I think that about 99% of the words that come out of my mouth are complaints. I’m constantly complaining. I complain about the weather, about my apartment, about my friends, about people I love, about life, about the kid in class who talks a little loud when he answers questions, and even about God. If I start a conversation with you and my first line isn’t a question, chances are I’m about to complain. Even when I ask a question, I’m normally just setting myself up for a complaint. Like if I was talking to my friend in Arizona, I might ask “Hey how’s the weather in Arizona?” Because, invariably it’s going to be nicer than Ohio weather, and then I get to complain, and that’s nice.
I’m not all that sure why I complain so much. I think mostly I don’t know what else I would talk about. And the thing is I don’t really even have negative thoughts about that many things. Sometimes I just make up complaints so that I have something to talk about. I do this often with people I’m trying to impress, especially girls. “Oh yeah, I had to read (fill in with awesome old epic poem/philosopher/theology/narrative) over the weekend. Such a pain, right?” WRONG! I love reading. I love reading old stuff. I’m a freakin’ English major. The funny thing about this is that it almost always backfires, especially when I’m around people who are excited about life (the kind of people I like to associate with). They just skip over my complaint, perhaps even commenting on how much they like the item in question, and then I just feel stupid.
But I’ve been thinking about it a lot. And I think I complain for two major reasons:
1. I fear being perceived as serious.
If I am constantly complaining, then no one will actually know what I’m passionate about. I can’t be called a failure because I don’t really care about anything I’m doing because if I cared, I wouldn’t complain. I would be excited. I would tell people how awesome it is that I get to read great literature as part of my studies. I would tell people how great it is that I got to spend two hours talking to the friend I hadn’t seen in a while, instead of the one hour we had planned on. I would tell people that I loved the rain even when I don’t have an umbrella because it reminds me of that scene from V for Vendetta when “God is in the rain.”
2. I want affirmation.
I want people to tell me how great I am. When I say things like “Girls aren’t interested in me,” I’m looking for people to tell me all the reasons why girls should be interested in me. Bonus points if there are specific names involved. When I say I’m not good enough for a position, I’m looking for people to tell me that of course I am. And when I complain about something outside myself, like a political ideology or a specific person’s thoughts on a topic, I’m looking for whoever is listening to tell me that I am a better person than the person/thing I’m complaining about.
This is all really ugly and sad and makes me miserable. It’s hard walking around in a world all day that you have to pretend you don’t like. And the scary thing about complaining is if you don’t stop, eventually you will start to believe that the world is miserable. I read so many blogs, meet so many people, see so many news programs that are obsessed with the negatives – with what’s wrong in the world. But there is so much good going on in the world. I believe people respond to positive reinforcement – that if we actually have a legitimate complaint against someone, the best way to go about fixing it is to compliment the person on the other things you like about him or her.
I love complaining…and I definitely understand the looking for affirmation portion of it. For a really long time, I would constantly complain because I wasn’t pretty enough, or some other girl was smarter than me. And I would get the expected, empty response of how smart or pretty the other person totally thought I was. Then I’d feel good for a while. Then I’d do it again.
It was after I started noticing other people doing it that it started to bother me. Fishing for compliments really bugs me now. When a gorgeous girl says something about how she “totally looks like crap today,” I want to slap her, because it’s a lie and she knows it.
I would rant on this for hours, but I’m going to leave it here. People are weird.
Thanks for sharing Helen! Learning how to grow self-confidence without the “empty response” affirmation is a really hard thing to do. People are, indeed, weird.
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