Whining is easy. I should know. I was a famous pouter almost from infancy. I am easily frustrated. Somehow I got the mistaken idea that if I was doing something useful or good, everything should fall into place and work–just because I had good intentions. Reality crashes into my dreams with forceful regularity. Each time, I want to scream, “ Argh!!!!” Would it be possible for a person like me to really quit complaining?
“How can I stop complaining about complaining?” I wrote in my notebook. It was a terrible cycle in our home. I can’t stand listening to whining and complaining. So, guess what I would do about it? Whine or complain about all the complaining, of course! That really fixed it. It got better and better. Not!
But I’m a Positive Person
I think of myself as a positive, very happy person. I recently found out that almost all people view themselves as positive and not too whiney to be around. This year I discovered how much of a complainer I really have been.
As a youth leader in my church, called Young Women’s President, I was working on my Personal Progress. Personal Progress is a booklet of optional, personal challenges for girls ages 12-18, their mothers and their leaders. It gives exercises in several different “values” or areas of character to better understand and develop. Along with challenges like reading scripture verses, developing a relationship with God through prayer, and writing in a personal journal, I found a challenge to not criticize or complain for two weeks. How hard could it be?
I started on this challenge back in September of 2015. By March of 2016, I could see I was in a doomed situation. I was hoping to get my entire Personal Progress finished by the summer of 2016, but at this rate, I didn’t have a chance. I hadn’t made it past one day. So, I did what I often do when I hit a plateau, I went to the library!
“A Complaint Free World” (by Will Bowen)
I found an entire book on “how to stop complaining and start enjoying the life you always wanted” called A Complaint Free World: take the 21-day challenge by Will Bowen. He was right. I have always wanted to actually be as positive as I am in my heart. I can imagine that life where I’m proud of what comes out of my mouth. This minister from Missouri became my ally in my fight against the crabs inside of me. But, how do you fight a fight?
I thought “venting” was healthy
I’ve heard that it is better to share your emotional baggage than let it fester inside of you and burn holes in your stomach. If that were your only two options, to let it out or keep the poison in, then I guess it would be reasonable advice.
Also, there really are times when we need to complain. We need problems and injustices to be noticed and addressed. Surely everything can not be solved by a “Polyanna” attitude of gratitude.
I’ve tried “venting.” I think I may have even been quite talented at it. I poured out the challenges of my day on my husband as soon as he walked through the door. I called my mom or my friend whenever things were too tough, and I just needed someone to listen. It was nice to not feel so alone, but I never felt good about constantly showering my closest support group with negativity.
The problem isn’t with expressing what we need and want differently. The problem is with how we are expressing it and who we are expressing it to. Am I talking to the person who can make this happen? Am I asking for what I need from others in a respectful, positive way? Am I being patient? We can even share our negative feelings in a patient, non-attacking way. For example, I felt surprised, frustrated and sad that I complain so often. And, I was embarrassed that it was taking me so long to reach my two week goal.
What do I hope to gain?
Years ago I noticed this strange dumping on my husband routine and asked myself, “What is it I wish would happen?” In my dreams, I imagined that he would hear of my heroic, difficult battles of motherliness and would be so proud, so pleased, and so appreciative!! When I saw that dream for what it was, I laughed. That was never going to happen. How could he possibly be proud, pleased and appreciate having a super crabby, complaining wife? I wasn’t even pleased with myself.
Change the game
Not complaining is not just stuffing all that negativity. It also is not shoving your head in the sand every time something difficult or inappropriate is happening as if to say, “I’m not looking, therefore it is not happening.” But, not complaining does start with shutting off the release valve and finding something truly appropriate to do with that energy.
Many people who are serious about this find that being quiet is the first, temporary solution. I agree. There were so many times that I would catch myself starting to whine and quickly shut my mouth. I didn’t want to start over. I noticed that without my contribution, the situations that normally would drive me crazy seemed to resolve themselves more quickly. Does it really take two to complain?
Unexpected Pay Offs
Most of my family didn’t “play the new game” with me. But, my youngest son did. He also really appreciates kind words. It was fun to observe with him what was happening to us.
1–I literally felt happier. Stopping the negative left more room for my thoughts to go elsewhere…up. He seemed much happier, too.
2–I was more responsible. Instead of explaining or complaining when I didn’t get something done or bothered someone, I just apologized and offered to fix it. I noticed my son doing this as well. He talked back less and just said sorry more. This was beautiful. If a complaint is serious and needs to be addressed, I first decide who to take it to and get it handled in a more matter of fact, professional way.
3–We feel emotionally safe. My relationship with my son has grown much closer. I can see his ease knowing that I will not blame him or complain about him to him or his Dad. I am happier that he is trying to not fight with me.
4–I’m more patient. When whining and complaining is not an option, it leaves fewer choices. Can I fix it? If not, I just have to make the situation more bearable. I can change the direction of my thinking or improve my location or environment. No one likes terrible traffic or waiting in line. Instead of whining together, how can I make it better?
It is possible
When I started, I had bouts of complaining every hour or so. Now I have made it two whole days without complaining, whining, criticizing or gossiping. I’m on my way, and I can smell the victory in my future. I am so glad I have persisted in this challenge. I will never regret it.
If you are serious about dropping complaining from your tone of voice and even your thoughts, I highly recommend looking up Will Bowen’s work. You can also find support at AComplaintFreeWorld.org.
DarEll S. Hoskisson
DarEll S. Hoskisson loves to do hard things, but not too hard. She shares her own challenges, goals and experiences as she guides you into a realistic path of self-reflection and self-improvement. She shares tips on how to find, know and trust yourself so you can decide if other’s suggestions are right for you. DarEll has the world a little upside down—where work is play and play is work. She actually thinks other people’s problems are fun to try to solve and lights up with a personal challenge. She loves people, harmony, and excellence. She also loves useful things like tools and ideas that make work faster, easier and more fun. DarEll married in 1993 and graduated from BYU (1995) with a bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education. Since then she was adopted by 5 children and has worked with many non-profits. She is currently a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor—leading pilates and yoga at her local YMCA. DarEll lives in Florida where she enjoys her family, nature, her work, and encouraging people to live well. She periodically posts her poems, what she is learning, and service opportunities on her personal blogs: https://personalabridgements.wordpress.com and https://darellhoskisson.wordpress.com