Note: This post appeared in its entirety on Essence.com and Huffington Post. Additionally, there was also follow up Interview with HuffPost Live on this topic. SEE INTERVIEW HERE!
Dear Sista Complains A Lot:
There is something that I’ve been wanting to say to you and I finally think it’s time. I’m hoping that you can hear me over your constant grumbles of discontent. I’m praying that you can put aside your finger pointing, wailing and yammering for just a few minutes and process what I have to say.
The honest truth is that no matter how much time you spend “venting,” whining or complaining, the only person that can change your situation is you. I’m sorry, but it’s my turn to complain. You need to know that talk without action is just a bunch of noise.
If you are reading this letter and you are not sure if it applies to you, there are a few clear signs that you’re a Constant Complainer: If you call your friends and they don’t answer or call you back. When your sister or best friends constantly says, “Are we back on this subject again?” If your Mama always says, “Baby, just let that go already!” Or, lastly, if your co-workers have stopped inviting you to lunch and wrap things up fast when they see you coming. Those are all sure signs that you are stuck on the “Gripes & Groans” station and you need to change the channel fast.
How do I know, well I’ve seen the effects up close and personal. All my life I’ve watched the women around me complain about their lives. They were too afraid or too stubborn to change their circumstances, so they opted to just be angry and complain about them. I watched them as they trudged off to jobs they hated, cussed at kids that hated them and clung to sorry men that didn’t care about them. I watched these women who appeared to be strong cower in the corners of their lives and refuse to step into the light.
As a teenager, I never understood why these women around me would allow their spirits to be so tragically imprisoned. Many of them died wishing for lives that they would never have. I mistakenly thought it was simply the affliction of an older generation. A group of women who did not know they possessed the power to create their own happiness. But that thinking was clearly a mistake.
It appears the disgruntled and disenfranchised spirit is an affliction carried by each generation, and it shows up in exactly the same way. However, I simply refuse to subscribe to delivering mouthfuls of misery about my own existence. Not only does it not help, but it also creates a cycle that has you believing your own bull over time. Did I mention that this behavior also spews negativity all over the other people in your life? Sister, nobody likes or needs that.
Each day I wish for you all to learn how to move from venting to victory over your challenges. If you don’t yet know how to stop the bleeding, that’s okay. But know this: it’s time for you to want to find out. I have some suggestions based on what has worked for others in my life and for me.
Go On a Complaint Diet, Girl!
Limit the number of people and number of times that you vent about a situation, I usually stick with 3. But get it out of your system in the first 72 hours so that you have time to move on. If the situation is long term, move immediately to the next step.
Hatch a Plan
Once you have sat and processed the problem. Come up with a reasonable plan of action to get over it and on with it. Sharing your plan with the same folks you regularly vent to is a great way to let them know you are moving forward, and I’m sure their support will follow.
Execute Said Plan
It does no good to make a plan that you never plant to make good on. If you don’t execute, you will lose both empathy and support from others. People won’t believe in someone who does nothing but complain and never act. If the plan fails or needs to be altered, don’t get discouraged. Simply re-work it and start again, girl.
Celebrate Your Success, Honey!
There is nothing more liberating than looking back at the starting point and seeing how far you have come. Don’t you want to start your journey now?
And, if you are the patient, empathetic friend that feels it’s your duty to listen, I have news for you too: You’re not helping! When you allow someone to go over the same scenario over and over it keeps them stuck at the point of impact. Your job as a friend should be to move them forward, no? Help your sister navigate the storm and head for smoother waters together. Just sitting there and watching your friend sit in her boat and paddle in circles only keeps her stuck and makes you both seasick.