Stop Complaining

Stop complaining
Stop complaining.

If you’re anything like me, there are probably certain traits that you see in other people that drive you crazy.

For example, here are a few less-than-pleasant traits that most well-adjusted people can’t stand: rudeness, selfishness, thoughtlessness, laziness, arrogance, intolerance, dishonesty, and apathy, just to name a few.

But there’s one more trait that’s not on the list above that truly drives me insane.

I think that the reason why it annoys the hell out of me so much is because I used to be the living, breathing poster child for this miserable trait on a daily basis.

I was a chronic complainer. Yup, yours truly.

There used to be a time in the not-so-distant past where I would complain about anything and everything to anyone who had the misfortune of being stuck listening to my constant whining.

It didn’t matter if it was about my job, the weather, the pain in my knee, my sorry bank account, my girlfriend drama, how busy I was, how tired I was (you get the picture). If something ever went wrong in my life, please trust that I would instantly put a negative spin on it, and then spend the rest of the day (or longer) complaining about it.

To this day, I am so thankful that I had a friend years ago who was willing to snap me out of my funk by giving me some much-needed tough love.

  • He told me that my personal relationships would eventually suffer if I continued to constantly suck the energy out of every room with my complaining (he was right).
  • He told me that my professional career would eventually stall out if I constantly repelled the people who I worked with by complaining instead of taking action (again, he was right).
  • He told me that my mental, emotional, and even physical health would eventually decline if I didn’t make a decision to stop complaining and wallowing in negativity everyday (he was still right).

Thankfully, his tough love completely transformed my life. More accurately, it saved my life.

I have never looked at complaining in the same way ever since, and if you engage in chronic complaining like I did, then hopefully I can help you to break the cycle too.

All it takes is a little tough love. That’s why I’m here.

Venting is a Good Thing

Complaining and venting often get used interchangeably, but I think that they are both very different.

I believe that venting is a good thing.

Venting is simply about temporarily (key word) blowing off some steam or appropriately releasing some frustration. For example, you might need to vent after you get off the phone with a ridiculously rude customer, or after a bird took a poop on your brand new jacket as you were walking into the office.

Venting is not about rehashing the drama of the situation indefinitely–you vent about the asshat customer or the asshat bird (side note: can a bird be an asshat?), and then once it’s off your chest, it stays off your chest.

Complaining, on the other hand, is nothing like anything mentioned above.

Whereas venting can be done alone (for example, going to the gym for a hard workout, writing an emotional letter then throwing it away, or even crying can all be considered as venting), complaining is all about staying stuck in a destructive pattern of needing other people to serve as a dumping ground for our negative emotions.

There’s nothing healthy or positive about the pattern of complaining–for the complainer, or for you, if you’re stuck listening to it. And just like many other unhealthy pursuits, it can be addicting if you choose to partake in this activity too often.

As a former addict, let me share how I broke the pattern.

Thinking From Intention and First-World Problems

Years ago, one of my friends challenged me to go 24-hours without complaining.

This may sound silly, but it was a magical experience for me. Just the process of being more intentional with my thoughts, words and actions for 24 hours was like hitting the “reset” button for me. Before doing the challenge, I thought that complaining is something that you’re “supposed” to do when bad things happen.

I was so wrong.

Chronic complaining never makes anything better, it saps your energy and the energy of those around you, and it makes friends and family screen you out when you call or run in the other direction when they see you coming.

It is very important to mention that anyone who is dealing with big issues (death of a loved one, serious injury/illness, abuse, etc.), please know that this isn’t directed towards you. When I was dealing with some very major issues in my life, I needed to hang out in the darkness for a while before I was ready to live in acceptance (or forgiveness, depending on the situation) and move on.

Specifically, this post about people who choose negativity and complaining when dealing with the far less serious “First World Problems” (FWPs). If you don’t know what FWPs are, check out the short video below:

In the future when you’re dealing with life’s inconveniences (and you will), there really are only two options that make any rational sense:

1) Do something about the issue–and in the extremely rare instances where you can’t, then…

2) Vent and let it go.

Complaining incessantly to anyone who will listen to us–while simultaneously wallowing in the negativity for an indefinite period of time, without any desire or interest in solving the issue, can no longer be an option.

Instead of complaining, we can choose resiliency.

Instead of complaining, we can choose thoughts and words that will lead us toward a solution, instead of keeping us stuck in the problem.

Instead of complaining, we can choose to raise the energy in the room and not drain it.

Instead of complaining, we can choose to remember all of the blessings that we have.

Most of all, instead of complaining, we can learn the skill of happiness.

There is nothing easy about any of this. If you are currently addicted to complaining like I was, breaking the vicious cycle may be one of the hardest things that you’ll ever do.

Don’t let that stop you.

This isn’t about living a complaint-free life, a complaint free year, a complaint free month, or even a complaint free week.

This about challenging yourself to do something that’s potentially life-changing during the only time that matters:

Just Today.

Good luck.

Your Turn

Are you (or have you been) a chronic complainer? Have you been able to successfully kick the habit of chronically complaining? If so, jump into comments below and make your voice heard!

58 thoughts on “Stop Complaining”

  1. Shola! Another post that knocked me over with its awesomeness! I have already shared it with both my boss and my staff.

    Such a simple idea and yet such a HUGE difference it can make!

    So was the change in you part of what motivated you to make your brother stay in LA a day longer, ergo saving both of your lives????

    Keep being so amazing, Shola! We need your voice so much!!


    • Hey Kathy! Thanks for sharing the post with your staff! Complaining is such a destructive and useless habit, and I’m so happy that kicked the complaining addiction. And yes, the change did happen right before our big trip to LA 12 years ago–nice call! 😉 Thanks for reading Kathy!

      • See? Now that is remarkable. More people need to hear from you and your brother about that! Changing your attitude saved your lives! This is not a little thing. This is not a minor detail.

        The power of a positive attitude is so underestimated… and yet it really does save lives.

        And thank goodness for that, too! <3

        • Wow, so cool to find this website. I too was a very big complainer until I had a nervous breakdown. I was locked in the psych ward for 5 days, which was pretty much my worst nightmare come true. However, it changed my life. I was sitting on that bed that I shared with 4 other women, wearing my favorite black sweatshirt that the nursing staff had cut the hoodie ties off of, asking myself how did I get here! The week before I was staying at the Hyatt in Seattle giving a presentation to a group of business people. Now I was sharing a room and a bathroom (WITH NO DOOR) and I was locked in the psych ward!

          In that moment, I realized it was my toxic job situation filled with dishonesty and #metoo moments. I had stayed too long there (9 years) for the security I thought it gave me. I had my “aha moment in that psych ward” and I never went back to that job. That was 4 years ago.

          I’m extremely grateful for the experience because it taught me an important lesson. Always follow my gut. Now I listen to my intuition and have developed a positivity practice.

          I’m so happy to connect with others who understand the importance of positivity. Thank you so much for creating this. I can’t wait to read your books and I’m definitely getting a shirt!!

  2. I have a family member who is a chronic complainer. Everything is always wrong all of the time. Nothing will ever make it better. No amount of advice or suggested solutions to problems will ever be good enough. There are even problems with every possible solution. It drives me crazy!
    Without going into detail, I had a difficult upbringing. There were many problems almost always. Interestingly though, it was through that upbringing that I learned that things usually have a way of working out. Complaining doesn’t get you anywhere. Often times, the only thing to be done is get over it and get on with it. Figure out what YOU can do to make it better. Every day, think of the things that make you fortunate. I don’t know who wrote the below, but it fits here. Once again Shola, great post! I am blessed to have found your blog!

    “If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money in your bank, your wallet, and some spare change, you are among 8% of the world’s wealthy. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture or the horrible pangs of starvation, you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering. If you can read this message, you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read at all.”

    • Hey Spring! Chronic complainers are absolutely brutal to deal with–believe me, this is coming from a dude who used to be one! Your family member is a perfect example of what most chronic complainers are all about. They have no interest in finding solutions, they just want to dump their negativity on someone. It’s sad, and it’s also very hard to deal with. But like you said, complaining doesn’t get us anywhere, and instead, it makes infinitely more sense for us to figure out what we can do to make the situation better.

      I’ve always wondered how some people with difficult upbringings can end up being optimistic and positive, while some people who seemingly have everything end up being so negative and pessimistic. I’m so happy that you ended up on the positive side! Also, the quote that you included is absolutely incredible and very eye-opening too. It definitely puts things into perspective whenever I think about slipping and complaining about my “first world problems”, that’s for sure. Thanks as always for your very thoughtful comment Spring, and for the awesome quote!

      • You know, I’ve contemplated that a lot in my life. At the risk of sounding cliche, I think the answer is love. I was born to teenage parents. Even though the problems we had were too numerous to list here, the one thing I never, ever felt was unloved. I always felt that someone cared about me. I truly believe that is what made the difference. All you need is love…dooot do doo… (Can you hear the Beatles in your head?) 🙂 Have a great week Shola!

        • thx for the post! Ive been looking for the difference between complaining and venting. I’m still not quite sure what the difference is. Unfortunately most my life I’ve delt with all kinds of abuse, emotional, physical, mental, and sexual abuse. If anyone struggles with feeling unloved, people like me do. I’m learning how to let someone love me all over again because the ones who abused me told me they loved me. I deal with a lot of emotional baggage and I want out. As far as I know I wouldn’t call myself a complainer but I’m trying to make sure I’m ot a complainer. Sometime I feel that people are not realistic with me. When you come from that kind of background you can’t just get over it as my friend has told me. I want to but I don’t know how. I have more friends who listen when I need to talk but its seldom that I do talk to them because I don’t want to be a complainer. I deal with mental and emotional disabilities. I want to turn this thing around but I just don’t know how to do it as quickly as everyone would like for me to. wwyd?

          • Hey DeeDee, I don’t have a solution to offer but I wanted to let you know you aren’t alone in your thoughts/feelings. It is hard to know/feel love when you have been abused. It is hard to open up to friends because we don’t want to be “complainers”, but most abusive situations run deep and not something you can simply “get over”. Thank you for posting, reading this made me feel a little less isolated. -Jessa

  3. Such a powerful idea… Simple yet life changing!

    Thank you, again, for your powerful words and inspring motivation!

    “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” ~Shirley Chisholm

    • You are very welcome, Valisa (aka, Q.Q.)! The quote is completely on-point: whimpering and complaining does nothing, but implementing positive ideas has the power to change the world. Thanks again for continuing to add to my ever-growing quote list!

  4. I once had a complaining acquaintance (friend of a friend), and I did learn to never ask her how she was. It got to where I challenged myself to ask only questions that could not be answered negatively. For example, when she was in a horrible wreck and her car was totaled, I asked how she made it home (boyfriend picked her up) and commented on her great boyfriend. It was tough. But I did pretty well. To this day I don’t know how she broke her arm that one time!

    Of course this strategy could not work, at least not by itself, with people you are close with. Or even people you work closely with. But it could help for people you see once a week or less.

    • Hey Debbie! That’s a great idea and one that I’ve used often. It can be tough (and it requires some serious creativity in some cases) to come up with questions to keep a chronic complainer speaking positively, but it can be done. And hopefully, if it’s done well, it will help to re-program some of that incredibly entrenched destructive thinking that the chronic complainer uses so often. Thanks for sharing!

      • I never was a complainer till I had lots of issues with no help I did a game plan to find solutions my doctor did absolutely nothing to help me so I went to church and cried asking God this is my last option left I need you ppl failed me no choice pleasee lird

  5. Shola, I was directed here from your brother’s blog, and I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m generally a positive person, but I still find silly things to complain about occasionally. I’ve learned that the BEST way to beat negative thoughts is to be GRATEFUL. I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal since January 1 and I have found multiple things to be thankful for every single day. It’s really hard to be negative and complain if you’re thankful for what you have. Once you start the habit, you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier to be thankful, and find new things to express gratitude for. Pretty soon it will become a mindset.

    For more information on studies about how gratitude is actually beneficial to your health, see these sites:

    • Hi Rebekah! I could not agree with you more! Sincere gratitude is one of the best ways to fight off complaining and negativity, and like you, I also use a gratitude journal :). The power of being consistently thankful cannot be overlooked, and I agree, that once you get started, the activity quickly becomes a habit, and then it becomes an unconscious mindset of positivity. Thanks for sharing the studies!

  6. Another awesome article worth sharing and spreading!

    I’ve had to deal with a lot of complaints from every aspect of my job. May it be doctors, staff, or patients. However, I always try to see it as a room for improvement…that there’s a need in there…I try to look for solutions. However, I still come across people who will still complain and complain even after you’ve offered countless solutions to the issues they brought up. That’s when I realize that I need to step back and away from them. I’ve been recently trying to limit my contact with these people to avoid pouring negativity in my head. Because that mentality can have a viral effect. It’s not easy, but I try.

    Thank you for clarifying the difference from venting and complaining. I was born and raised in a third world country. Even though I’ve been lucky not to want a lot of things when I was growing up, I’ve seen so many who people who are not as fortunate. It gave me a different perspective when I hear people with “first world problems” and it saddens me.

    I wish more people would wake up from looking into themselves and start looking out to the world. To start looking at things to be grateful for. It does a lot of wonders for the heart and mind when we start being thankful for the little things in our lives. I’ll start this day with:

    Thank you, Shola! You have been an inspiration to me and I feel so happy that I’ve come to know a person like you. Your presence brings this wonderful energy in the room – it could be a mindless training and instructional meeting but you always deliver it with such enthusiasm that nobody can help but be enthusiastic as well. Again, thank you for that!

    • Hey Lariza! You are so fantastic, thank you so much for your comment! I agree, I’ve been trying to limit my contact lately with chronic complainers because like you said, it can have a viral effect. I need every ounce of energy that I have, and I can’t waste any of it dealing with mindless negativity all day, that’s for sure. It is so great to hear from you Lariza, and hopefully we’ll get a chance to grab coffee soon!

  7. Thank you for “the difference between venting and complaining”. That’s so important!

    I used to complain a lot myself.
    A supervisor called me on it, and I realized that what I was bitching about were *corporate* policies, and nobody I was talking to could change ’em, either. The only way to truly make a difference was to ask my “Why? What’s the thinking behind this?” questions of folks who had more to do with them than just “follow the book” – higher up the food chain. that scared me, at the time, so I didn’t – Oh, “If I knew then what I know now”, though…

    • Hey Karen! Yes, it is SO important to know the difference between venting and complaining. I honestly believe that a good venting session is one of the best and quickest ways to get the negative feelings out of our system. Just like you, there were many times in my life where I complained and bitched often (especially at work). Looking back on it now, I missed a lot of opportunities to make things better for myself because I rarely took action–instead, it was only about complaining about what wasn’t working. The good news is that you and I have both figured out a much better way :). Thanks for reading!

  8. Shola, I somehow missed this post the first time it came around, but I am so glad I came across it today. There is a woman I have known for many years who is one of these chronic complainers. I still keep in touch with her through Facebook because I genuinely do care about her and would miss her and her family if I cut them off completely.
    But I have found that I simply can’t spend any time with her in person or talking on the phone because it is so draining. I wish there were a way to send her this article without offending her… she would see it as a slap in the face rather than the helping hand I intend.

    • Hey Kari! Believe my friend, I am SO with you on this. Just like you, I have a friend who I only keep in touch with through Facebook because his chronic complaining is ridiculously draining for me. One thing that could work in your situation is to email this post to her and say “Hey (insert friend’s name), I found this post to be fascinating–do you think that there’s a difference between venting and complaining?” Even if she was initially annoyed (hopefully she won’t be), hopefully she would take the time to read it and maybe have a moment of self-reflection. Either way, I think that it’s definitely worth a try. Most importantly though, I’m glad to hear that you’re not allowing her “draining energy” to mess with your positive vibe. Good luck, my friend!

  9. Hi Shola,
    I love your blogs. I am 62 and just beginning to open my eyes. Your posts are so inspiring.
    I find myself getting sucked into complaining marathons at work. I know I am responsible for my own part in them. But to be honest, I forget to be positive. Worse yet, I often choose to mire in the crap. I don’t understand why I do that. I give myself pep talks almost every morning before work. My resolve rarely makes it through the morning. I will keep working at it.

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  11. This was an amazing post, I have come to the realization lately in my professional career I have become a chronic complainer and its turned me into a person that I don’t want to be. I have come to understand why most people will have a “poker face” in the corporate environment. I want to begin to achieve success in my own career and I feel that it might be to late that my “professional reputation” may be to far tarnished by my constant complaining. Any suggestions on way to redeem oneself?

  12. Hi Shola,
    Aren’t you thankful YOU made the decision to take on your mentor’s challenge! You could have remained pessimistic and continued to emotionally drain those around you and play the victim role and blame them for your issues and truly believed the “madness” that it was everybody else doing things to you instead of it being a self – fulfilling prophecy because of your negativity. I “had” someone in my life like that but for my own sanity and emotional wellbeing I had to cut them out of my life. As a “nurturer/rescuer” it was hard to remove them from my life but I had to love me more and nurture/rescue MYSELF.

  13. I really love this! I was trained to be a complainer and was raised that way. It’s difficult to break the cycle, but luckily I married someone who rarely complains.

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  18. Hi Shola, I just discovered today that I have been a chronic complainer. Thank you for your article. I have to start working on the negative attitudes because they are affecting my relationships and my career presently.

  19. Thank you! I never knew the difference between venting and complaining. I’m a reformed complainer, I did the 24hr challenge now it’s been 2 wks. I’m so much happier and so are those around me. My question is how to stop others from complaining to you? They won’t accept the challenge either or accept the difference in venting. Thank you again!!

  20. I am literally a serial complainer and this hit home a lot. I read it all the time when I find it difficult to not complain and it gives me a new and better outlook on situations. I hope one day I too can have this mindset and inspire people as you have Shola.

  21. I am a chronic complainer. As I read this article I started to cry. I showed it to all of my closest friends. Sigh. I am trying to hard to change. Some days are good and others I just break down. I hope to get over this soon before it’s too late.

  22. Well the ones that have been blessed by God to be married with a wonderful family, have no right to complain at all since many of you should be very thankful for what you have when many of us were never blessed like you were. Especially the ones that have Money today.

  23. Hello Shola, great post, it really helped me see the difference between complaining and venting. This was previously not a distinction I was aware of.

    I am trying to figure out how to deal with my girlfriend, who seems to be a complainer (not yet sure if that’s the case or if she is venting, but now that I’ve read this I will take notice what is actually going on).

    I DO find myself strongly hesitating to call her sometimes or ask her “how’s your day been?” because the answer almost always leads to her starting to complain (or vent?) about what bad things happened to her at work, or what someone said or did that was not good, etc. Quite frankly, it drains me. I do not have the patience to listen to that kind of talk because I interpret it as whining and seeing herself as a victim, and I do not find it helpful or constructive to have such conversations.

    We have talked about this, and she says that she just wants me to listen and feel with her. I, however, feel strong aversion towards “feeling with her” when she talks about those types of things since I have aversion towards such thoughts, period. I interpret such talk as seeing oneself as a victim of circumstances, and feel aversion (even judgemental) towards that. When she starts talking like that, insteadoff feeling understanding (which is what she is looking for), the thought that pops up in my head are almost always solutions and a way forward, or thoughts like “what’s the big deal? Just move on.”

    Should I try to change my perspective / am I being judgemental, or am I right to feel this way, and how can we deal with it when we have such different interpretations of what her behavior means? (For me it means destructive negativity, fir her it means something that I don’t yet understand.)

    If you have any thoughts on how I can handle this, I would be thankful.

  24. Im a 48 year old woman who suffers from mental illness-depression ,. I caregive for my mom who is 81 . she is and always was a complainer, I never was married or had children, learned late in life that she made me dependant on her. When she dies I’m afraid I will be homeless, since I caregive for her and still live with her I as of tonight choose to go catatonic . If I HAD no voice when I did talk why should I talk now , expecialy if she is using me as a tool for her anxiety and constant complaining.

  25. I’m ashamed to admit I have been guilty of this. It’s all (my Dad’s way) or none (my Mom’s way) when it comes to “speaking my mind.”
    I resolve to not complain. I resolve to not even vent. For me, venting leads to the stream of complaining. I’m not even saying that my complaints aren’t real or valid. They usually are. People often do not do, act, behave as they should. But my complaining about it stresses me and those around me out.
    The struggle is real. I can do it.

  26. I did a very similar challenge when I was 20 and it changed my life. Dale Carnegie’s How to Make Friends & Influence People. The first chapter is “Never Criticize, Condem or Complain”. And I started by challenging myself to do just that for one hour and quickly moving to a weeek+ . I know I wouldn’t have had the amazing people in my life and experiences if not for doing this. Thanks for the reminder!! And really looking forward to your upcoming book!!!!

  27. I read an article some time ago which was titled, Stop complaining and watch your life get better. Even the title alone could have knocked me over with a feather, as it was quite a eureka moment for me.
    What i have come to learn is when you are a chronic complainer you are reinforcing everything you are unhappy about to your subconscious mind, then guess what….Yeah then life gives you plenty to complain about and that is no coincidence.

  28. What do say about people who rarely, next-to-never complain, yet, they hold it all in and have racing thoughts of being a failure, of bitterness, anger, resentment, etc.?

  29. I was adopted and from a very early age dealt with abandonment, physical, mental and sexual abuse. Now I’m almost 30 and feel almost completely isolated from outside world. I think I’m attractive and intelligent but most days I feel so depressed and feel like a total loser it is hard to get out of bed. The smallest things make me cry and daydream about ways I could end my life. I tried to let my family back into my life after years of childhood abuse because I was so lonely and isolated I had no one else to reach out to. I call my Mom a lot because secretly if I didn’t have her to talk to/”complain” to I would probably be homeless or dead because I can’t handle the constant flood of anger, anxiety, depression and sadness that make up my days. I remember I used to feel hopeful despite everything bad that had happened. Now I’m 30 and alone except for talking to my mom every now and again and my ex-boyfriend who isn’t good for me but without them I would never speak to anybody. Ive always tried to have friends but Ive always felt like they didn’t like me very much. Never had friends who remember my birthday or call/text me just to see how my day is going. I feel like I’m always the one to call other people and invite myself along if I want to get out of the house. I know I need to quit calling my mom so much because she probably hates me for bein such a psychic vampire and sucking the energy out of her day but if I don’t have her to talk to I won’t have anybody. Im such a fucking loser how does this happen. How do I learn to forgive myself and love myself and not spend every day wishing I weren’t in this body or in this life.

  30. Love this article, I confuse complaining with explaining my feelings … Love how you make the situation looks like it can be resolved.

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  32. Do you have a podcast? This article spoke to me so incredibly clearly, as I’m the “dumping ground” you referenced in the article. I truly believe that my husband is addicted to complaining and you hit on SO MANY points within the article, that I just forwarded the link to him.

  33. Thank you so much for having this article! I have noticed in recent weeks that the amount of complaints is going up and I find it very disheartening. I can understand venting to a point but when it becomes chronic, it is truly a poison.

    Can you perhaps have a book on CD about this or a good video on YouTube? This country really needs the help and perhaps that’s why I find myself watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.


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Hi! I am Shola

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Over a decade ago, I was drowning in the despondency of yet another workday. My success as the top regional performer had been numbed by a culture of incessant workplace bullying. And, I’d recently made the situation worse by filing a formal complaint. In short, I was collateral damage in a company without the process or intention to address my experience.

Exhausted from the drama, with an unrecognizable version of myself at the wheel, I intentionally swerved off the interstate in an attempt to take my own life. But in that half-second, my reflexes responded, and I yanked the wheel away from disaster. As I clipped the guardrail on I 405, something changed...

I uncovered a power within myself

...a burning desire to reverse a trend that happens daily to sixty-five million people in this country alone. This catalyst has since become Go Together™ Movement - a transformational roadmap of mindset, behaviors, and tools that transform workplace cultures and drive results.

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