Overcoming Pessimistic Nihilism

23 Jan 2023

Many people around the world struggle to find meaning in their life. They lack motivation or believe that nothing they do will mean anything, falling under the philosophy of nihilism. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, nihilism is the “belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.”[1] There are two forms of nihilism, active and pessimistic nihilism. Active nihilism realizes how free someone is because nothing matters. Pessimistic nihilism revolves around the idea that miseries vastly outnumber pleasures and that happiness is impossible to achieve.[1] The nihilistic portion of pessimistic nihilism promotes rejecting tradition, religion, and morals because it is meaningless. This article dives specifically into pessimistic nihilism and how to overcome it.

The Negatives of Pessimistic Nihilism

At some point in people’s lives, they start to develop nihilistic thoughts, which sometimes could have disastrous consequences. These thoughts can promote pessimism, and the lack of hope can ruin someone’s mental and physical health. Pessimistic people lack confidence in their future, leading to anxiety [2]. Constant anxiety can cause high blood pressure, significantly decreasing one’s quality of life and, in turn, happiness [3]. With no hope for the future, many have very low self-esteem because they believe they cannot change their future. This mindset prevents them from making changes for a better future, and they assume their attempts are futile. The combination of nihilism and mental issues prevents people from finding any purpose. Monk John says, “Instead of relying on the thought that nothing exists, try to find time and spend some energy improving the present life.”


A way to improve the present life is by finding a significant purpose because it is the motivation that keeps you going daily and guides you through your life, whether it be family or religion. Altruism is an example because completing good tasks benefits individuals. In a study, researchers have found a correlation between good deeds and a person's happiness [3]. If people genuinely believe their selfless acts are making a significant impact, they will feel happiness [3]. Selflessness counteracts nihilism by also making your actions matter to other people. Your drive can be something else, such as learning a new skill to help with pessimism. While in Buddhist teachings, Monk John explains, “There is the existence of multiple lives and that there is also life after death; thus, we do not only have one life.” The Karma system in Buddhism reveals multiple lives and how each is significant. The Karma System is any action made always has an effect. Those effects do not disappear after death; some continue to the next life. Karma will determine where a person will be born and their status. Monk John clarifies that each life is equally important and should not be treated as if nothing matters.


Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. Pessimistic nihilism promotes the rejection of tradition, religion, and morals because it is seen as meaningless and leads to a lack of hope and motivation. This can negatively affect mental and physical health, including anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression. However, finding a purpose in life, such as through altruism or learning new skills, can counteract nihilistic thoughts and bring happiness and meaning. The Karma system in Buddhism also suggests that each life is essential and that actions have consequences that can extend beyond death. By finding a purpose and focusing on the present, individuals can move away from nihilistic thinking and improve their well-being.


Overcoming College Anxiety