What annoyed you this week?
I’ll bet you could ask a random group of strangers, and most of them, if pressed, could name at least a few things. Perhaps it was rush hour traffic, or a late bus or train. Maybe a lazy co-wroker, or kids who don't listen. It could be any number of things, really, because we all experience irritation or frustration from time to time.
Not everyone needs to express it, though.
Chronic complainers are people who seemingly cannot handle minor to middle-range irritations. Receiving the wrong food order, getting cut in a line, or dealing with a rude customer can cause a frenzy in a chronic complainer, and worse, give them ammunition to complain with. Things go wrong for each of us every day, and chronic complainers use these "catastrophes" either to gain power or sympathy (which, when you think about it, is another form of power). Chronic complainers don’t feel better when they’ve vented about their story, but will instead retell the same incident several times to many people.
Chronic complainers often try to one-up you. If you're having a bad day or had a negative experience, they're the type of person who'll try to make you feel better (I guess??) by saying how much worse they have it. Chronic complainers wear you out by being so cranky that you care less and less about what they have to say. It gets to the point where even legitimate problems no longer matter to their loved ones because people are tired of their complaining.
My name is Ana, and I am a recovering chronic complainer. It has been two years, seven months, and twenty-three days since my last complaint.
Well, Sort of.
It's not that I cut complaining out altogether. I want to be a better person, not a saint. But I complain a lot less than I used to and I'm trying to save it for the really big stuff. My aim is to let things I can't control go, and only speak about problems I am seeking resolutions for. Often, when I'm talking about these issues, I'm looking for opinions and advice from my loved ones (whether or not I listen is an entirely different story =P), rather than needing to blow off steam or vent. Don't get me wrong--I'm still pretty guilty of attention-seeking rants from time to time. I may be doing better, but it doesn't mean I'm quite there yet.
The way you handle setbacks and irritations speaks volumes about your character. It’s not that only certain types of people ever get upset over things, but people who are good at stress management don't need to tell everyone about it. They know that in the grand scheme of things, whatever happened is not a catastrophe, and they will survive even if they never tell a soul. People who are good at stress management feel the irritation, acknowledge it internally, then make a conscious choice to let it go. It sounds too easy to be real, but that's honestly all there is to it.
<<As an aside, if improving your stress management is something you're really interested in, I highly recommend beginning the practise of mindful meditation for 10 minutes a day. There are countless multimedia platforms you can seek for guided mediation at home, but this is what I use -- I hope it helps!>>
Chronic complainers, if left unchecked, may find themselves referring to the same moments over and again for years. This is dangerous behaviour. A chronic complainer can hold a grudge like no other, never letting go of something that no longer holds bearing on their life, though they strongly believe it does. I know someone who was married for 10 years, has been divorced for 15 years, and still talks about how her evil aunt ruined the wedding video by making a bunch of unnecessary noise during the ceremony. Guuurrrll, you don't even love the guy anymore --who cares?!
Look, I'm no therapist, nor am I equipped to help anyone deal with that kind of baggage, so if you read the above paragraph and saw yourself, it's probably not the worst idea to consider seeking professional help. Not everyone has the tools they need to manage stress, but everyone has the capability of gaining them.
I'll say a final thing about chronic complaining, and it's a bit of a hard pill to swallow. If you find yourself as the victim in every, or even most situations, if you are the common denominator in many altercations or aggressions, or if it feels like the world is out to get you, there's a pretty good chance the problem might not be the rest of us at all. There's a lot you can do for yourself to make your life easier and better, and if counselling or coaching don't sound appealing just yet, there are plenty of steps you can take first to start moving forward with your life.
(Photo of Bea Arthur from Golden Girls Distributed by Buena Vista & Disney–ABC Domestic Television)