Cynics fundamentally distrust other people and social institutions.
Psychologists define cynicism as the inclination to view people as motivated solely by self-interest.
As a result, the inability to see good in others undermines a cynic’s ability to flourish.
Cynics often recognize this personality trait in themselves.
Whenever you evaluate a situation, your cynical nature rises up immediately.
- Why Am I So Cynical?
- Why You Should Stop Being Cynical
- How to Stop Being Cynical in 13 Steps
- 1. Accept That You’ve Become Too Cynical
- 2. Start Your Day With a Positive Message
- 3. Break Negative Feedback Loops
- 4. Tell Yourself to Think Positively
- 5. Identify What You’re Grateful For
- 6. Spend Time in Nature
- 7. Catch Your Cynical Thoughts As They Happen
- 8. Practice Seeing the Good in People
- 9. Seek Out Positive People
- 10. Participate in Positive Activities
- 11. Address Your Fears
- 12. Limit Consumption of News and Social Media
- 13. Don’t Think in Absolutes
- What causes a person to become cynical?
- Can a cynical person change?
- What is a cynical person like?
- What is the root of cynicism?
- Final Thoughts
Why Am I So Cynical?
This reflex sometimes develops during childhood.
Being wounded by earlier interactions with family members and peers probably caused you to project those negative outcomes on future situations.
Psychologists believe that cynical people rely too much on their reptilian brains.
This is the most primitive evolutionary segment of the brain that is motivated purely by survival.
When you allow your deepest survival instincts to interpret everything, you feel compelled to:
You view your cynicism as a way to prevent making mistakes, like trusting other people who you believe are unreliable.
Ultimately, cynicism is a defensive mechanism that insulates you from harsh feelings of disappointment.
Why You Should Stop Being Cynical
You may believe cynicism is cool or makes you appear smart, but this characteristic can hurt you and those around you.
Here are some of the reasons to work on changing:
Research by the American Psychological Association linked cynical people to lower incomes. You don’t have a lot of career options when you are pessimistic and distrustful.
An unwillingness to trust people makes collaboration with others appear risky.
If you’re overly driven by fear of trusting others, then success will be elusive.
Less Happy Relationships
Your relationships will suffer when you have a hard time seeing the good in people. If you’re constantly making sarcastic remarks, sneering, or doubting someone’s honesty, they will eventually move on.
Of course, you’ll feel betrayed once again, only making you more cynical for the next relationship or friendship.
Higher Risk for Emotional and Physical Problems
A negative attitude and pessimistic outlook on life is stressful. It can make you depressed and anxious. If your career doesn’t thrive and your relationships are suffering, you become more depressed and unhappy.
These emotional problems can lead to an inflammatory response in your body and increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Increased Risk for Dementia
According to research, late-in-life cynics are three times more likely to develop dementia than those who aren’t cynical.
This risk could be associated with how chronic stress and negativity impact the body and create physiological and metabolic changes that are toxic to the brain.
How to Stop Being Cynical in 13 Steps
Are you ready to release your cynical personality traits? Here are some changes to begin today.
1. Accept That You’ve Become Too Cynical
Most people at times, feel cynical toward something. As you get older and experience sours your worldview, you might develop cynical traits.
However, things can go too far and leave you unable to enjoy life. If you’re too cynical, people will avoid your company. Social isolation further reduces your chances of succeeding socially or professionally.
Once you recognize that cynicism has a negative impact on your life, you can motivate yourself to change. The difficulty of this first step cannot be overstated for a cynic.
Positive thinking typically feels immature and naive to a cynic. To overcome this reaction, you should focus on the rewards that await you.
A less cynical approach to life will improve your relationships and insulate you from the health consequences of constant negative thinking.
2. Start Your Day With a Positive Message
A positive message could take the form of a note stuck to your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, or closet door. Have it say something like:
Seeing small messages like this on a daily basis will prepare your brain for positive thinking.
As a cynic, you’ll feel internal resistance to your positive messages, but the human brain is very adaptable, and you can change your thinking patterns.
3. Break Negative Feedback Loops
Your pessimistic thoughts validate every bad experience that you have. When something negative happens, tell yourself not to assign as much value as you normally would to the event.
You can give yourself a moment to accept that you feel bad, but then you need to move on mentally. Otherwise, your dour mood will infect your actions.
4. Tell Yourself to Think Positively
Your initial steps will have loosened the hard-wired mental habits that feed your cynicism. Now, you’re ready to tell your inner cynic to be quiet so that you can invite positive thinking into your life.
Positive thinking will not come easily to a recovering cynic. Keep yourself motivated by the knowledge that not everything in the world is bad.
Reality consists of good, bad, and neutral events. Accept that some clouds really do have silver linings.
5. Identify What You’re Grateful For
The practice of gratitude releases stress and makes it easier for you to reframe life in a positive light.
Every day, you should write down or quietly say to yourself three things that you’re grateful for. They can be small things like nice weather or important things like your health.
6. Spend Time in Nature
Exposure to natural settings will lift your mood. Cynics dwell too much in their discouraging thoughts, but a walk around a park will release you from the grip of negative thinking.
By regularly spending time outdoors, you’ll tap into the regenerative power of nature.
7. Catch Your Cynical Thoughts As They Happen
Old habits die hard, and you’ll need to be vigilant against cynical thoughts. You can catch yourself in the act by practicing mindfulness.
You achieve mindfulness by training yourself to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. When you experience emotions or make snap judgments, you should immediately evaluate them.
Ask yourself if you’re being fair in your estimation of things or just falling back on cynical interpretations that you’ve been using to protect yourself.
Give yourself permission to think calmly about your feelings and filter out your negativity. As you practice, you’ll become better at steering cynical thoughts toward more realistic conclusions.
8. Practice Seeing the Good in People
You can counteract your knee-jerk judgments against people by consciously looking for others’ positive aspects.
Tell yourself that the co-worker has always been courteous and dependable. Take time to recognize the customer service agent who solved your problem. Remember how a family member helped you when you were sick?
Although you’ll have to force this new mental habit on yourself, it will become easier in time. The practice will gradually erase your automatic distrust of others.
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9. Seek Out Positive People
Have you only been associating with negative and gloomy people? Cynics can fall victim to bias confirmation by surrounding themselves with other cynics.
At this point on your journey, you’re ready to open yourself to new possibilities. You need to start shifting your social circle to include positive people. Their example will show you the way forward.
10. Participate in Positive Activities
We all have to deal with undesirable tasks, but you have a right to enjoy yourself too.
Positive activities, like exercise, volunteering at a charity, or simply playing with your kids, have the power to refresh your attitude and overthrow the tyranny of cynical habits.
11. Address Your Fears
Some people might want to speak with a professional therapist to overcome damaging fears. A difficult childhood or a personal tragedy could have left you traumatized, and therapy could release you from lingering negativity.
Even if you don’t think you need therapy, you can still think about the fears driving your cynicism.
As you identify your fears, you can accept that your feelings are valid but do not grant them the power to define the rest of your life.
12. Limit Consumption of News and Social Media
The old journalistic adage “If it bleeds, it leads.” means that news platforms are overwhelmingly negative. Bad news reinforces cynical behavior.
By limiting your news consumption and participation on social media platforms, you’ll decrease negative stimuli.
13. Don’t Think in Absolutes
Life is messy, and you can’t allow absolute rules to guide your thoughts. Not all people are untrustworthy. Not all people are out to get you.
Be willing to reserve judgment and give people a chance to prove themselves reliable. Thinking in absolutes prevents you from connecting with opportunities and fully enjoying life.
If you or someone close to you is a cynic, you may have some questions about the characteristics and whether you can change them.
We’ve addressed some common questions here.
What causes a person to become cynical?
Initially, your personality might be inherently more negative and guarded than other people. If this was your personality starting point, then you’re vulnerable to becoming more cynical as the years go by.
Ongoing difficulties in life can steer your personality toward greater cynicism.
A bad relationship, an illness, or a job loss could set off a series of events that leave you beaten down.
Cynicism thrives when you feel like nothing that you do will improve your life.
Overall, cynicism develops because:
Can a cynical person change?
Yes, absolutely. Once you recognize your tendency to be cynical and that it’s not a positive trait, you are in the right mindset for change.
You’ve likely developed habits that reflect your cynical view of life that you’ll have to break. Then you’ll need to learn new habits like those we’ve outlined here.
With time, patience, and determination, you can be a more positive, trusting person.
What is a cynical person like?
Here are some of the traits of a cynical person:
- They mistrust and disparage others.
- They can be bitter and sneering.
- They show contempt or scorn for others.
- They have a pessimistic attitude.
- They doubt or don’t believe the motives of others.
- They believe people are motivated only by selfishness.
- They view humanity as a whole with mistrust.
- They appear world-weary.
What is the root of cynicism?
As mentioned, cynicism has its deepest roots in evolution and the survival instinct. But today this trait often goes back to events in childhood or even later where you were wounded or betrayed by someone or a group of people.
When you experience betrayal many times, you can become cynical and feel that everyone is just out for themselves.
Are you ready to learn how to be less cynical?
You have much to gain by bringing your cynicism under control.
Multiple studies have revealed that cynics are more prone to heart disease and inflammatory health problems. Your cynical attitude might even increase your risk of dementia.
Helping yourself move beyond a defensive and cynical personality will be a long journey. You’ll feel the urge to go back to your safe place, but it’s important to keep trying.
The mental habits that formed earlier in your life may feel right, but cynicism could be inhibiting your relationships, health, and career.
Make a commitment to your future happiness and take the first step toward a positive life today.