9 Ways to Tell if You or Someone You Know is an Undiagnosed Awfulizer


Fellow Riskologist,

Are you an undiagnosed awfulizer destined to fail at everything you do? Or worse, are you unlikely to try anything even slightly risky because you can only see the worst possible outcome in every scenario?

If you read  regularly, I’d guess, no, you aren’t. But you probably know someone who is, and that can be just as dangerous. An awfulizer is someone who poo poos inspiring ideas and is generally a parade rainer-onner due to their inability to express even a shred of optimism about life.

If you know a dream zapper, you can probably get by with little effect on your own life so long as you recognize the symptoms. When you realize what’s happening around you, you’re less inclined to allow the negativity of an awfulizer to seep into your own thoughts and actions.

Dangerous, though, is allowing an awfulizer in your life to go undiagnosed. If this happens, you’re susceptible to their soul crushing negativity and you may find yourself suffering from malaise, depression, and a general lack of ambition.

If these feelings describe you, there may be an awfulizer present close by; it may even be you. Left undiagnosed, your condition will deteriorate. If you suspect an awfulizer has infiltrated your life, use the following list of symptoms and treatments to identify and cure the disease before it becomes terminal.

1. They don’t take responsibility for their actions.

You can spot an undiagnosed awfulizer when they refuse to take responsibility for their actions. This is frustrating if you’re dealing with a friend/relative/partner, but remember they’re using it as a coping mechanism.

When you’re an awfulizer, things in life tend to go wrong and bad things are always just around the corner. Think about how difficult it would be to go through life taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong when EVERYTHING ALWAYS goes wrong. That would be unbearable, so the coping mechanism is to offload responsibility for all those bad things to something else—forces they don’t have control over.

This way, they’re never forced to face their awfulizing tendencies because nothing is their fault.


If this sounds like something you do, it must be corrected right away. Accepting responsibility for everything that happens in your life is the single most important thing you can do to improve it. That may sound like a tall order when you’re an awfulizer yourself, but remember that how you view your life and the world around you is up to you.

If you begin to look for opportunities instead of problems and reframe the things in your life as learning experiences and not tragedies, the amount of bad stuff you have to take responsibility for becomes smaller. And you get the added benefit of taking responsibility for lots of good things. This, of course, leads to even more good things.

2. They have a general lack of ambition.

Some signs of an undiagnosed awfulizer are less obvious than others, and a general lack of ambition is one of those covert symptoms. It’s difficult to find the motivation to get up and do something when your worldview is one where the future is scary and ugly.

This makes sense when examined. Why invest your time and energy in something if the only outcome you see is one that isn’t fun or exciting?


This is a serious symptom with major implications for your life if it’s one that you suffer from.

The best way to combat a lack of ambition, though, is to allow yourself to spend time thinking about things that actually excite you. This can be tough to do at first when your natural habit is to picture the ending of Donnie Darko every time you think about your future. But, with a little practice, you can learn to allow yourself to picture good things in your future. Just think of the ending of every romantic comedy you’ve seen instead.

Building a positive outlook for yourself can make a world of difference in your motivation.

3. They have difficulty getting excited about anything.

An undiagnosed awfulizer has a hard time getting excited about even the most amazing things in life. You could put them in a field of kittens and puppies with sunshine and lemonade, and they’d find it difficult to achieve a smile. This is because they cannot disconnect from the bad things that have happened to them in the past. And worse, these bad memories shape how they think about the future.

They have a difficult time being present. Even as they sit in paradise, their mind is elsewhere worrying about the future or being tormented by the past.


If this sounds like you, one simple step to help correct it is to practice mindfulness by taking time each day to sit and be grateful for the good things in your life. I usually avoid anything that sounds like hippy frou-frou BS, but when I notice that I’m not appreciating the great things around me, taking a moment to remind myself to be grateful for the good things in life helps to set things straight.

4. They always counter a positive with a negative.

You can be sure you’re near an undiagnosed awfulizer when anything you say that conveys hope or positivity is countered with something negative. When you express optimism about something, you’ll be greeted with a “Yes, but…” or a “Sure, but don’t forget…” statement to counteract it.

This is the natural reaction of the undiagnosed awfulizer, and it can be tested with a high degree of accuracy. In conversation, simply say something positive and then quietly wait for a rebuttal. If you’re in the midst of an awfulizer, they will be unable to resist the temptation to counter.


If this is a trait you display, the best way to correct it is to remember one of the key rules of improv comedy: Always answer a statement or question with “Yes, and…”

“Yes, and…” and “Yes, but…” are two very different statements. “Yes, but..” immediately changes the tone of a conversation and makes it confrontational while “Yes, and…” continues it on the same track and allows more good things to unfold.

5. They complain about trivial things.

When you’re around someone who constantly misses the bigger picture and chooses, instead, to complain about minor details, you can be sure you’ve found yourself an awfulizer.

It’s sad to watch it unfold before you; someone whose world view depends on making things negative to keep feeling “normal” must work hard to take even the greatest of things and find trivial imperfections. They allow very small bad things to ruin great big good things.


If you find yourself doing this, it’s critical you put an end to it as soon as possible. Instead of nitpicking things in your life, look at the bigger picture and judge things for their net effect.

Nothing will ever be perfect, and that reality is what allows you to continue on a negative path. If, instead, you choose to ignore the minor details and focus on the big, important pieces, you’ll have an easier time seeing good in things.

6. They’re always too tired to do anything fun.

It’s hard to have fun when everything sucks, and being an awfulizer is draining. I used to be one myself, and I can say without doubt it takes a lot more energy to be unhappy than it does to be happy.

If it’s hard to get your friend/partner/etc. to get off their duff and do something fun with you because they’re always too tired, you’re likely in the company of an undiagnosed awfulizer. Do not buy the “Work was really tough today” line. That is exactly what an awfulizer would say!


Truth is, work is really tough and draining most days for most people. But it’s especially draining for an awfulizer because they spend  their time thinking about how awful it’s always going to be rather than how much better it could be or accepting the tough days as being part of what they signed up for.

If this is you, it’s time to turn your mindset around. Until you do, you’ll be devoid of energy for anything fun. You’ll go through life turning down great opportunities and end up on your deathbed wondering, “Where did all the time go?” Wow, that got a little awful, didn’t it?

7. They avoid scenarios that require hard work.

It’s perfectly natural for human beings to conserve their energy wherever possible. We’ve evolved to do so for good reason. But when you’re an awfulizer, it’s taken too far. This is because an awfulizer has a hard time seeing opportunity; instead, they see mostly problems.

If everything is a problem, it doesn’t make sense to fix one if it’s going to take a lot of hard work and the result will only be more problems to fix.


If this sounds like you, there’s much work to be done. Hard work, in fact! But the beautiful thing is when you look at life as a series of opportunities instead of problems, it becomes easier to find the motivation to do the work to grasp those opportunities.

Whichever mindset you choose for yourself, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You believe you’ll see great results from your hard work, so you lean into it and, as a result, it pays off. Or, you believe hard work leaves you drained and you don’t get the results you hope for. So, you half-ass it and, as a result, you get back exactly what you put in.

Which do you prefer?

8. They have an extremely low risk tolerance.

This one is obvious. An awfulizer will almost always have a low risk tolerance. They avoid taking chances—no matter how calculated or how far the odds are in their favor—because taking a risk always means being vulnerable to some type of failure.

When you’re an awfulizer, you have a hard time focusing on anything but failure. You obsess about the tiny chance something could go wrong and prefer to avoid it.

Everyone reading this can think of someone who exhibits this trait in their life—people who are extremely talented but refuse to leave a dead-end job, curious folks who want to travel but never will, etc. We all know someone and wonder why they won’t just get out of their own way.


If this is you, take a hard look at yourself. Why are you awfulizing your situation when, in fact, all the odds are in your favor? To get yourself on the right track, make a habit of taking a small risk every single day. Do something—anything—that makes you uncomfortable. The stakes do not need to be high.

With daily practice, you’ll begin to see odds actually can be trusted. When they’re in your favor, you should act on them!

9. They keep many friends who display these symptoms.

I’ve heard the phrase many times before, “you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” And there’s a lot of truth in that! I’ve seen my life change in dramatic ways as I juggle the time I spend with different people.

But human nature tends to guide us to others who look and act like us. This is fine if your life looks the way you want it to, but it’s a bottomless pit of fire and doom (fire and doooooom!) if you’re an undiagnosed awfulizer.

If someone you know shows signs of being an undiagnosed awfulizer, look at the five people they spend the most time with. If they’re all awfulizers as well, the verdict is clear.

Better yet, look at the five closest people in your life. If they’re all undiagnosed awfulizers, guess what? So are you!


If that’s you, it probably wasn’t any fun to realize, but at least now you know. Unfortunately, the fix for this is the most difficult.

To fix your awfulizing tendencies, you must remove other awfulizers from your life. This sometimes means spending less time with very close friends and family members. It may mean taking a break from a partner. There will be consequences for your life; it’s not easy. But the unfortunate truth is that you cannot fix this problem in yourself while you surround yourself with people who have the same issues.

Just like an alcoholic doesn’t get sober by hanging out with his drinking buddies, you will not fix your awfulizing problem by hanging out with other awfulizers.

You don’t have to remove them from your life completely, but you should work to limit their ability to influence you. Instead, begin the search for people who exhibit the qualities you actually want in your life, and start spending time with them. You’ll begin to pick up their characteristics and, as you grow stronger, you may be able to invite some of those old awfulizers back into your life (carefully) and even help them make a change for the better.

This may be an awkward transition, but you must embrace it.

Your Homework Today

If you have an undiagnosed awfulizer in your life (or if you are one yourself!), you have your work cut out for you today. Your ability to take smart risks that improve your life will be stifled until you sort this out, so get on it!

Look over the list of awfulizer symptoms and find the ones that apply to you. Then look at the prescribed corrective actions, and get started putting them into place in your life.

Did I leave out any symptoms? Do you have a solution you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments.