Can Success and Complaining Go Hand in Hand? – Revisited

This post originally ran Jan 26, 2020

I’ve noticed when things are going well, we lose our right to grumble or complain. No one wants to hear it, what’s more, they can’t even fathom why you would want or dare to complain.

Let’s say, for example, you just got that big commission you’ve been hoping for, but the deadline is sooner than you anticipated. When you try to talk about the stress you’re under, people often respond, “Well, that’s the price you pay for success” or “Yeah, but at least you got the commission.”

Let’s say a lot of work has come your way all at once. When you try to discuss the issues you’re having juggling it all, people often respond, “You got this far, you’ll figure it out.” Or “Well, this is what you hoped for, why not just enjoy it?”

Let’s say you’ve had a project approved that is exciting and awesome and good, and you know that. But it’s more complicated than you anticipated. When you try to discuss your fears or concerns, people often respond, “Sounds like a good challenge for you” or “Don’t focus on the bad stuff, just think about how great this is.”

When things are going well, it’s kind of like when a thin person complains that she’s too skinny. No one wants to hear it. (And yet, maybe she is concerned she’s lost too much weight).

Every mother of a newborn can tell you that, yes, it’s wonderful to have a child, but it’s also a lot of work, and stress, and exhaustion. And any successful artist or business person can tell you that, yes, it’s amazing to be able to create our work and follow our hearts, but sometimes it’s a lot of work and stress and exhaustion.

How refreshing it feels when a friend actually notices that despite all the good things you’re experiencing, you might be struggling a bit. How good it feels when they see you and not just your success and say, “You look tired. You getting enough sleep?” or “You’ve got a lot going on. Anything I can do to help?”  Or “How are things, really?”

One of the definitions of “complain” is: “state that one is suffering from.”  Our feelings are our feelings, and they are never right or wrong. It’s okay to complain once in a while when things are going well. It’s okay to feel thankful, and excited, and empowered, and also to feel overwhelmed, and unsure, and tired.

Just remember that complaining works best when you do so with the hope of achieving a step forward, whether that is through catharsis or emotional relief; through the seeking of sympathy that buoys you; through a tangible offer of assistance in response to your complaint; or through words of advice that help shed light on your troubles.

In the end, all complaints aside, aren’t we lucky to be moving in the direction of our dreams!

By Teresa R. Funke

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