What we tell ourselves — and the griping that we do — has a direct effect on our circumstances. My friend Jamie offers some alternatives to whining.
There was a time when I used my words in a bad, self-defeating way. When my husband arrived home from work, I greeted him with tears and a litany of tales from our two toddler boys’ craziness.
(But oh my goodness – weren’t they cute?!)
I couldn’t believe how hard I worked all. day. long. This motherhood gig wasn’t exactly how I had imagined. I felt I had every justifiable right to discuss, in detail, the challenges from my day.
I didn’t realize that with each negative remark I made life even harder on myself.
In Western culture complaining has become a birthright, a way of life, a habit. So much so that many of us don’t realize how much we speak negatively — about lives that many of our third-world neighbors would eagerly trade places with us for.
What exactly is wrong with complaining and a little venting anyway?
What Complaining Is
In A Complaint-Free World, author Will Bowen defines the process of complaining as “expressing pain, grief, or discontent.”
That definition covers a lot of territory: remarks about the weather, that pain in our shoulder, our kid’s constant whining, or the character faults of our husband. It also covers discontentment — wishing our children were a few years older, wishing our blog’s pageviews were higher. Wishing, wanting other than what we have.
Gossip counts, too. It really is true what our mamas taught us, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
What Complaining Does
There is a natural law in life — the law of sowing and reaping. Farmers know it well, but it operates for all of us. What we reap, we will sow. When a farmer plants a cabbage seed, he doesn’t wonder if a watermelon will grow.
If we sow complaints, we reap more to complain about. If we sow gratitude, we reap more to be grateful for. It’s not a big mystery, just the way life works. Those who look for the bad will find it, every time. Thankfully, the reverse stands true as well.
What Complaining Teaches
We work hard to teach our children positive habits, but if we aren’t aware of our own words, we may find we subconsciously undermine ourselves. When we complain, we pass on to our kids ideas of limitation and negativity.
But there’s good news, too. We can change–not to achieve perfection, but to make progress. To use our words with more intention, to show our kids that we can rise above the tough stuff of life – that we can live in grace and freedom.
What to Do Instead
When we recognize that we haven’t been using our words effectively, we can begin moving forward. With awareness, comes power.
Personally, I don’t reside in a state of Mommy Nirvana. I have a real, beautiful, messy life–homeschooling three kids, growing a career, nurturing a marriage, and plenty of ups and downs along the way. But understanding how my words can help or hurt me has made a big difference.
Here are a few strategies that have brought more happiness and peace to my own life.
1. Talk less.
If you’re not sure whether or not you complain much, begin to pay attention. When a negative remark arises, close your mouth. Don’t worry about changing your thoughts at first, just keep those words in when they want to rush out.
2. Choose your audience and timing wisely.
Several studies have shown that what people justify as “venting” often makes them feel worse instead of better.
But this doesn’t mean that we should never discuss real issues or share about life’s challenges with anyone. We can choose our audience and timing wisely, not allowing our emotions to govern our speech.
3. Look for and speak out the good.
Instead of highlighting what’s wrong in life, highlight what’s right.
Even in the midst of tragedy and grief, there is a spark of gratitude. And for most of us, what we complain about is petty and unworthy of attention anyway. When we speak out the good, we discover more good to speak of.
What we seek we’ll find.
4. Watch how your words affect your thoughts. (and vice versa)
Words are a concrete representation of our thoughts. As we begin to change our words, we’ll find our thought patterns begin to improve, too.
Understanding the power of words is just one practical step I discuss in my latest e-book, Mindset for Moms: From Mundane to Marvelous Thinking in Just 30 Days. In this book, which is broken into 30 short entries, I share the journey that led me to improved thinking and a more purposeful life. And I give plenty of ideas for easy, quick, and guilt-free implementation.
A Special Offer for Life as Mom readers:
Any Life as Mom reader who buys Mindset for Moms in any format (PDF, Kindle, Nook, or iTunes) can receive a FREE PDF version of my first book, Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood (a $9 value!).
To take advantage of this offer, simply send Jamie an email after your purchase with the subject line “I bought Mindset for Moms” and I’ll respond within a few days with your free copy of Steady Days. Offer valid through April 30, 2012.