By Mark E. Smith
Complaining is an interesting subject to address because it’s sort of complaining about… well… complaining. However, before you deem this writing as the ultimate hypocrisy, keep reading!
Indeed, we live in a culture of complainers. Everyone seems to complain about everything. For example, is there any type of weather that people like? I know a television weatherman and he once told me it’s a completely thankless job because no matter the weather, his email and voicemail are filled with complaints. We see this in our own lives, too – can’t people just accept that the weather is what it is, rather than complaining about it, that which no one can control?
Of course, people incessantly complain about everything from their jobs to the lives of celebrities. If complaining wasn’t so toxic, it would be amusing to witness at times. However, that’s precisely what many don’t understand – complaining takes a toll on our lives. So, why do we complain so much and what’s its true impact on us?
By definition, we complain to “express dissatisfaction.” Yet, there’s a legitimacy scale to it. We all may rightfully complain when we receive poor service by an establishment. On the other hand, complaining about, say, the weather is a futile expression that truly has no point. You can’t change the weather, so there’s no reason to complain about it.
Interestingly, research shows that chronic complainers are individuals who feel powerless in their overall lives. You might have previously thought that chronic complainers were egomaniacs or know-it-all critics; but, in fact, the opposite is true. Chronic complainers typically use complaining as a way to mask feeling inadequate. For example, people who are envious of others most often use complaining about them as a coping device – albeit, a self-destructive one. The school board members are idiots. I could do a much better job….
The reality of complainers feeling a deep sense of powerlessness makes sense because those who feel a sense of control in life strive to resolve issues rather than simply complain about them. Those who do, do. Those who don’t, complain.
Complaining can also serve as a way to shun responsibility. I know someone who’s complained about his job for 15 years, constantly disparaging the company and complaining about never getting promoted. Someone of action would either pick up the pace of his performance or would find another job. Complaining conveniently shifts responsibility elsewhere, pointing a finger away from ourselves.
It’s the shift away from personal accountability that makes complaining so toxic in our lives. Look what happens when we question a complainer:
If I was in charge, this would never happen!
Ok, but why aren’t you in charge?
The complainer ends up in a bind quickly because a lack of responsibility and accountability is exposed.
With that said, it’s most often pointless to confront a chronic complainer. Again, they are individuals who shun responsibility and accountability. However, we can change ourselves. Let us begin by noting how much we, ourselves, complain – you might be surprised by how often you’re engaging in it once you’re monitoring your own behavior.
Next, let us focus on less complaining and more doing – that’s a surefire way to actually resolve dissatisfaction and mobilize our lives toward the positive.
Of course, the biggest trap of complaining is that we rob ourselves of joy. Complaining is rooted in bitterness and resentment – read that, misery –whereas the surest path to happiness is gratitude.
Therefore, let us see not the negatives in life, but empower ourselves and those around us by focusing on the positives.
Maya Angelou put it best: “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”