Do you remember that trend when people would put a hair tie around their wrist and if they complained they had to switch to the other wrist and the goal was to last for 21 full days?
I never made it past two.
I struggle with complaining. I think I'm making a neutral observation and only realize it was a complaint after the fact: "this coffee is weak,” "I'm so sick of winter", "there is never any parking here."
I'm just observing! Sorry the observations are a buzzkill!
I know complaining is scientifically proven to shave years off your life.
Just kidding, I don't know that, but it can make you focus on what you don't like more than what you do like, which makes the world seem bleak.
I thought gratitude would fix this.
Gratitude makes me focus on what's going well in life – the exact opposite of complaining. If I am thinking, "this coffee is weak" I can follow that up with, "I'm so grateful that the café is cute and I am here with a friend."
I have tried this for years. It doesn't stick and sometimes it actually makes me annoyed with myself. It feels like I'm forcing myself to pretend I'm enjoying something when I'm actually disappointed.
There is a word for this! It is called bypassing. Instead of dealing with my negative emotions, I slap some positive emotions on top of them and pretend everything is fine. I am bypassing the uncomfortable truth instead of working through it.
I have been working with a coach, Elizabeth Dialto, on themes around acceptance and forgiveness.
And it hit me: forgiveness is the response to complaining, not gratitude.
Let's try this coffee situation again.
The coffee is weak. I acknowledge that the coffee is weak and that I'm disappointed, and then I forgive the coffee for not being what I wanted. Instead of pretending it's fine, I admit that it's annoying and then acknowledge that it's okay.
The coffee example is pretty small. But complaining is also pretty small. When something is truly wrong, I don't complain, I get mad or hurt. And guess what? Forgiveness, though difficult and slow, is more powerful than gratitude in those situations too.
This forgiveness technique is handy literally all day every day. I am dog sitting right now. The dog woke me up early to go outside. I felt a complaint about having to take care of this dog come on, and met the dog with forgiveness: you are being annoying, little buddy, and I forgive you and am going to take care of you.
I took a walk to the farmers’ market only to realize I left my cash at home: now we have to do this walk all over again, Johannah.. I forgive you. Let's head back.
This practice has made me realize something – complaining happens when I feel like a helpless victim. When I am saying what bothers me out loud, I am wanting to be saved from the situation. I am stuck on the problem and don't think about solutions.
When I hear the complaint and respond with forgiveness, I take responsibility for my situation. The dog wakes me up early, but I forgive the dog, which allows me to move past my annoyance and do what I need to do. I forgive myself for forgetting my cash, so I let go of my initial surprise and move into problem-solving for myself.
Complaining is also a blame game: this coffee is weak therefore these baristas messed up.
It is this dog's fault that he wants to go outside when I am asleep.
Forgiveness takes blame out of the equation while acknowledging my negative feelings.
It's your turn!
What do you find yourself complaining about on a regular basis? Is it the
or how you look in photos?
How would it feel to forgive these inconveniences?
Choose one of them and try it out. Like this, "favorite bra, I forgive you for having broken elastic." Or, "commute, you are long and boring, and I forgive you."
if you don't have something to practice on right now, first of all, good for you. I mean that sincerely.
But stay aware of the next complaint that pops up and respond with forgiveness. I've been surprised to discover what a big relief it is to forgive. It's like I'm giving myself permission to move on. And, like our conversation last week about looking for fun in your life, forgiveness actually opens me up to be creative and silly. I don't focus on what just went wrong because I have let go and moved on.
As I have been typing, my smoothie melted. And you know what? I forgive it. It's juice now, y'all!
May your complaints feel silly today,