Here’s something I don’t like to admit: I’m a complainer. Not just any kind of complainer though. I’m a professional. I complain like Kobe Bryant gets buckets. I complain out loud, under my breath, and in my head. My complaining skills would be a source of pride if complaining wasn’t such a terrible habit.
If I had to take a guess, I’d say my complaining started sometime in middle school. I can vaguely recall a looming sense of dissatisfaction setting in during those preteen years. Maybe it was the hormones, or just my ego establishing itself as the dominant force in my life. Either way, there was a lot I didn’t like and I was more than willing to talk about it.
I really can’t be too hard on myself for that. A certain level of dissatisfaction is probably normal for kids that age. But once I started down the path of complaining, there was no turning back. And as with any habit, the more I did it, the more it became a part of me.
I didn’t see anything wrong with this until pretty recently. Even when I embarked on my self-improvement journey three years ago, complaining was nowhere near the top of my list of things I wanted to change about myself. Like most people, I saw it as a natural part of life. Sure, it could be annoying, but everyone I knew complained. Plus it felt really freaking good. But as I’ve set my sights on becoming a more positive person, my complaining has shown itself to be a truly cancerous habit.
In an effort to cut it out of my life, I’ve had to take a step back and ask, “What does complaining do for me?” The answer is nothing. It never helps me solve a problem. Outside of the initial dirty high I get from whining, it never makes me feel better about anything. No one ever wants to be my friend because of my complaining. The benefits it offers are a big fat zero, yet I can think of a ton of ways in which complaining hurts me.
It makes me a much more negative and reactive person in almost every area of my life. It allows me to play the role of the victim instead of taking responsibility for my thoughts, emotions, and actions. But worst of all, my complaining only ever breeds more complaining. It’s like breaking a dam; as soon as I let even a little bit of bitching and moaning out, it just keeps coming and coming.
Basically, complaining is bad. Really bad. So how am I going to rid myself of it once and for all?
The short answer is a combination of personal responsibility, discipline, and gratitude. Actually, I feel like that’s the only answer. As much as I’d love to be able to read that perfect self-help book that changes my mindset or hypnotize myself so I never complain again, quick fixes aren’t gonna happen. All I can really do is take full responsibility for my complaining and commit to the lifelong process of cutting that shit out and replacing it with gratitude.
Something that has already helped me with this in the past few days is a quote by the renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Whenever I feel myself about to complain about a person or a situation, I remind myself that it in every moment I am making a choice. It’s a choice of whether or not to play the role of the victim. It’s a choice between bitterness and gratitude. Most of all, it’s a choice between short-term gratification and long-term happiness.
To end this post I’d like to share a video from Gary Vaynerchuk, one of my favorite entrepreneurs. In less than two minutes he perfectly explains the mindset I’m trying to cultivate.