This article is a continuation of “Complaining, No More? – Monthly Challenge Part 1”. I challenged myself to go a whole month without complaining. This is how it turned out!
Day 1 – AKA Complaining “Vomit”
Right off the bat, I’m off to a rocky start. I have a cold so people have been asking me all day how I’m doing.
I have to stop myself multiple times from spewing my “woe to me” speech. It almost comes out like Cady Heron’s word vomit. I often catch myself at the last second from oversharing about how my throat feels like Dante’s Inferno and that I didn’t sleep well.
But here comes the dilemma. I don’t want to lie and say, “I’m doing fabulously” but I also don’t want to complain.
Mostly, I answer with some mixture of truth and positivity. “Oh, I’m still a bit sick but it’s almost the weekend so I’ll be able to rest up soon!”
Ok, it’s getting a bit easier. I have my “I’m still sick but [insert something positive]” speech all squared away.
Right as I’m about to complain about how cold it is in the office to my coworker in our group chat, I think to myself, is this really necessary?
I spend the day deleting a lot of my own messages. I’m proud of myself.
I have to be at work for 8 am for a 6-hour intensive conference. Today’s the day to test my self-control.
About 4 hours into the conference I’m shivering away. I look like I’m a caterpillar, wrapped in a self-made cocoon, with my scarf wrapped around my shoulders.
Will not complain. Will not complain. Will not complain.
When I’m about to hit my breaking point, the conference leader mentions she turned the room temperature down to 18 degrees C (64 degrees F) to “keep us awake.”
This triggers my internal Hulk. The group chat hears all my grievances. But, complaining doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me feel like I’ve failed.
End of Week 2
There are moments when I can’t take it any longer.
I need to tell my sister that I’m hungry. I don’t know why. As soon as I send the message, I feel better.
What the heck?
This makes me wonder why complaining sometimes makes me feel better but other times it doesn’t.
According to Robin Kowalski, a psychology professor at Clemson University, complaining does actually serve a purpose. Sometimes, the complainer receives sympathy and attention. It also offers an emotional release.
Holding onto complaints can have negative repercussions and the would-be complainer can feel alone in their pain, explains Barbara Held, a psychology professor at Bowdoin College.
Ok so that explains why complaining can be positive, but how come it can sometimes leave you feeling worse?
Well, Dr. Kowalski says that you need to be strategic about who to complain to and when to complain. Complaining works best when you use facts and logic, you know what you want to improve and you know who can improve your situation.
But complaining can still offer benefits, even when your outcome can’t be improved.
This is a lot more complicated than I thought!
End of Week 3:
I’ve started to get the hang of things. I think I’ve reduced my complaining overall but complaints still come out of my mouth every so often. Before I do complain, however, I ask myself, will this be helpful?
I start to write down my complaints in messages to friends. After I’ve written the message, I ask, do I already feel better, just by writing it down? Or do I need “attention and sympathy”?
There is research that shows that by just writing down complaints, as a form of self-expression, this can sometimes be sufficient (i.e., therapeutic writing)
End of Month:
During the last week of the challenge, I feel like I’ve found my rhythm. I think before I speak but allow myself to complain if I think it will be helpful.
I think I’ve found a happy medium.
I realize I will never be a non-complainer (and research shows that that’s not necessarily a bad thing).
I’ve learned to be more mindful of my words by pausing before I start sharing my negative thoughts.
I’m glad I did this challenge and I think I’ve learned more about myself and about human behavior.
Leave a comment to let me know which challenge you’d like me to do next!