Are Things Really That Bad, or Do You Just Like to Complain?

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Disclosure: I am a complainer.

Post disclosure disclosure: I am making a conscious effort to stop complaining.

Post disclosure disclosure note: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Master Yoda

I recently read Will Bowen’s A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted and am on a new mission to cut complaining out of my life completely.

A Complaint Free World

I first heard about Will Bowen on Paula Pant’s podcast ‘Afford Anything’ and it was as though the two of them were speaking directly to and about me- a Grade A complainer, in spite of my perfectly good life- and I knew I had to read the book.

Will helps one recognize that one is, in fact, a complainer, what can be considered complaining, and how to break the habit of complaining once and for all by partaking in a 21-day complaint-free challenge. Yes, that means going 21 consecutive days without a single complaint.

The challenge involves wearing one of Will’s bracelets (or a rubber band you got from a bunch of asparagus) on one wrist that you switch to the opposite wrist every time you complain. Back and forth, back and forth. Like a lot of things in life, simply acknowledging the problem can eventually lead to its resolution.

The basic idea behind A Complaint Free World is that negativity out keeps negativity in. Constantly complaining is constantly reiterating that things aren’t going your way, that the world is out to get you, that you’re unlucky, unfortunate, unhappy, and that things would be different if whatever you’re complaining about would just get better. But… by not voicing those complaints you can start to change how you think about them and therefore change your outlook on the situation, and your life.

Are things really that bad, or do you just like to complain?

The odd thing is, nobody likes a complainer. And yet… so many people like to complain. Especially Americans. We are the complainingist bunch of people I’ve ever met. If you don’t believe me, go hang out in a third world country where people don’t have access to clean water or basic healthcare and see how your complaints stack up. Before you think I’m saddling up my high horse here, please go back and read my initial disclosure.

Chances are, you yourself are a complainer. Maybe you complain to vent your frustrations, or to get attention, or to be funny. Or maybe you’re just miserable and want to make everyone around you miserable, because that’s what miserable people like to do. Or maybe you don’t like to complain but just don’t know how to stop. I will tell you right now, it is a hard habit to break.

And the real tricky thing is, you might not even know you’re a complainer, or when you’re complaining. At the beginning, even Greg Warcken, the happiest most positive person I know, was complaining on a daily basis, and often we have to ask each other: “Was that a complaint?” because we honestly don’t know. And yes it is or no it’s not, based on the emotional inflection, and whether we’re stating a fact or making a reasonable request. I say when in doubt switch your bracelet.

What is a complaint?

My own personal definition is: Stating anything in a way that does not positively add to or improve the situation.

For example, it’s not a complaint to state the fact that I have a headache, necessarily, but it is a complaint when I state the fact repeatedly and refuse to take Tylenol because I “don’t like taking pills”.

We’re all adults, are we not? Time to face reality and realize it’s okay to experience uncomfortable things in your life. To expect everything to be 100% perfectly comfy cozy all the time is insane. It’s unrealistic. And it only makes the discomfort that much worse when you expect things to be perfect. This is real life. You’re going to experience discomfort. No one needs to know when you have a headache. Or when you’re cold, or your belly hurts, or you’re hot, or the mosquitoes are bad. Do something about it, or don’t. But either way, don’t complain.

Examples of complaints might include:

Voicing displeasure or discomfort without seeking help or a resolution

Person: “My hands are cold.”
2nd person: “Why don’t you wear your down mittens?”
Person: “Then I can’t use my hands.”

Try this instead!
Suck it up and have cold hands that you can use, or put your mittens on and take them off when you need to use your hands, and kindly shut the hell up.

Road rage
“Why the FUCK are you going so slow?!”

Try this instead!
Don’t get upset or cuss out loud about something you have zero control over. Try leaving earlier, or going around them, and kindly shut the hell up.

“I could tell you things about ______ that would make your skin crawl.”

Try this instead!
Work on your own imperfections and kindly shut the hell up about others’.

Playing the victim
“I’m fat because my mom always made me finish my plate and I still do whether I’m hungry or not.”

Try this instead!
Realize you are an independent human being and 100% responsible for your own actions. Stop blaming others for your shortcomings and kindly shut the hell up.

Being a Debby Downer
“The complaint-free challenge just sounds like one more thing for me to fail at.”

Try this instead!
Admit your need to stop complaining should take precedence over any other “need” in your life and kindly shut the hell up.

“Thanks for giving me three patients who all discharged today. Made my day awesome.”

Try this instead!
Realize some days at work are going to be are going to be crappier than others, but so far you’ve survived 100% of those crappy days. Remember you’re making US dollars and kindly shut the hell up.

Unnecessary comparisons
“It’s good, but it’s not as good as ______.”

Try this instead!
Appreciate what you have, no matter if it’s better or worse than what you had before. To constantly compare is to constantly complain. So, as always, kindly shut the hell up.

Even certain words can be construed as complaints:

“You always burn the popcorn.”

Make the popcorn yourself. Or keep an eye on the popcorn yourself. Or realize that burned popcorn is delicious and you should be happy to live in a world that includes any kind of popcorn, burned or no.

“I could never stop complaining.”

Not with that attitude! I saw a kid the other day wearing a shirt that read “Why don’t you try practicing?” I love that. It’s simple and it’s fair.

“I hate my legs.”

Get off your duff and go for a run. Do some lunges. Stop eating cinnamon rolls.

“I can’t hike that far.”

Just give it a go. Even if you fail you’re doing better than if you hadn’t tried at all.

I mean honestly, I can’t think of a single person who should be complaining about anything, no matter their situation. Because it doesn’t help. Complaining literally does nothing but exacerbate the problem and lead to more displeasure.

Stop complaining, and see how your life can stop being the suckfest you’ve made it out to be, and start being the one you’ve always wanted.

But be warned…

Once you start actively acknowledging your own complaints you will inevitably notice others’ more. And it gets really old, really quick.

But… on a more positive note, you will appreciate and gravitate more toward the contented people in your life who are really great to be around!

My biggest challenge

Without a doubt the biggest challenge to keeping my thoughts in and my mouth shut has been at work. Every day I swear I’m not going to complain, and every day I have to switch my bracelet before I even get out of report. It’s not easy taking care of the ill and the infirmed, particularly when they’ve brought it on themselves. You know- your smokers, your drug seekers, your noncompliant diabetics, your morbidly obese. It wears on one’s soul to care for people who seemingly don’t care for themselves, but who love to complain about how bad they’ve got it.

And sadly, that wearing on the soul can make some of my fellow nurses just as bad as the patients. They bitch about their assignments, they bitch about the ER nurses and the floor nurses and the pharmacy and the lab, they bitch about their patients and their patients’ families, they bitch about being short-staffed, then they bitch about being put on call, then they bitch about having to work overtime. Worst of all they bitch about the other nurses on their own units instead of trying to teach and improve and cooperate. Mind you, I am not excluding myself from this bitchfest.

I am terribly guilty of all of it

I’m guilty of bitching about my family, my husband, my coworkers, my acquaintances, strangers, my job, my lack of a job, the Cubs picking up Daniel Murphy, the fact that Nascar exists, single-use plastics, my aches, my pains, my legs, my inability to sleep… You name it, I’ve bitched about it.

And what good has all that bitching done me? Not one single ounce. Complaining has done nothing for my life except alienate me from others, make me downright miserable to be around, and create in my mind a rocky place where a positive thought can find no purchase.

And I’m done with it. I am the last person on Earth who should complain about anything. I am healthy and strong, I get to be married to the greatest man I’ve ever met who makes me laugh on a daily basis- surely my favorite pastime. I have a family who cares about and loves me and makes me laugh, and super great in-laws who care about and love me and make me laugh. I have a great career that allows me to work when and where I want, and make and save a shit-ton of money. My laughy husband has a job he loves that allows us to jump on a plane whenever we’d like and fly across the ocean in lay-flat seats with all the movies and chocolate and coffee we can handle. I’m living the life I dreamed about growing up, yet I never dreamed things would be as great as they actually are.

Kyoto, Japan
Enjoying a romantic stroll through the streets of Kyoto with my main squeeze.

“A Complaint Free World” changed my life

I read the majority of the book aloud to Greg and we agreed to change our complainful ways together. It took us a solid month and a vacation in Japan to go one whole day without a single complaint between us. Then I screwed it up the very next day saying something hateful about an acquaintance. And… I’m back to day one.

But not to be discouraged! I wake up every day ready to start anew with positive thoughts- happy to have slept in a bed with a pillow under a roof with a blanket next to my husband in a structure with walls and a floor where I feel safe and warm, or cool, depending on the outside temperature.

This book has instilled in me a real passion for voicing my pleasures more and my displeasures less (and eventually not at all). Since starting the challenge I have removed myself from gossip sessions at work, and have held my tongue (most of the time) when I want to complain about, for instance, my Jabba the Hut patient who insisted I wipe her even though she lives at home independently. I refused, of course, and I just switched my bracelet for referring to her as Jabba the Hut. Even though she’d totally win in a Star Wars costume contest without even dressing up. I just switched again. My point is, I’m happier to go to work. I’m in a good mood, even when my patients suck! Other nurses tell me I’m a ray of sunshine in a dark and dreary place!

Outside of work when I’m hurting, or uncomfortable, or have four open sores on my feet from sandals I haven’t worn in a couple of years, I take Tylenol, or put on a jacket, or change my shoes and just keep it to myself. Greg doesn’t need to know every time I feel the slightest bit of discomfort. No one does. Because I’m an adult and this is real life.

I’m smiling and laughing more, and bitching and cussing less. Well… somewhat less… I’m always happy to see my Greggles and am so much more pleasant to be around. I mind the lame things less and appreciate the great things more. Even my internal dialogue is happier and more positive. A couple of weeks into the book I found a piece of paper on the ground and wrote “Have a great day!” with a smiley face and slapped the son of a bitch on a stranger’s windshield for I couldn’t help myself!

That is not me! I am not a sweet, bubbly person! I am sarcastic and venty; I’m known for my rants. And yet… I’m ranting less and loving more. This isn’t coincidence.

And you can too!

I love, love, love the thought of everyone I know- my mom, my siblings, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, my in-laws, my nieces and nephews, my friends, and my coworkers- reading this book and taking the challenge. If you have an open mind to the idea of a complaint-free world, I have no doubt it can change your life, and your spouse’s life, and your children’s lives. Can you imagine the joy of raising a complaint-free child, or the pleasure of a complaint-free marriage? What a life!! Contented, peaceful, purposeful, and fulfilling.

Start right now by asking yourself “Is _____, or _____, or _____ really that bad, or do I just have a horrible habit of complaining?” As soon as I heard the question I knew my own answer. What’s yours?

You can find out using my Amazon affiliate link to buy the book, or of course I always recommend utilizing your local library.

If there are things you don’t like in your own life, take action and make a change. Or don’t. Either way, stop complaining. Change your voice, change your thoughts, change your life.

I have a whole pile of complaint-free asparagus rubber band bracelets if anyone wants to start their own challenge! PM me your address and I’ll send you one with handwritten a “Have a great day” smiley face son of a bitch piece of scrap paper!

Other posts you might like:
A Budget is Not a Punishment
It’s Okay to Talk About Money
Our Debt Free Life

5 thoughts on “Are Things Really That Bad, or Do You Just Like to Complain?

  1. Gah…I love this. Going to look for that book and start this challenge up. I didn’t consider myself so bad but when I think about it, perhaps I was wrong!

  2. Jamie, I got so inspired I clicked out of the blog and went straight to Amazon to order the book before finishing your blog! So I bypassed your link!!!! I am so sorry!!!! I just learned a valuable lesson. Oh, and it’s Debbie Downer, not Debby Downer!!! I love you so much and am so proud of you! And I love Greggles, too! Mom

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