I’m so tired. I’m so busy. This is so unfair. I hate it here. It’s so hard. Why do I have to work so much? Why can’t I just sleep all day? It’s not as nice as I expected. This sucks.
We seem to be surrounded by people who flourish on complaining. It’s almost romanticized in a way, given how common it is on social media. In today’s post, I’d like to emphasize the difference between letting out things that are bothering you (venting) and focusing on the negative aspects of your life (complaining).
There’s a very interesting thing that happens to our mindset when we stop focusing on what’s going well in our lives. We become complacent and accustomed to a certain level on ingratitude. Let’s unpack how to properly vent, what to do when you feel like complaining, the power of gratitude and how to help other people.
How to properly vent
It’s often incredibly helpful for us to let out our thoughts and troubles. When we engage in dialogue, it allows us to make sense of the chaos in our minds, in order for us to structure it for other people to understand.
Venting is a common way for us to do just that. To comprehend our own problems and articulate it well enough for others to give valuable input. It does however, require a few criteria to be in place. This includes trust, psychological safety and a willingness for us to be vulnerable.
When we start talking to other people about our issues, we need to make sure we’re not just playing victim and complaining about everything. This might make us feel better temporarily, but it can also burden the other party by making them deal with the consequence of our negative energy.
What we should do instead is clearly express how the situation made us feel, instead of bashing the situation itself. Being objective here can be quite useful, to specify the aspects that are actually bothering us. When we’re with people we trust and have a sense of psychological safety around, it typically induces us to be vulnerable.
That’s the main difference between venting and complaining; our willingness to be vulnerable and express our emotions, compared to just focusing on the negative aspects of the situation.
What to do when you feel like complaining
For many of us, it becomes a habit to just start complaining. It’s the first thing we do when things don’t go according to plan (which happens more often than we’d like). So what can we do when we have the urge to start complaining?
The answer lies in a bit of self-awareness. We need to first start understanding the underlying emotions that we’re feeling. This could be feeling frustrated, upset, annoyed, angry, fed up, lonely or just stressed. Once you’re able to identify the feeling itself, learn to accept it.
Acceptance is a key ingredient here yet again. Understand that first and foremost, the feeling is temporary. It will pass. You will get through it. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. We tend to overlook that fact when we’re in the crux of things.
Just try and take a step back and look at things from the bigger picture. You’re learning. You’re growing. The experience will help you evolve. What you should do instead, is find actionable steps to overcome the issue.
Complaining doesn’t bring you any closer to the solution. Focus on finding ways to deal with the problem or to even just understanding it better, you’ll be amazed by how much easier life can be.
The power of gratitude
Remember, energy follows focus. Which means that our power lies in our ability to focus. When we’re able to channel our focus onto our blessings and what’s working well in our lives, we start directing energy into our potential and abundance.
Instead of complaining (or focusing on what isn’t going well), try and re-direct your thoughts into what is going well. This will have a profound impact on your mood, energy levels, motivation and ability to get things done.
Gratitude is the appreciation we experience in the present moment for something we’re blessed with. We’re all blessed immeasurably. You can never count all your blessings, but I suggest you try it out and write down a few things. Do this every morning before you start your day and you’ll immediately start experiencing life a little differently.
After a while, you’ll start appreciating the struggle. You’ll be able to handle the challenges life throws out you more readily. More than just that, you’ll be a lot more joyful and full of energy.
Helping other people
If all else fails when you’re trying to resist complaining, try helping out other people instead. More often than not, this will give you perspective into the problems other people are dealing with, which could help you empathise with them and see your own issues in a new light.
I don’t like to say ‘look at how much better off you are than other people’, because the point isn’t to undermine your own issues. The point is to understand that everyone has issues. Everyone is dealing with certain struggles.
If you can make life easier for just 1 other person, you’ve contributed significantly. This will build momentum and you might even try and make your own life easier (we tend to complicate things for ourselves a lot more than we need to).
What I want to leave you with is this: Focus more on solutions, what you can control, understanding the problem itself, being grateful for what you have and helping out other people as often as possible. Complaining is not the same thing as venting. Be very cautious of that. You don’t want to unnecessarily burden other people, and you don’t want to waste your own energy either. We need all the energy that we can get.
Stop complaining and start focusing on what truly matters.