Reaction without action: Complaining stifles change

Alexandra Lipton, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

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  Life is a competition. Anything that is quantifiable can be used as a measure of success, from how much sleep one gets to what kind of car one drives.

  But more than ever before, our generation delights in romanticizing our problems and our losses, which has led us to compete in an entirely different way. Instead of trying to portray ourselves as positively as possible, it is now common, and even popular, to emphasize the struggles in our lives to make our peers think that we have it the worst. And often, the negative stressors in our lives manifests themselves as an overwhelming amount of complaining.

  While it is good to talk about our problems to try to gain perspective, when all we do is complain, we set ourselves in the mindset that the things we complain about are unchangeable. It is time for us as a generation to open our eyes and realize that this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

  There are two levels on which complaining can negatively impact our lives. The first and most obvious is on the personal level. While telling your friends that you have so much work that “you think you might just kill yourself” at lunch could seem like a harmless way to vent your stress, take note of what you are saying. This widely-used phrase is not only a blatant exaggeration and a minimization of a serious issue, but it is also a thought that your subconscious will cling to as soon as you say it out loud.

  Self-deprecating behaviors like this only add to stress, regardless of the fact that they are exaggerated. If you trick yourself into believing that things are worse than they really are, then your brain will respond with a proportional amount of stress. To stop making things worse for ourselves, we have to stop excessively complaining about things that aren’t as bad as we make them sound.

  On a broader level, when people complain too much, they can prevent change for their community. At Trinity, some students criticize issues like the poor turnout at events like Homecoming or the leadership of their clubs or teams.

  Complaining about activities that one is involved in is a destructive behavior because it separates the complainer from the issue. We allow ourselves to pin our discontent on the actions of others, but we don’t take initiative to help solve issues.

  Instead of whining that the decorations at a school function are subpar, students can volunteer to improve them. If a team leader hasn’t had time to complete a necessary task, ask if they would like your help. It is much more productive to help create change than to simply complain about what needs to be changed.

  When taken to the extreme, complaints can distort our perspectives of the world. Despite its use as a technique to cope with the problems in our lives, the more we complain, the more we center our focus on ourselves.

  It might seem like a hassle to carry dozens of cans from the parking lot to your advisor’s room, and you may not think you have time to stop at the store to pick up items for a clothing drive. When we classify tasks as inconveniences, the greater purpose that these tasks serve can easily slip our minds.

  Instead, take a walk in someone else’s shoes. Someone who receives the toys you bring for Toys for Tots, who might not have any other gifts coming their way. Or someone who depends on the bottled water you didn’t think necessary to contribute to the drive. Without belittling our own problems, thinking of others can change our interpretation of the world and alter our habits by replacing reluctance with gratefulness.

  Ultimately, our generation’s eagerness to complain only serves to worsen the situations that we complain about. Gandhi put it best when he said “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.” One day, we will be the role models that younger generations turn to for guidance. We cannot continue to live in the shadow of negativity we are creating. It is time we stop complaining, and instead, take action to improve the imperfections we see in our lives.