Sink or Swim?

I’ve been reading a lot of content in the public mental health conversation lately that’s so focused on defending, telling other people what not to do, and complaining. This frame of reference isn’t helpful. Most situations get the best results when we focus on what we can control…ourselves. When we point fingers we don’t get anywhere; it’s that simple. I’ve written about this topic before, but lately I’ve been struck my the constant complaining, even by leaders in mental health advocacy. We can sink, or swim. We can rise and empower ourselves, or we can continue to focus on the problems around us and keep our head just above water.

I’m guilty of complaining about all kinds of things. I relentlessly practice catching myself in a cycle of complaining to ask myself; What’s the validity, usefulness, and frame of reference I’m in when I’m complaining. I always find that no matter what, it’s never optimal to complain. 100% of the time there are better responses to my situation.

“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
― Maya Angelou

It most cases the best thing for me to do is change the way I think about it. When I’m resistant to doing this, it’s because I’m stuck in self-centredness. I don’t want to put in the effort of working on changing. The person who’s hurt deep down inside is angry, resentful, sad, hopeless and feels defeated. Whining about things I didn’t like was so strong in me, and it’s taken a lot of work to replace it with more constructive responses. I no longer need to complain, because I can empower. When I embraced the gift of self-awareness and responsibility, I had a chance to live the life I’d always wanted to live.

“Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”
― Randy Pausch

I still complain all the time, my first reaction is often to complain. About the traffic, about my wife, about my kids, about whatever is in front of my face. Today my new pattern is to empower myself. If we want to change things, we’d better be damned sure we start with our actions. By doing this, we can empower those around us. A gift given to me by all the amazing people I look up to and learn from. They say the only way you can keep something is to give it away. So I hope to share these experiences with others in the never-ending cycle of learning and teaching.

What are you complaining about?
Can you bring self-awareness into your patterns of whining and blaming and finger pointing?
Can you start by changing your perspective to the situation?
How can you empower yourself through this change?

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