A couple years ago I asked people to take the “No Complaining Challenge” to see how long they could go without complaining. Sounds simple enough. But it isn’t. And I think most of us failed.
Complaining, it seems, is one of those habits that’s hard-wired into our being human. And the more we do it, the harder it is to shake ourselves free from this tendency that erodes our happiness and I think is more based in comparison “I should be more successful,” “I should have more followers,” than fact.
Elizabeth Gilbert mentions the problems with complaining in relation to being an artist in her book, Big Magic. She brings up a number of points (below) that I want to expand on.
1) If it were easy (being an artist) everyone would be doing it. But it’s not, so shut up. I mean, really, that’s the gist of it. We have chosen this experience. We have decided to live our lives pursuing acting or writing or singing. If you hate it, get out. If you don’t, then take heart that you’re one of the brave ones who is attempting to do it in the first place.
2) Complaining is just boring. I don’t know how my friends put up with me. Maybe they do because as soon as I’m done bitching about my “problems” they chime in with theirs. It becomes a complaining conference. Try to do it less and call your friends on it as well. You might discover you have nothing else to talk about and sit in wonderful silence instead.
3) Ms. Gilbert mentions that each time you complain, inspiration takes flight and doesn’t come back because there’s no room for both to co-exist. I can’t be in inspiration and complaint at the same time. I also have found that there seems to be more and more behaviors that rob me of my inspiration in the same way. Reading Facebook newsfeeds, getting lost in the Instagram wormhole, comparing my life to someone else’s (mostly those presented on social media). I always called it “Compare-and-Despair-ism.” But I think we should add a new step. “Compare-Complain-Despair-Explain.”
4) Complaining keeps you stuck. It just more firmly establishes roots where you don’t want them. And over time you’re going to be in trouble because those roots will be so deep you won’t be able to dig them out.
5) I think we complain as some sort of justification of our lives. That we’re not as talented or successful or awesome as we think we should be (or actually are). So we rationalize or excuse or justify our lives away. You have nothing – ever – to defend about who you are or where you are in life.
Basically, what would we discover if we just stopped complaining?
That our lives are pretty damn great.