A better outlet

Every now and then Gretchen Rubin nails where I am mentally on one topic or another. Here’s a recent Moment of Happiness, summing up perfectly what I’ve been thinking about my own quotidian whines.

“But if a man has commonly a very clear and happy daily life then I think we are justified in asking that he shall not make mountains out of molehills. I do not deny that molehills can sometimes be important. Small annoyances have this evil about them, that they can be more abrupt because they are more invisible; they cast no shadow before, they have no atmosphere…. But when all this is allowed for, I repeat that we may ask a happy man…to put up with pure inconveniences, and even make them part of his happiness. Of positive pain or positive poverty I do not speak here speak. I speak of those innumerable accidental limitations that are always falling across our path – bad weather, confinement to this or that house or room, failure of appointments or arrangements…”

-G.K. Chesterton, “The Advantages of Having One Leg”

Following on that thought is this article: Complaining Is Terrible for You. And I’m finding that’s at least partly true.

It’s more than just focusing on the positive, or listing things I’m grateful for. Actively complaining, out loud or online, makes me feel worse about the situation. Sure, at the time it feels good. But if I spend the day grousing with someone, we don’t feel better about anything afterwards. We feel more helpless, more frustrated, and more irritated with our respective situations. If we’d spent that time doing something about our frustrations, we might actually get somewhere.

Complaining is also, I’ve found, pretty boring. Sure, in the moment it feels good to get that crap off my chest. But the reaction I receive to venting online is enlightening. I don’t typically get as much interaction and feedback from my complaints as I do my other posts. And it even makes me a little sick to my stomach when I come across my rants afterwards. These are not the posts I share in Timehop (or any other throwback medium). They’re more like the box of chocolate you wolf down in a sitting, then instantly regret.

There is one area in which I find complaining is beneficial: it seems to make other people feel better. If I’m sitting over here just talking about the positives, certain people (maybe even the majority!) are hurling mental lightning bolts at me, either because I’m making them feel bad about their own chaotic lives or because they think I am a smug little b. If I show weakness (ie, complain), they like me better. I am more human. Maybe even more flawed than they. What fun!

However, in this instance, I will choose to benefit myself over others. Complaining that hurts me and helps others is not something I have room for in my life. Instead, I need a better outlet for my discontent.

And a more productive method of bonding with others.


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