Stop complaining, geez! Oh, sorry. I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to myself. Well, maybe I’m talking to you, too. Do you even realize you’re doing it? I think we’re losing our ability to recognize that much of what we’re saying when we say it is negative, just whiny-butt complaining. It’s become so normal a part of our everyday conversation that ragging on about things that bug us has lost it’s negative magnetism and become, well, neutral.
I’ve spent this last year trying to be more self aware about being “negative,” and dang if I don’t keep catching myself going down that road. I’ve never been a negative person, or so was my opinion of myself. Then, someone who cares about me had the backbone to tell me a little something about a trend I was developing, how I’d gotten into the habit of making a comment about absolutely everything, and more often than not that comment was “judgmental.” And to be clear, “judgmental” is polite code for “negative.” Oh, heck, why mince words? I was being bitchy. It’s ironic to note that the person who told me this was being, here it comes, negative and judgmental (not that they saw it that way).
I mean, come on. Me?! I am the Queen of Nice. I bend over backwards to compliment people, to boost morale, to find the silver lining, to shine the ray of hope. So I was offering up a bit of commentary now and then, so what? I love my family and friends even with all their irritating, infuriating, ridiculous faults–isn’t that what you do for loved ones? Isn’t that part of what makes me so great? So what I express my disappointment in hypocritical politicians, irresponsible celebrities, sexist commercials, and just plain talentless tv and cable shows. I expect more. I expect better. I have standards (not that I live up to those standards myself)!
Which begs the question, are you a negative person if the negative things you say just happen to be true? I mean, why should you be criticized for the negativity of what you observe, just because you’re calling it out? It’s not my fault the world and a lot of the people in it fail to live up to my expectations. Why should I coddle racism, sexism, ignorance, debauchery, corruption, and just plain bad taste by ignoring it? It’s generally accepted that if you choose to ignore the negative and only comment on the positive, if you’re always compulsively trying to put a positive spin on things, when, in fact, things are actually pretty bad, then you’re not really being positive. You’re being fake, or at the very least delusional. Who doesn’t roll their eyes at the Pollyannas of the world (those who think good things will always happen and always find something good in everything)? Life is hard! Life can suck! People can suck! What of it?
Well, all this “honesty” and openness, this telling it like it is, isn’t really helping anybody, that’s what of it. In fact, it can swallow you up like an overgrown forest. Life is a path, and every complaint you make along the way acts like a tree blocking your view of the road ahead. Imagine – you’re traveling along a footpath, and each time you say something negative, every time you rag on whatever, a tree pops up. The size of the tree matches the size of the whine, anything from a thin small willow to a big fat Sequoia wider than you are tall. Before you know it, you can get completely lost.
A few trees around won’t get in the way of your progress. In fact, trees here and there can shade your travels, offer a little relief from the heat or shelter from the rain. But if you keep complaining, then tree after tree after tree appears, circling you, blocking your view, obstructing your path. Before you know it, you’re surrounded. You can’t see very far in front of you. You turn back and can’t see anything of the path behind you either. You’ve lost your bearings and aren’t sure even of where you are now, let alone what direction you need to go in. You’ve lost sight of your destination, and the more frustrated you are with being blocked, the more you complain, and the more trees pop up to hem you in.
It’s hard not to complain when things aren’t going your way. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t experience disappointment, frustration, and even anger now and then. Complaining can be therapeutic, so long as it’s designed to vent off a little frustration. The problem with complaining, though, is that while it may help you vent, it solves nothing. Complaining keeps you mired in the problem. And it’s contagious, far more so than saying something positive. People will either join in and you will all continue to bring each other down, or people will avoid you–like the plague.
When you’re feeling a little cursed by life, disappointed with work, friends, family, love, or maybe even with yourself, complaining can help you cope, but only if you keep it pruned back and not let it get so overgrown you get lost in it.