The rules of my challenge:
I Gave Up Complaining For A Week And Now I’m Ready To Complain About It
All complaining aside, it was actually a week full of positivity.
Hi there, I’m Mathew, and I may or may not be guilty of complaining…you know, just every once in a while.
What can I say? I’m only human!
But my complaining reached new levels during a recent vacay in Costa Rica with one of my besties.
We spent most of the trip hanging out by the pool. I love any excuse lay out and read all day, and Jas took to swimming laps and lounging in the water. Unfortunately, during an afternoon towards the end of the trip, our relaxing pool time was interrupted by a boisterous wedding party from Brazil. Not only were they loud, which ruined my quiet reading time, but they were also smoking cigarettes in the non-smoking area where we’d been hanging out. I complained relentlessly about them to Jas, and even complained to the front desk attendant about the smoking a number of times.
I could tell Jas was becoming annoyed with me, but I couldn’t stop myself.
The complaints just kept flying out of my mouth. Then, while discussing where to go to dinner, she bluntly told me, “I already know that if we eat by the pool, then you’re going to be complaining about the Brazilians the whole time. And frankly, I don’t want to hear it.” She was harsh, but she was totally right. I’d been consumed by complaining for hours and was ruining our gorgeous night in a tropical vacation spot.
Because of that heated discussion, I decided to try something based on something I think I read in one of Jenny McCarthy’s books: I challenged myself to spend some time without complaining.
The rules of my challenge:
1. I would try not to complain at all for a full week — including, but not limited to, verbal complaints and complaints made on social media.
2. I wouldn’t tell anyone that I was doing this challenge, so that I could end the week by asking my friend Jas and my husband David if either of them had noticed any difference in my behavior.
Day One: Getting into the habit of a no-complaint lifestyle.
Early on Sunday I found myself overcome with road rage while running a few errands. Even though I was alone, I caught myself, and reminded myself that all complaints were to be avoided. This included complaining about other drivers, both vocally and in my own head.
I wanted to avoid starting the week off with the negativity complaining creates.
It was PRIDE Weekend here in San Francisco and I had friends coming from out of town for the festivities, which included a picnic at Dolores Park. I really wanted to focus on being positive. It was going to be a big day, and I wanted to see if my attitude change could lead to a more enjoyable picnic in the park.
You know what, not complaining did seem to make a difference.
Especially when a marching band began playing very loudly right next to the spot we had claimed on the grass.
Now, obviously you can’t expect total peace and quiet at a crowded public park, but damn, this band was super loud, and they just sort of marched into the center of the park without warning. Instead of complaining, though, I insisted that I enjoyed the music, and encouraged everyone to “get into it!”
I don’t want to take credit for the moods and attitudes of all my friends, but my not complaining did seem to make our conversations that afternoon more, I dunno, a little more upbeat. It was almost like my friends were subconsciously following my lead of being more positive.
But then, I was asked how I liked “Finding Dory,” which my hubby and I saw just a few nights before.
I hadn’t enjoyed the movie, but it was a not-so-good situation to begin with. We saw the film at one of those theaters where servers bring food and drinks to your seats, and had really bad service. Not getting any water despite asking multiple times had irritated me so much that I spent the majority of the movie focusing on how pissed I was, and thinking about how I would make a beeline to complain to a manager as soon as the credits started rolling.
Talking about the movie, and our unpleasant experience at the theater, without complaining proved challenging.
Is saying that you honestly didn’t enjoy something a complaint? What about constructive criticism? Is that complaining, too? I was starting to wonder exactly what constitutes a complaint.
Day Two: Accepting that accidents happen, and that complaining about it doesn’t help.
As I pulled out my phone at the laundromat to document the fact that I’d forgotten to remove headphones from a pair of gym shorts, I contemplated the act of (digitally) complaining about it. But like, what was the point? Taking a Snapchat of the headphones wouldn’t help untangle them. Just like, complaining about the marching band wouldn’t have made it go away.
Day Three: Realizing that I definitely complain on Snapchat way too often.
When something annoying or bothersome happens, I frequently find myself getting a picture of it on Snapchat to complain. I’m not this way as much on Instagram, where I tend to post smiling selfies, photos of food and pictures of the home my husband and I are remodeling. For some reason, though, I’m OK with airing my grievances for all of my (literally dozens) of Snapchat followers.
Perhaps it’s because the addition of cute emojis makes me seem not so miserable?
I do find it genuinely annoying when a piece of fruit has a ton of difficult-to-remove stickers, but again, posting a complaint to Snapchat wouldn’t do anything about it. I really needed to look at these accidents and unpleasantries as opportunities to put something positive out into the digital world.
Day Four: If I’m complaining about myself, to myself, then am I really complaining?
Believe it or not, I had actually really gotten into the groove of not complaining by Wednesday. Except for when it came to complaints about myself. I, like almost everyone, have insecurities about my body and appearance. I was displeased by the appearance of a new zit under my lip, and although I couldn’t complain about it, pretending it didn’t bother me didn’t feel very genuine. The zit did bother me, and that was OK. It isn’t necessarily a complaint when you acknowledge a flaw.
Loud music strikes again at mid-week dinner with Jas.
Since when did music so loud you can barely hear what your friend is saying become the norm? Nonetheless, during our meal, I tried to focus on staying positive and insisted that I enjoyed the deafening sounds.
And again, I felt like it made a difference. Turns out, one of the songs the band played was one that had sentimental value to Jas, and the memory led us into a really rewarding conversation. I was definitely feeling glad that I had made the commitment not to complain.
Day Five: Seriously, Home Depot, you’re making this hard for me.
Like how was there possibly only one cash register open? This time though, instead of just documenting my frustrations on Snapchat, I used them to create what I thought were humorous and inspiring messages.
Then, later that evening, my husband mentioned something interesting when we were discussing all of the recent Brexit coverage.
“It’s human nature to complain,” he said, regarding some Brits’ dissatisfaction with the European Union. At this point, he didn’t know about my week of not complaining, and his words really struck me. It really is human nature to complain.
Day Six: Is it possible to enjoy something even more just because you know you can’t complain about it?
I had some time to kill, so I snuck off to a matinee showing of “Finding Dory.” I knew I wouldn’t be able to complain about it, but I also had more realistic expectations for the film…and guess what? I really enjoyed it! I’m not going to say I liked it as much as the original “Finding Nemo,” or even as much as “Zootopia,” but I sure did love me some baby Dory! It seemed weird that simply by going into the movie with a positive attitude, and holding onto that attitude, I could enjoy a movie significantly more than I had when I saw it just a week and a half before.
Day Seven: The end of a week, and the beginning of a new perspective on the way I communicate…especially when it comes to my Snapchats.
On the last day of the challenge my husband David and I met up with Jas at a wine bar, and over a glass of pinot I asked if either of them had noticed anything different about me. Come to find out: David had!
“You’ve seemed to be in better spirits,” he said, and it was true — I had been. Jas admitted she didn’t notice anything, which initially seemed hard for me to believe, but the thing was, it didn’t really matter. I wasn’t not complaining to prove something to her, or to anyone, for that matter…the point was to put more positivity out into the world, and less negativity…and I felt like I’d succeeded. Though, I’ll admit it did feel good to see that at least the hubby thought I’d been in good spirits lately.
1. Not complaining wasn’t really all that hard. It took a day or two of catching myself, but after that, it didn’t require effort to focus on finding the positive in even the most annoying of things.
2. It’s OK to criticize and critique. Just offering an honest opinion, without ill intent or a negative spin, isn’t necessarily a complaint. Trying not to complain doesn’t mean one needs to not share their opinions. Just the opposite, in fact. It’s about expressing those opinions and critiques, but in a way that’s positive and constructive.
3. It’s OK to complain. Even beyond constructive criticism and honest opinions, like my husband said, it’s human nature to complain. I’m not going to say that I’ll never complain again — because yeah, no. But I am going to continue to reach for positivity instead of negativity — in life, and Snapchat.