By: Ismail M Taher
Most of us, no matter how hard we try, often find ourselves in situations where we can do nothing but complain. Complaining is often thought of as a kind of release, where we express our repressed and built up emotions of anger, frustration or disappointment. It’s almost seen as a natural part of life, a method we all use to let the world understand our despondence with the it or with a specific person/situation/event etc.
The problem is that, despite most people practicing complaining on a daily basis almost as a second nature, few people actually realize that they’re doing one of the most destructive things they can ever do to themselves, when they complain.
Few people understand the real toxic impact on frequent complaining on our mindset, success, happiness and inner-peace. They have endlessly locked themselves into a vicious cycle of complaining, complaining and more complaining, without realizing that they’ve been slowly jeopardizing themselves and their inner-peace along the process.
In today’s article, I’ll be exploring the 7 major reasons complaining hurts you, as well as an actionable plan to apply right now, in order to quit complaining for good.
#1 Complaining demotivates you.
Many people rather ‘think’ that when they complain on a regular basis, they’re sort of expressing their built up emotions; while the truth is, complaining is one of, if not the most, powerful demotivating factor ever existed.
The reason for this is pretty simple; I like to express our emotional and spiritual being in terms of energy. We, as humans, possess a limited amount of energy. Where you decide to put that energy to use determines a lot of things about your success, happiness and inner-peace.
When you decide to direct your limited energy towards complaining, you’re wasting a large portion of your valuable reserves towards a truly destructive and toxic path. That way, you’re then left up with just little energy to direct towards anything constructive or positive.
If you’re still unsure, you can randomly pick up any of the most successful people on the planet, and good luck finding someone who’s highly successful and who also complains on a frequent basis.
For example, in his blog post titled ‘THE 20 HABITS OF EVENTUAL MILLIONAIRES’, blogger James Altucher describes complaining as follows:
“Blaming is draining. Complaining is draining. Explaining is draining.
People say, I don’t have enough time. I get that. For instance, I don’t have enough time to become a professional astronaut.
But even that excuse, which two seconds ago I thought was a truism, is false.
One day Virgin Galactic and SpaceX will send tourists into space for cheap. So one day I’ll be an astronaut.
I have enough time again. No excuses.”
#2 complaining shifts responsibilities on some other arbitrary and/or imaginary forces.
This is, in my opinion, the main reason why complaining is utterly destructive. Normally, when we are faced with an unpleasant situation, we generally have two options:
The first option is to face our problems or obstacle, learn how to overcome them, and actually work hard to figure out or overcome that problem, and that’s what I like to call the ‘Constructive approach’ that few people apply.
The second option, which is what most people do, is deciding to just be absolutely passive, do nothing about the actual problem, and just complain about it whenever and however you can.
The problem with that second approach, which I like to call ‘the destructive approach’ is that instead of making you face your problem, assume responsibility, and do your best to overcome it, it totally shifts the blame off your shoulders onto some arbitrary place.
Complaining, momentarily, relieves you off the dire responsibility of having to face and overcome your problems, and convinces you that the culprit behind that difficulty is other person, people, society, government, and the list goes on.
By shifting the blame from yourself towards an imaginary foe (AKA playing the blame game), complaining convinces you that you’re not the one to blame and that you’ve got absolutely nothing to do about it; Hence, setting you up for inaction, demotivation and destructive passivism.
#3 Complaining locks you inside the victim mindset.
One of the most destructive things you can ever do to yourself is adopting the victim mindset; essentially locking yourself inside that victim cycle (which we’ll explore further in a dedicated future post).
For those of you who are not familiar with the term, the victim mindset is a collection of beliefs, assumptions and thought patterns that continually convinces you that you’re the victim of other people, circumstances, situations or events.
The victim mindset is one of the most toxic mindsets anyone can develop; and the reason for this is that it totally robs you of any sort of a constructive or positive life ,halting any potential progress, success, or happiness through life.
Complaining is one of the most powerful forces behind the victim mindset, and the primary way such a mindset chooses to express itself. When you adopt the victim mentality, you’re constantly blaming each and every one for your very own problems.
Some might also blame their family, society, economy or even the government. The danger of such a mentality is that it locks you into a never-ending cycle of complaining, without doing any real positive action to alleviate your difficulties or difficult circumstances.
Also worth mentioning, an incredible quote from the stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius’:
“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
-- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
#4 complaining (literally) rewires your brain, in a negative way.
Not only that chronic complaining can wreak havoc on your mental health, mindset and inner-peace, but its destructive effects extend way beyond that. Complaining has been proven to physically alter how your brain functions.
In an article published on Entrepreneur magazine by Travis Bradberry, co-author of emotional intelligence 2.0, the physical impact of complaining is explained as follows:
“Your brain loves efficiency and doesn’t like to work any harder than it has to. When you repeat a behavior, such as complaining, your neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information. This makes it much easier to repeat that behavior in the future -- so easy, in fact, that you might not even realize you’re doing it.
You can’t blame your brain. Who’d want to build a temporary bridge every time you need to cross a river? It makes a lot more sense to construct a permanent bridge. So, your neurons grow closer together, and the connections between them become more permanent. Scientists like to describe this process as, “Neurons that fire together, wire together."
Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.
And here’s the kicker: complaining damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus -- an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is scary; especially when you consider that it’s one of the primary brain areas destroyed by Alzheimer’s.”
#5 complaining halts your spiritual and personal growth.
If you’re someone who complains about everything on a regular basis, you might be actually hurting your very own journey towards growth, development and maturity as a human being.
The reason for this is quite simple; the person who never chooses to face his struggles or difficulties, and always opts in for complaining and shifting the blame over to anywhere else, is someone who isn’t spiritually strong enough to grow and evolve as a human.
If you’re truly keen on achieving personal growth and everlasting inner-peace, your first step would be to eliminate complaining, assume responsibility, take charge of your own life and destiny, deciding to face your fears and struggles with confidence and bravery.
Those who know better than blaming other people or circumstances for their own shortcomings, are humans who have achieved a great sense of humility, confidence and self-belief.
#6 Complaining leads to misery.
The problem with people who complain a lot is that, they think by complaining about each and everything, they’re relieving their anger, pain and frustration and consequently feeling better; except, that’s bullshit.
When you complain, you may experience that momentary relief, the same way a cigarette smoker enjoy the first few puffs off his cigarette, the problem is once it’s out, withdrawals will soon start kicking in.
The case is quite same with complaining, you might have felt a little relief when you complained to your friend, spouse or co-worker about a particular issue.
But the catch is, you never actually did anything about your problem, so as soon your complaining stops, reality will soon start kicking in again, and you’ll be faced with the dire fact that all of the problems you’ve been complaining about, are still actually there.
Repeat that pattern and you get a lifetime of absolute and pure misery. By allowing yourself to be caught up in that endless ‘instant gratification’ cycle of complaining, complaining and then complaining a little more, you’re setting yourself up for a life of pain, anger, frustration, and disappointments over time.
If you think that complaining actually helps you feel better, well, it might. But soon after, it’ll actually worsen whatever problems you are having. The reason for this is that before complaining, you only had your problem that you may have something to do about it, but after complaining, you’ve got both the problem and your destructive approach of dealing with it.
#7 Complaining robs you of gratitude and appreciation.
One of the most notorious pitfalls of a complaining mindset is that it completely bars you from feeling one of the strongest and most positive human emotions: gratitude.
How this works is that a complaining mindset directs your energy, thoughts and actions towards a particular direction, whilst simultaneously blinding you to a multitude of other directions.
For instance, someone who complains a lot may dwell on a certain aspect of their life, and devote all his spiritual and emotional energy towards wallowing about that particular aspect, while at the very same time, completely ignoring a whole world of other positive aspects that might exist in their life.
Another example is someone who always complains about how unfair life is, and how some people seem to ‘have it all’, while being completely blind to his/her very own potentials, gifts or talents that may very well pave the way for him/her towards success and prosperity, provided they’re properly utilized.
To wrap this up, no one is ever completely immune to complaining. We all, from time to time, may catch ourselves complaining about a person, situation or event.
The problem here isn’t with the occasional complaining (although that as well should be kept to minimal), it’s when complaining ceases to become an occasional thing and turns itself into a lifestyle that takes over your mindset, energies and behavior.
Even if you’re a veteran chronic complainer, there are still lots of hope.
Scientific studies have already proven that given the right willpower, conscious effort and attitude, you can literally rewire your brain towards a more positive thought patters.
If you’re someone who always complains, you can start now. Start consciously monitoring every thought, word, and action that you produce. Start tracking down those negative complaining thoughts, capturing them on time, and replacing them with more productive ones.
The more you practice this, the easier it eventually gets on your route to a more positive, constructive, successful and ultimately peaceful life.
And, before ending this post, I’d like to share one my favorite quotes by Napoleon Hill:
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade and sell it to all of those who get thirsty from complaining.”
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Previously on thehappinesstimes.com:
Why I can't fit in
The comprehensive guide to building an unshakable self-confidence from scratch
Why self-acceptance is crucial to your growth and development
Why I stopped positive thinking
Why you shouldn't' stay strong
10 Reasons you're feeling lost
The power of choice
The importance of hope
The 5-step formula to eliminate suffering once and for all
The power of saying no
By Ismail M Taher
Author, novelist, entrepreneur and chief contributor at the HappinessTimes.com