complaint-free lent update

Posted on Mar 8, 2012 in Lifestyle

A few weeks ago, I dug in my heels and decided to wage a personal war against negativity. I gave up complaining for Lent. I’m now a little over two weeks into my social experiment and boy, do I have some interesting observations to share!

  • My awareness of other people’s negativity has skyrocketed. I’m assuming this is the same kind of thing that happens when you give up any kind of vice, like drugs or alcohol—you become hyperaware and it feels like the very thing you are giving up is being used by everyone in every situation. Every conversation at work is negative. Every sentence on the news. Every thing I wanted to tell my husband. Conversations I eavesdrop on at a restaurant. Facebook posts. All negative. After a while, it becomes overwhelming. A few times, I’ve been overcome with the urge to scream, “DON’T YOU EVER TALK ABOUT SOMETHING POSITIVE?!” but I hold myself back because (a) I’m a wimp and (b) that in-and-of-itself is complain-y.
  • We use complaining to bond. More than once, I’ve found myself about to commiserate with someone by complaining only to put on the brakes. We bond with and comfort others when they are frustrated by saying things like, “Ugh, I hate that, too.” or “Yeah, he totally sucks.” And with that crutch gone, it can be a little alienating to both parties. The complainer feels unsupported and the non-complainer feels unsupportive. Learning to say, “I understand” without being negative is a really hard line to walk.
  • Behavior change is hard. Even after two steady weeks of working on this, I find myself easily slipping back into the old habit of complaining without a second thought. I’m not sure if this is because it’s our nature to complain or if because it is so engrained into my everyday behavior that it’s my default. Either way, it’s causing a lot of quarters to drop into my charity jar. A few times, I’ve even stopped myself, realized I was getting ready to complain and decided I “needed” it and dropped a handful of quarters in the jar so I could continue. In hindsight, I definitely didn’t “need” it, but it certainly felt like I did at the time.
  • Work is the biggest challenge. Deadlines, tight budgets, short timelines, needy clients, spending 40+ hours a week with competing personalities—work can really be a bummer sometimes. And it has been really difficult to not voice it, or at the very least, voice it in a way that condones positivity instead of just festering negativity. It has been kind of liberating to be able to say, “This is what I need” instead of “OMG I can’t believe this happened and I didn’t get what I needed and the client is now pissed and blah-te-blah” Which leads me to…
  • I’m getting more accomplished. No question, without complaining I am now doing. I can’t complain about my long to-do list, so instead, I challenge myself to cross a few items off. Instead of whining and moaning about problems or issues, I just fix them or figure out who can. After two weeks, I am 100% positive that my bandaid theory is correct. I use complaining as a bandage. It relieves just enough of the annoyance to make me not want to change anything but not enough to really make the situation improve. With that bandage gone, I’m forced to sew up the wounds and get to healing.
  • I am way more road rage-y than I previously thought. I had no idea how many times I complain while driving (to myself, in a car alone, nonetheless) on a daily basis. It’s obnoxious! And it’s not accomplishing anything. I’m just complaining for the sake of complaining. Of course, there is the rare occasion when it’s totally warranted and the pilot of another car does something truly stupid, but the majority of the time, it’s just little stuff. Stuff that I should let go, or ideally, not even notice.
  • Most interestingly, I don’t think my overall outlook has changed. For some reason, I expected to “go positive” and my whole world suddenly be turned into a field of daisies with puppies running around and a double rainbow in the background. It hasn’t. Things still suck and I still get down, the only difference is now, they don’t fester. I have two choices: (1) accept it and move on or (2) change it. The former is really, incredibly difficult. Action I can do, accepting things that are unjust or frustrating is taking an incredible amount of resolve. And even after I do accept it, it doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

How is your Lent resolution going?

11 Comments

  1. I definitely notice it on FB. I’ve had to hide a few people because it seems that all they do is complain, multiple times a day, and it really brings me down as well!

    • Me too! I’ve had to hide quite a few people. :(

  2. I find your first and last points very interesting. Once I notice something about someone (usually b/c someone else points it out) all I do is notice their quirk. One of my friends is always soo stressed about everything, sadly I didn’t notice until another friend pointed it out.

    Reading you lentin challenge made me question my own complainy nature. Its really interesting to hear your outlook hasn’t changed.

  3. These are some really awesome observations and I am going to be paying a lot more attention to how often and over what I complain about. I definitely identify with using complaining as a way to bond with others. I feel so socially awkward a lot of the time, this seems to be an easy way for me to connect with people, and it’s definitely not healthy. Thanks for this post!

  4. you brought up such an interesting point about complaining about complainers- I wonder this all the time. I’m constantly barraged at work by whining colleagues and sometimes I totally want to whine back to tell them to stop! It never ends haha

  5. Facebook is quite a negative place! I’m pretty complain-y myself, but I’ve even had to block certain feeds on my FB because it from some people it’s a never ending string of complaints. I think it’s amazing that you’re trying this though – kudos to you!

  6. Your first point is spot on… I try to be positive and actually find myself getting frustrated with people who only complain and actually seem to actively seek reasons to complain.

  7. Did you ever check out the resource I linked to you?

    • Yes I did! Definitely an awesome idea. I might have to get the bracelets for my entire office. :)

  8. Hi I’m a new reader!

    I love your idea of complaint-free lent: ) It is more exciting and challenging than the usual go to stuff, like me who gave up Starbucks and alcohol.

    I’ve been trying to be more positive in my life as well. I love how you said you notice how much people complain. Me too! Sometimes I call my husband out on it and he tries to deny it. But to see it everywhere make you want to try harder. Good luck!

  9. Great job cutting out the negativity! Your goal really inspired me to at least pay more attention to my own complaining and negativity recently. I’m the same way in the car and on my bike when it comes to other vehicles, unfortunately.
    The things you’re noticed are super interesting!

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