For our honeymoon, Laura and I went on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise.
On the ship, we made friends with another honeymooning couple from Canada and ended up spending quite a bit of time with them, chatting in the cocktail lounge and going on shore excursions together.
We quickly learned that this couple was not easily pleased. They complained about their room; they complained about the food; they complained about the destinations we were visiting in Italy, Spain and France.
At first, it was fun to join in with the complaining. After all, there were things we didn’t like about the cruise, too. We bonded by grumbling.
But after a few days, we started making excuses not to spend time with them. We had grown tired of their complaining. More importantly, we had grown tired of our complaining. We didn’t want to start our life together in a place of negativity.
Similarly, the critical, sometimes cynical, way that journalists need to view the world sometimes got in the way of my happiness when I was in that profession.
“Complaining not only ruins everybody else’s day, it ruins the complainer’s day, too. The more we complain, the more unhappy we get,” conservative US radio host Dennis Prager once said.
Luminita D. Saviuc, creator of PurposeFairy.com, argues that complaining not only arises from a feeling of powerlessness, it also reinforces that same feeling.
Complaining is a dreadful addiction that creates a false sense of separation between you and the world around you. It keeps you from connecting with yourself and the world at a deeper level. It keeps you stuck in a place where outside circumstances seem to always control you and sabotage your happiness, health and well-being.
When I was feeling sick and tired and frustrated in the days leading up to my kidney transplant, I complained. Sometimes, I complained to Laura and the kids. Always, I complained to myself, a constant track of negativity playing in my head.
I complained back then because I felt powerless. But the negativity likely also reinforced the sense of powerlessness.
Does this mean you should sit back and accept it if teachers, doctors, waiters or sales clerks treat you badly? Not at all.
Saviue’s advice? Don’t complain about things, change them. And if you can’t change them, change your attitude.
As I was writing this post, I glanced down at my bullet journal and saw that one of my to-dos for today is: “Complain to Selvi.” I actually have “complain” as a task I need to complete today.
I’m not sure if this is ironic or hypocritical.
But it’s a reminder that the things I write about here are things I’m working on, not things I have mastered.
The “complaint” on my to do list is about problems with health care services for my son Bryson. So I’m reminding myself that “complain” is the wrong word. What I really need to do for Bryson is to advocate.
But what about you? How does complaining make you feel? What do you do to turn that negative energy into something more constructive?