2. 2
    Hang out with friends to start. Assuming you’re not at the party alone, lean on the people you know. It’s okay if you feel shy or want to hang out with familiar people at first. Feel comfortable and at ease before you go meet new people.
  3. 3

    Meet friends of friends. If you want to meet new people but feel shy, have a friend introduce you to their friends. It can be nice to have something in common and know the same people. Ask a friend to introduce you to the people they know at the party.

    • For example, ask your friend, “Who do you know here? Can you introduce me?”
  4. 4

    Avoid socializing with only your friends. Parties are a great time to meet people. While it’s cool to be with your friends at the beginning, make an effort to meet other people as well. This will help you make new friends who you can hang out with at future parties.

    • You can always create a group that is a mix of new people and old friends.
Method 4

Dealing with Discomfort and Anxiety

  1. 1

    Ease your symptoms of anxiety. If you start to feel anxious before or during the party, focus on ways to decrease those feelings. Find a technique that works for you and do it before and during the party. You want to feel comfortable and put the focus on others, not yourself.[7]

    • For example, challenge negative thoughts about your performance, awkwardness, or that you don’t fit in. Replace your negative thoughts with rational and optimistic thoughts instead, such as “I’m an interesting person” and “Making a new friend can be fun.”
    • Take some deep breaths when you start to feel nervous or anxious.
  2. 2

    Build your social confidence. Building your social confidence helps you look and feel more comfortable in social settings. Tune into how others feel and look at their social cues so that you can respond better and focus less on yourself. Notice if someone looks bored, enthusiastic, or engaged and take their cues to continue the conversation or not. When you have a great interaction, remember what you did well and try it again.[8]

    • If you experience a failed interaction, don’t lose hope. Nobody has perfect interactions all of the time. Try again later or with someone else.
  3. 3

    Don’t give up if you feel uncomfortable. There may be times you feel awkward or uncomfortable, especially at the beginning of the party. Stick with it. Even if you feel uncomfortable, this doesn’t mean you will feel this way the rest of the night. Work through your discomfort.[9]

    • For example, set a challenge for yourself. Go talk to someone you haven’t met, even if it’s a brief conversation. Having a challenge can help you be motivated and push you slightly outside of your comfort zone.
    • If you couldn’t break the ice with the first person you met, remember that you might do better with the next person. The more people you meet, the easier it might become.
  4. 4

    Talk to a therapist if you struggle with social anxiety. If going to a party fills you with fear and you want to run away, you may suffer from social anxiety. Assess your symptoms and talk to a therapist about how you feel. Your therapist can help you manage your symptoms and help you to cope with potentially scary situations. Look for a therapist who specializes in working with people with anxiety disorders.[10]

    • Find a therapist by calling your insurance provider or contact a local mental health clinic. You can also ask your physician or a friend for a recommendation.

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Tips

  • If you’re of age and alcohol is served, drink a small amount of alcohol if this helps you feel comfortable and warm up.

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About This Article

Klare Heston, LCSW
Co-authored by:
Licensed Social Worker
This article was co-authored by Klare Heston, LCSW. Klare Heston is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker based in Clevaland, Ohio. With experience in academic counseling and clinical supervision, Klare received her Master of Social Work from the Virginia Commonwealth University in 1983. She also holds a 2-Year Post-Graduate Certificate from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, as well as certification in Family Therapy, Supervision, Mediation, and Trauma Recovery and Treatment (EMDR). This article has been viewed 468,821 times.
9 votes – 62%
Co-authors: 74
Updated: May 6, 2021
Views: 468,821
Categories: Party Socializing

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 468,821 times.

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How to Be Optimistic in a Pessimistic World

With the world as uncertain as it is at times, it’s easy to discover that you’re feeling more and more pessimistic about your life. And even if you’re generally an optimistic person, it’s easy to let your friends who are less hopeful drag you down. By changing your environment, your attitude, and your body, you can stay optimistic in a pessimistic world.

Method 1

Changing Your Attitude Download Article

  1. Image titled Elevate Your Self Esteem Step 13
    1
    See the good. Working to see the good in situations can help you feel more optimistic simply because you aren’t focused on the bad. Studies suggest that looking for the good in situations can decrease rates of cancer and mortality and can contribute to better cardiovascular health. When you find yourself focusing on the negative in a situation, try to think of what the opposite reaction would be and focus on that instead.

    • Say, for example, you get into a car accident that totals your car. Don’t focus on the fact that your car is totaled, focus on the fact that you have insurance and can get a replacement![1]
    • Try to contextualize challenges as a chance to learn, rather than seeing them as a setback. You can always learn something good, even from bad situations.[2]
  2. 2
    Spend less time on social media. Spending less time on social media makes it easier not to compare yourself to other people. Feeling jealous of other people can definitely put a damper on your ability to feel optimistic about your own life. On the other hand, limiting the time that you do feel that way can heIp you feel optimistic about your own situation.[3]

    • Studied have shown that spending too much time on sites like Facebook can actually make you feel depressed because you are comparing your daily life to the filtered, curated posts and images of your friends.[4]
  3. 3
    Be grateful. Write down the things you’re grateful for every day.[5] This forces you to think about the good things in your life. It makes it harder to focus on the bad – even if there’s a lot of it – and makes it easier to feel optimistic about the future.[6]

    • There are a lot of big things that are easy to be grateful for – maybe you got promoted at work, or your boss complimented you on your latest project. Being grateful for the little things is harder, but can help increase your optimism, too. So, for example, you might be grateful that it was a sunny day, or that you drank a great cup of coffee that morning.
    • Try repeating “thank you” silently to yourself in the morning right when you wake up to put you in a grateful mindset for the rest of the day.[7]
  4. 4
    Change the way you respond to negative situations.[8] When something bad happens to you, do you tend to blame yourself for it, or do you see how other factors could have contributed? Optimists tend to see bad things that happen to them as the result of other factors – when they lose a tennis match they think it’s because their opponent is great at tennis, not (as a pessimist would) because they’re a terrible tennis player.

    • Next time you find yourself framing a situation in a negative way, try to rework it in your head. Instead of thinking “No one wants to pair up with me in class because they think I’m stupid,” try thinking, “my classmates must not know how much I have to contribute to this project!”
    • This type of thinking refers to your locus of control. Those who have an internal locus believe that they influence events and their outcomes, while those who have an external locus believe things happen to them due to external forces. Those with an internal locus of control tend to feel more optimistic in their daily life.[9]
  5. 5
    Keep trying. Pessimists tend to give up on something very quickly if they don’t succeed right away. Optimists tend to work harder – and longer – at things, even if it’s not immediately clear that they’ll succeed. Another way to think of this is to “fake it til you make it.” Assuming that you will be successful at something one day – and continuing to work toward it – can make you feel a lot more optimistic about the eventual outcome.[10]
  6. 6
    Don’t catastrophize. Pessimists often catastrophize – in other words, they think of the absolute worst-case scenario for whatever situation they’re in, and they fixate on it like it’s the only resolution. Doing this over and over again can make the worst-case scenario seem like the logical outcome of any situation.[11]

    • Let’s say you get an after-hours email from your boss, saying that she wants to talk to you the following morning. You can catastrophize the situation by imagining the worst reason she might want to talk to you: you’re getting fired. Which will lead to you losing your home, which will lead to you having to live with your parents. You can avoid doing this, though! When you find yourself catastrophizing, take your fantasies of total ruin all the way to their ridiculous conclusion, and then ask yourself if it’s actually likely to happen that way. It’s unlikely they will.
  7. 7
    Stay present. It’s easy to live in the past and the future, particularly if you find it hard to be optimistic at times. If things have gone poorly for us in the past, we think our future will look the same way. By staying present and focusing on the task at hand, you can focus on one particular set of circumstances, feel more in control, and stay optimistic.[12]

    • Try asking yourself, “Is there a problem right now?” Take a look and see if a problem exists at that very moment. If there is no problem impacting you that second, try to focus on that instead of on potential future problems.
  8. 8
    Share your feelings.[13] It’s easy to feel pessimistic if you think you’re the only one who has gone through what you’re going through. Sharing your failures and successes with someone you trust – whether a family member, a friend, or a member of a support group – can make you feel less alone and therefore more hopeful.[14] [15]

    • You can start a conversation like this by saying something like, “I’ve really been feeling down lately because I can’t seem to get caught up on my finances. Every time I think I’ll pull ahead, another bill pops up! Has that ever happened to you? How did you deal with?”
    • Sharing good news can also make you feel more optimistic. You can try saying something like, “I got that promotion I’ve been hoping for! I’d love to celebrate with you!”
    • In both cases, asking for having someone to share either reinforces that you’re not alone or multiplies your happiness.
Method 2

Changing Your Environment Download Article

  1. 1
    Let some light in. If you find you’re feeling particularly pessimistic, check your surroundings. Are you sitting in semi-darkness, staring at your computer? Just turning on a light or opening the curtains can change your mood drastically!
  2. 2
    Go outside. Getting outside and getting some sunlight (even if it is not direct) for even 15 minutes a day can greatly improve our moods. Go for a short walk, sit on the porch, or water your grass. Getting that little bump in your mood can really make it easier to feel optimistic.[16]
  3. 3
    Make new friends. Do the friends you normally hang out with seem to always be complaining? Are they always pointing out the negative in every situation? This can make it hard to feel optimistic about anything! Either make new friends with people who are generally positive and upbeat, or spend more time with your already optimistic friends.
Method 3

Changing Your Body Download Article

  1. 1
    Get a physical. Schedule a physical or a wellness checkup with your doctor. Sometimes internal factors, like not getting enough vitamin D, can impact our moods. This is particularly common with people who don’t see a lot of sunlight. Let your doctor know you’ve been feeling down and you’re not sure why. They will check for common problems that may be keeping you pessimistic.[17]
  2. 2
    Work out. Pessimists tend to overthink things. If you find yourself falling into this behavior, do something that will take all of your attention, like working out, going for a walk, or even playing a game. If you’re fully engaged in what you’re doing, you won’t have time to worry![18]
  3. 3
    Eat balanced meals. Eating a balanced meal is the easiest way to take care of your body, and having a body that feels healthy and strong is an easy way to feel optimistic![19]

    • A balanced diet should include protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, minerals, and lots of water!
    • When considering portions for a healthy diet, focus on having about half of your plate filled with fruits or veggies and the other half split between lean protein and whole grains.
    • Easy substitutions can make it easier to eat a healthy diet. Try nonfat or 1% milk instead of 2%. If you eat a really heavy meal at breakfast or lunch, consider eating lighter fare for the rest of the day.[20]
  4. 4
    Smile more. Studies show that smiling actually releases serotonin, the hormone generally responsible for happiness. Finding little reasons to smile, even in the middle of a bad day, can make you feel happier and therefore more optimistic.[21]

    • Smiling also makes you seem more welcoming to others. Meeting new people who are drawn to that sort of energy can have a good effect on you, since they’re likely to be optimistic people, too.
Method 4

Dealing with a Pessimistic World Download Article

  1. 1
    Volunteer. As scary as the world can seem, it’s easy to feel like things will never change and there’s nothing you can do about it. But you can! Volunteer your time at an organization that supports the things you believe in. Feeling like you’re actually helping make the world a better place is a good way to feel less pessimistic about the world.

    • Websites like VolunteerMatch.org, Idealist.org, and HandsOn Network are all good places to start when you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity.[22]
  2. 2
    Unplug for a day. The 24-hour news cycle can make it seem like bad things are happening all the time, and it can make the world seem like a pretty pessimistic place. If you’re feeling down and overly pessimistic, try unplugging for the day: no internet, no social media, no phone. This can help you recharge and focus on the good things in your life.[23]

    • Going to the park (if it’s nice outside) or a library (if it’s not) and spending some time reading a book is a good way to unplug without getting bored. Getting lost in someone else’s world for a while can help you feel less pessimistic.
    • Playing a game with your friends – football, a board game, cards – is a good way to entertain yourself without relying on electronics.
  3. 3
    Practice self care.[24] Practicing self care basically means making sure you take good care of yourself and plan some “me” time. When the world feels particularly pessimistic, it’s so easy to focus on the bad and forget to take of yourself. Self care is always important, but it’s critical to make some time for it when you’re stressed or feeling burnt out. Schedule some time for yourself on those days, and engage in your favorite self-care activities.

    • A lot of the steps above are examples of self care: working out, eating a balanced diet, going outside.
    • Making a playlist of your favorite upbeat music and listening to it when you’re feeling pessimistic is another great example of practicing self-care.[25]

Expert Q&A

  • Question
    What are ways I can be more optimistic?

    Leah Morris

    Life Coach
    Expert Answer
    Know that it’s okay for bad things to happen and to have some negative feelings from it. It helps to reevaluate these situations to find the positive aspects of them.
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References

About This Article

Paul Chernyak, LPC
Co-authored by:
Licensed Professional Counselor
This article was co-authored by Paul Chernyak, LPC. Paul Chernyak is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Chicago. He graduated from the American School of Professional Psychology in 2011. This article has been viewed 19,742 times.
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Updated: August 9, 2021
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How to Control Perfectionism

https://www.wikihow.com/Control-Perfectionism

The desire to excel is usually a good thing, but there’s a difference between trying your best and demanding perfection of yourself. Perfectionists can be high achievers, but their efforts can also cause low self-esteem, misspent time, and strained relationships. The key is to find ways to give an effort you can be proud of without demanding the impossible of yourself. Instead of striving for “perfect,” strive for “good enough.”

Method 1

Replacing Perfectionist Thoughts and Words Download Article

  1. Image titled Control Perfectionism Step 1
    1
    Remove “should” from your vocabulary. Perfectionists think and talk about what they “should” be doing instead of what they are doing, or what they “should” do or never do. These types of absolutes set you up for inevitable failure.[1]

    • Instead of saying “I should be working on next week’s presentation instead of sitting out here in the garden,” allow yourself some time to relax and schedule in some work time for later.
    • Rather than telling yourself “I should get every question right on this test,” try “I’ll do my best and look carefully to avoid silly mistakes.”
  2. 2
    Stop using black-and-white language. Perfectionists set up scenarios in which the only possible results are either “perfection” or “failure,” with no middle ground. This makes it impossible to achieve a goal with a few inevitable flaws, and makes you feel like a “loser” even when you accomplish a task to someone else’s satisfaction.[2]

    • Add words like “acceptable” and “good enough” to your vocabulary, and use them when evaluating tasks and your results.
  3. 3
    Don’t view everything in catastrophic terms. Perfectionists tend to create the worst case scenario in regards to failure. They’ll say things like “If I don’t get this just right, everyone will hate me” or “Everyone will see that I’m not cut out for this job.” When you feel this way, try to balance things out with some best-case scenarios.[3]

    • For instance, say to yourself “If I mess up this part, we’ll all have a laugh and move on,” based on what you’ve observed when others have done the same thing.
    • Part of catastrophic thought is “probability overestimation” — that is, overplaying your odds of failure or of negative consequences from failure. Try to look at the situation from a detached perspective and consider the true “odds.”
  4. 4
    List your accomplishments every day, week, month, and year. Every evening, write down at least one thing you accomplished that day, no matter how mundane: “I emptied out my junk drawer in the dining room.” Do the same on a weekly, monthly, and perhaps even annual basis. In the process, you’ll realize just how much you get done — and that you are therefore the opposite of a “failure.”[4]

    • Don’t assess how “perfect” of a job you did — just focus on what you got done. After all, by June 30th, does it matter how well you mowed the lawn on June 1st?
Method 2

Being Imperfect on Purpose Download Article

  1. 1
    Make intentional mistakes in minor everyday matters. This can actually be a bit of fun, but the true purpose is to show you how little other people tend to care whether or not you do everything perfectly. For the most part, they won’t even notice your imperfections, and if they do, they usually won’t mind. Try, for instance:[5]

    • wearing a shirt with a stain on it on purpose.
    • inviting someone over without tidying up the house.
    • shorting yourself on bus fare so you have to ask someone for a dime.
    • making a few intentional grammar mistakes in an email.
    • pretending to lose your train of thought while speaking in front of a group.
  2. Image titled Control Perfectionism Step 6
    2
    Do imperfect work and see if anyone notices. In this case, instead of purposefully doing something imperfectly, simply leave some “imperfections” in place that you typically would find and eliminate. Does your boss even notice that your report is a bit less detailed than normal? Does your teacher seem aware that you didn’t re-write your math formulas to make your work look neater?[6]

    • And, even if people do notice, are they bothered by it at all? As long as you’re fulfilling the essential requirements of the task, the answer will almost always be “no.”
  3. Image titled Control Perfectionism Step 7
    3
    Leave others’ work unfinished instead of taking it on. Perfectionists often feel the need to take on others’ work to make sure it is “done right” as well, even if they’re already overworked with their own tasks. Resist this urge, and observe what happens — it will probably be one of the following:[7]

    • The other person will complete the task to an acceptable level.
    • The other person will do an unacceptable job and will face the consequences.
    • The job won’t get done and no one will seem to care all that much.
  4. Image titled Control Perfectionism Step 8
    4
    Identify your worst case scenario and ask “so what?” You may imagine that making a mistake will lead to your worst case scenario and find that you would still be okay if that happened. This can help to ease your concern and relax you. Try looking at the situation and taking the possible outcomes to their natural conclusion by continually asking “so what?”

    • For example, you might worry about being late to work and think, “If I am late, I will get into trouble.” Ask yourself, “so what?” “I might get a written warning or even get fired.” “So what?” “I might have to look for a new job?” “So what?” “If I can’t find a new job, I could end up having to move back in with my parents or borrow money from a friend to get by.” Although this scenario would be unpleasant, you would still be okay if this happened.
Method 3

Giving Your Perfectionism an Honest Assessment Download Article

  1. Image titled Control Perfectionism Step 9
    1
    List what you’re giving up in your quest for perfection. Striving to be perfect in all things takes up a lot of time — time that could be used for many other things. So, take a few minutes to write down what you’re missing out on because you spend so much time trying to be perfect.[8]

    • Are you giving up time with your family or friends?
    • Have you stopped doing (or never started doing) a hobby you really like?
    • Have you lost one or more promising romantic relationships?
    • Are you missing out on adequate sleep, exercise, meal times, or “me time”?
    • Use the list you create to consider your priorities and determine whether trying to be perfect is worth what you’re losing.
  2. Image titled Control Perfectionism Step 10
    2
    Do a reality check about how much something really matters. Ask yourself “Will this matter in 5 years? 5 months? 5 weeks?” If the answer is “no” to all 3, then you’re almost certainly wasting your time trying to complete the task spotlessly.[9]

    • If the short-term answer is “yes,” ask yourself “Will it matter in 5 months/weeks whether this was done perfectly?”
    • Be honest with yourself — how good of a job do you need to do for it to truly matter in the long term?
  3. 3
    Compare your work and others’ fairly and equally. Perfectionists often suffer from one (and sometimes both) of the following problems when dealing with other people: they demand far more of themselves than they do others, or they can’t trust others to do a “perfect” enough job and must do it themselves.[10]

    • If you expect the impossible from yourself but not others, envision someone else doing the same task you’re doing. Would they have to be either “perfect” or a “failure,” or could they do a “good enough” job? If so, why can’t you?
    • If you feel like you have to do everything yourself, take some time observing other people accomplishing tasks and how their peers/superiors/etc. respond to them. If everyone else seems to think the job has been adequately done, remind yourself to accept the “will of the majority.”
  4. 4
    Get outside help if your perfectionism has spiraled out of control. Perfectionism, at its most extreme, can be a symptom of OCD or other medical or mental health issues. If you experience one or more of the following, it might be time to talk to your doctor or a licensed mental health professional:

    • Things must be “perfect” because, if they aren’t, very bad things will happen.
    • Things left “not perfect” cause you serious anxiety.
    • The repetitive nature of your perfectionism is causing a serious disruption to your daily life.
    • If you ever feel like harming yourself as a “deserved” self-punishment for your “failures,” seek help right away.[11]
Method 4

Working Toward a Reasonable Goal Download Article

  1. 1
    Forgive yourself for your shortcomings. Nobody is perfect, and everybody has strengths and weaknesses. That’s not to say you should not try to grow. You can always learn something new or try to improve, but there are times when you’ll have to go with what you already know and do what you can based on that.[12]

    • Don’t waste time worrying about what you can’t (yet) do.
  2. 2
    Define your goal for the current task. Focus on what is really needed. Is the real purpose to be perfect or produce a perfect result, or is it to get something done? What really matters?[13]

    • Perfectionism can often cause the opposite of a timely result because the uncertainty that comes with it leads to procrastination.
    • Knowing what you want to achieve not only helps you go in the right direction, it also helps you know when you are finished.
    • Make sure to break up your goals into manageable tasks to avoid becoming overwhelmed by them. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, then focus on losing 5 pounds at a time or exercising regularly rather than on your overall weight loss goal.
  3. 3
    Strive for the results that are best for you. Do not let your productivity be dictated by fear of others’ judgment. Accept a broader form of excellence, rather than narrowly defined perfection. Perfectionism can be self-destructive when the perfectionist is too concerned with how others may perceive an imperfection.[14]

    • Study to learn, rather than to get a perfect score. Eat and exercise for health and fitness, not for simple weight targets.
  4. 4
    Get started instead of waiting for certainty. Even if you’re not sure yet what you’re doing, give it a try. You may be better at it than you think, or your task may be easier than you imagined it. Even if your first attempt doesn’t get you anywhere, perhaps you’ll know what or who to ask to get going. Or, you may just discover what not to do. Most of the time, you’ll find that you imagined the barriers as larger than they really are.[15]
  5. 5
    Set a time limit for the task. Some things, such as housekeeping, are never really finished. No matter how well you clean the floor today, it’ll get just as muddy tomorrow. Instead of spending hours scrubbing, set a timer for a reasonable amount of time, and clean for just that long. The place will still get cleaner and you’ll work faster and without obsessing over details.[16]

    • Make this sort of upkeep work a regular, brief part of the routine and things will stay at an acceptable, pretty good level.
    • On a longer or more detailed project, a deadline, even a self-imposed one, can get you started and keep you moving instead of worrying over details. Break things up into smaller parts or intermediate goals if they’re too big.
  6. 6
    Do things “your” way instead of the “right” way. Recognize that for many activities, especially anything with an element of creativity, there is no one “right” way, no one “right” answer. If you’re evaluated at all, it is subjectively. You cannot possibly please everybody who reads your writing or gazes at your painting, for instance. While keeping an audience in mind can help give your work direction, you should also allow for a large element of personal expression and style.[17]
  7. 7
    Reflect on your failures. Consider what you can learn from your shortcomings, and how that will help you do a better job next time. You cannot learn without making some mistakes.[18]

    • Recognize the beauty and benefits in imperfection. Dissonant harmonies in music can create tension and drama. Leaves left on the ground insulate plants’ roots and decompose to nourish the soil.

Help Managing Perfectionist Thoughts

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Expert Q&A

  • Question
    Is it okay if my parents always want me to be perfect?

    Liana Georgoulis, PsyD

    Licensed Psychologist
    Expert Answer
    There’s a difference between your parents having high standards for you, and having hyper-critical, unrealistic standards. You may want to try sitting down and talking to your parents. Tell them you feel like they’re being too hard on you. This is the best way to get them to understand. If they just want you to do well though, that’s a good thing!
  • Question
    How do you get rid of a perfectionist mindset?

    Tracy Carver, PhD

    Licensed Psychologist
    Expert Answer
    It’s actually really hard to do this, partially because some of this is natural. It’s normal for your brain to fire off and look for imperfections, so you can’t turn it off entirely. With that said, practicing mindfulness every day is a great way to unlock more self-compassion and calm in the way you think.
  • Question
    Can perfectionism ruin relationships?

    Tracy Carver, PhD

    Licensed Psychologist
    Expert Answer
    In some cases, it can. First, identify how severe the problem is—is your partner thinking about leaving you because of this, or is it a little more mild? Then, decide how important it is to you that thinks really be perfect.
  • Question
    How do you let go of control if you’re a perfectionist?

    Tracy Carver, PhD

    Licensed Psychologist
    Expert Answer
    That can be really hard for perfectionists to do. Start with small, pragmatic things, like letting your partner cook dinner twice a week or letting go of the car being clean a certain way. That’s going to cause you some anxiety, but with the help of a therapist, you should be able to tolerate it.
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Tips

  • If you’re great at something, help others who wish to learn. Practice being patient and not expecting them to do everything perfectly or just like you.

  • Never compare yourself to others. We all have our own pace, set of experiences, and different outcomes. You are an individual, and will never be exactly like someone else. This is what builds your character.

  • Be flexible. Dealing gracefully with unexpected developments may be more important than sticking strictly to a predefined system or plan.

  • Schedule yourself free time, if that is what it takes to get some. Then, relax and take the time off.

  • Always look on the positive side of your mistakes. That way, you’ll realize that it’s OK to make mistakes.

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About This Article

Liana Georgoulis, PsyD
Co-authored by:
Licensed Psychologist
This article was co-authored by Liana Georgoulis, PsyD. Dr. Liana Georgoulis is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with over 10 years of experience, and is now the Clinical Director at Coast Psychological Services in Los Angeles, California. She received her Doctor of Psychology from Pepperdine University in 2009. Her practice provides cognitive behavioral therapy and other evidence-based therapies for adolescents, adults, and couples. This article has been viewed 432,040 times.
4 votes – 100%
Co-authors: 46
Updated: December 1, 2020
Views: 432,040
Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 432,040 times.

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How to Fight Procrastination

https://www.wikihow.com/Fight-Procrastination

Everyone struggles with procrastination on occasion. It can be hard to begin major projects or assignments that you don’t enjoy. However, there are specific techniques that you can try to fight procrastination and become more focused and productive on work, school, or home projects.

Part 1

Getting Started on Your Work

  1. Image titled Fight Procrastination Step 1
    1

    Force yourself to begin the task. This might seem overly simplistic, but even sitting down at your desk to start a project or buying the materials needed for a home repair, for example, can help change your mindset and fight procrastination. The old saying that getting started is half the battle is true, especially if you struggle with procrastination.[1]

    • To help yourself get started, try to make your task as enjoyable as possible. For example, if you need to sit down to file your taxes, turn on some music that you like or envision how happy you’ll be once the task is complete and you don’t have to worry about it anymore. (Especially if you get a refund!)
  2. Image titled Fight Procrastination Step 2
    2

    Eliminate your known distractions. Are you addicted to Tumblr or Pinterest? Is Netflix calling your name and taking you away from work that you need to be doing? If possible, disconnect from the internet while you work. Working with spreadsheets or other Office applications usually allows for this. If you need the internet for your project, try telling yourself that you can spend as much time watching your favorite shows as you like once the project is finished.[2]

    • If noise is a major distraction for you, then you might want to try foam earplugs or noise canceling headphones. You can find foam earplugs in any drugstore or convenience store.
  3. Image titled Fight Procrastination Step 3
    3

    Set concrete goals for yourself. Sometimes procrastination is the result of feeling overwhelmed with too many projects or having tasks with non-specific requirements or due dates. Self-starting can be hard. It’s important to set specific, doable goals for yourself.[3]

    • For example, if you know that you have a major research paper due at the end of the semester, then it can be hard to start on it for a variety of reasons: a distant due date, no specific topic for the paper, or simply that there are more enjoyable ways to spend your time. However, if you set concrete goals like choosing a topic early on or writing a page or two a week, then the large, intimidating project that you might normally procrastinate on won’t simply exist in the abstract a few months down the road. It will exist “now” and you will be less likely to procrastinate and be pulling all-nighters at the end of the semester.
  4. 4

    Minimize interruptions as much as possible. When you finally do sit down to complete a task you’ve been procrastinating on, it can be frustrating to get interrupted repeatedly. Whether it’s an inconsiderate roommate or colleague or electronic interruptions, minimizing these will help you actually be able to get to work and not procrastinate.

    • Set your email client to not automatically alert you when emails arrive, and silence your phone completely. Be sure the phone is set to mute, not vibrate, as you can still hear/feel the vibrate setting and it will still distract you.[4]
    • Politely let your chatty roommate or colleague know that you are up against a deadline and have to get some work done. If you feel rude saying this, you can try softening the blow by mentioning that you can chat with then over lunch or dinner later on if they’re free, but right now you have to get your work done.
  5. 5

    Prioritize your work. Often, we procrastinate because we simply feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. To help fight procrastination, it is important to prioritize your work in order of importance and/or by deadline.[5]

    • Using a planner is helpful for this. Get one large enough to have both a weekly and monthly view so you can look ahead to future projects and visualize the deadlines for current projects.[6]
    • If you prefer, you can use the planner on your phone, tablet, or computer. If you choose to use an electronic planner, be sure to set audible alerts because these planners and calendars tend to have a smaller screen view that might not be able to show all tasks on a single screen. Play around with planner/calendar apps to find the one that works best for you and has the best interface.
  6. 6

    Change your work environment. Sometimes our work environment is the reason we tend to procrastinate. If you find yourself working in the middle of a huge mess or with noisy neighbors that drive you crazy, you need to change your environment to be productive and stop procrastinating.[7]

    • Try devoting 10 minutes to do a quick “tidy” of your immediate work space. Organize papers, put away clutter, and throw out any trash. This will give you some breathing room and a small sense of accomplishment which will help you begin your work.
    • If environmental factors beyond your control are the problem, then you might need to relocate your work space for the day. Good choices might be your local library or a cafe.
Part 2

Maximizing Your Productivity

  1. 1

    Break tasks down into manageable sizes. Feeling overwhelmed by huge projects can cause us to simply delay starting them. Breaking down projects into smaller goals can help you stop procrastinating and get started on your work.[8]

    • For example, if you need to repaint your bedroom, all the sanding, taping, trim work, priming and painting can be very overwhelming. However, if you make a goal to sand and clean the walls one day, tape everything off and prime the walls the next day, and finally paint on the third day, your major project will become more manageable, and you’ll be more likely to get started on it.
  2. 2

    Try using productivity apps. There are apps and browser extensions that will block your social media or any other sites that you deem “time wasters.” Check out one of these to maximize your productivity and cut down on distractions that help you procrastinate. [9]

    • Some good examples of apps and browser extensions designed to help you stay on track are StayFocusd for Google Chrome or Timeful and Pocket for Apple and Android products.[10]
  3. 3
    Take mental health breaks. Although this may seem counterproductive, breaks can help you reset and refocus. Get a snack or a cup of coffee and reflect on what you still need to do. Avoid beating yourself up for not having done more up to this point, and use your break as a refresher. Stand up, stretch, and use positive thinking to tell yourself that even though you haven’t accomplished as much as you wanted up to this point, you will once you go back to work. Sometimes a short break and a personal pep talk can help you refocus and stave off procrastination.
  4. 4
    Reward yourself for completing tasks. Even if your project is something you really dislike, you can help yourself get to work on it if you promise yourself something enjoyable upon its completion. You might tell yourself that you can binge watch your favorite show on Netflix or go out for a drink or some ice cream once you’ve completed your goal or task. Having something to look forward to can help jumpstart you and help you fight procrastination.[11]
  5. 5

    Have an accountability partner. If you have a friend or colleague who struggles with procrastination, too, then you might benefit from using each other as accountability partners. You can set up a friendly competition to see who can get further on their work, or you can simply use each other as support. Being accountable to someone will help you stop procrastinating. [12]

    • For example, if you catch your accountability partner checking Facebook during your designated work time, then you can gently remind them that they need to be working, and they can do the same for you. Be sure to be polite when you catch the other not working.
  6. 6

    Set a timer to keep you on track. Try setting a timer for 10 minutes and telling yourself that for that time, you have to work as hard as you can on a project. Regardless of how large the project is, you must work on it nonstop and give it your best for 10 minutes.

    • This is an effective jumpstart strategy that fights procrastination because the short time allotment is manageable and you can immediately see the results of your burst of hard work.[13]
Part 3

Maintaining Reasonable Expectations

  1. 1
    Step outside for some light exercise. It can be depressing to be indoors all day worrying about all the work you need to do. Even though it might seem counterproductive, step outside and take a short 5 to 10 minute walk in the fresh air. This can help you refocus and combat procrastination. Once you come back inside, however, ensure that you go back to work.
  2. 2
    Don’t be hard on yourself if you procrastinate. Be kind to yourself when you’re struggling with procrastination. Think about how you would treat someone else who was struggling with getting their work done. You would probably be kind and try to gently talk with them about how to go about completing their tasks. Do the same for yourself. Don’t beat yourself up about procrastinating. Simply accept that you’ve put off your work up to this point and make a fresh start.[14]
  3. 3
    Don’t drag out work till it’s perfect. Our obsession with perfection can cause us to procrastinate in a roundabout way. Sometimes we’ll sit down and work hard on a project only to keep revising or fixing it until it’s past its deadline. Embrace that you only need to do your best and then submit your work. Don’t procrastinate submitting your work because you think it might not be perfect. It probably isn’t perfect, but it can be great and ready to turn in without being perfect.[15]
  4. 4

    Be introspective. Try to identify the importance of the task at hand and determine what the consequences will be if you don’t complete it. Will you receive a negative review at work for failing to complete a report or a bad grade for not writing your research paper? Objectively consider what will realistically happen if you keep procrastinating. Sometimes this bit of reflection can help you get going on a project.[16]

    • It’s important to remember when doing this to be objective about the possible outcomes. If the outcome isn’t especially negative, then this project or task might be one that you can delay in favor of more pressing work.
  5. 5
    Consider that there might be a medical reason for your procrastination. Finally, if your procrastinating is particularly bad and accompanied by other symptoms like sadness or hyperactivity, you might benefit from talking to your doctor. ADHD, depression, and thyroid disorders are just a few of the many medical issues that can affect your ability to concentrate, focus, and be productive.[17]

Expert Q&A

  • Question
    What if I’m procrastinating because I’m lazy?

    Annie Lin, MBA

    Life & Career Coach
    Expert Answer
    Laziness is rarely the primary reason for procrastination. It’s typically a lack of practice when it comes to breaking old habits. It’s hard to change things and when you don’t know how, you find yourself doing something else. Start by taking small steps to just build the mental muscle required to make changes.
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Tips

  • Remember to not be hard on yourself. Beginning major projects can be difficult. Try incorporating some concentration or focus techniques and finding a quiet space to work. It can take time to overcome a tendency to procrastinate. If you find that nothing is helping you, don’t be ashamed to talk to your doctor about the issues you’re having completing work for your job or school. You’re not alone.

What You’ll Need

  • Planner
  • Foam earplugs
  • Noise canceling headphones

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About This Article

Annie Lin, MBA
Co-authored by:
Life & Career Coach
This article was co-authored by Annie Lin, MBA. Annie Lin is the founder of New York Life Coaching, a life and career coaching service based in Manhattan. Her holistic approach, combining elements from both Eastern and Western wisdom traditions, has made her a highly sought-after personal coach. Annie’s work has been featured in Elle Magazine, NBC News, New York Magazine, and BBC World News. She holds an MBA degree from Oxford Brookes University. Annie is also the founder of the New York Life Coaching Institute which offers a comprehensive life coach certification program. Learn more: https://newyorklifecoaching.com This article has been viewed 59,663 times.
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Co-authors: 15
Updated: June 30, 2020
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Categories: Procrastination

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