The Hopelessness of Complaining: Why We Excessively Complain and How to Stop

“Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth, but you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!” -Rocky Balboa speaking to his son

As evident as some of the following will be, I still thought it was worth writing about. It’s human nature to complain. We complain about how terribly people treat us. We complain about how well others are seemingly treated. We complain about unfairness and favoritism. And we complain about how tragic and unlucky our upbringings were. While complaining can elicit sympathy and even increase the possibility of external change, it more often than not is a hindrance.

Children complain all the time and it’s easy to accept; they truly can’t fathom the inherent unfairness of life. And when they sulk, they expect a benevolent authority figure to right a particular wrong. Eventually, as they mature, they learn that, sometimes, they’ll have to adapt, to change inwardly, because the world won’t change for them. So, it’s often easier to complain, especially if they feel hopeless. And kids just as often point fingers at those whom they believe are responsible for their failures. They’ll tell you how unfair it is that their teachers have favorites, or that they didn’t have enough time to study for a particular exam. All of these things are likely true. But is dwelling on them helpful?

To paraphrase Viktor Frankl, when the circumstances aren’t amendable to change, when complaining hasn’t helped, we are called to change our attitudes about them. If you’re looking to excuse your poor grades, you’ll continue to complain about Billy being the teacher’s favorite. If you’re, instead, looking to progress, you’ll work harder for better marks. Both the injustice and the need for adaptation can be and are true; you can, and should, empathize with and feel sad for your prior self, but you have to find a way to move on. If you feel hopeless and believe that complaining is your only option, then consult a therapist who’ll help you explore your beliefs and how they affect your prospects.

I’ve known god knows how many people who’ve wasted so much of their lives complaining and searching for excuses. Because luck is so significant, even in favoritism, it’s easy to keep telling yourself that you just didn’t get a break, that others are the lucky ones. And none of those individuals ever accomplished much; they were mired down by their bitterness.

In the above quote, Rocky tells his son that cowards blame others, implying that the fear of risk-taking is related to complaining. But the fear is also related to one’s perceptions of her options and the probabilities of manifesting them. People get stuck when they feel hopeless; people get stuck when they feel worthless. And excessive complaining keeps us stuck in an unproductive pattern that can cause others to resent us. The complainer can make the person trying to encourage them make them feel as helpless as they do.

Thus, while our past experiences and the resultant beliefs are not our fault, our present interpretations and decisions are our responsibility. We owe it to ourselves and those who try desperately to help us to explore the possibility of error, to take a chance by asking, Could I have been wrong about my value? You’ll be shocked by what you find.

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