Complaining feels good. It places a problem on the table, and like wild hyenas, everybody gets stuck in and attempts to have their slice while collectively nodding to one another in mutual satisfaction. A solution may not be reached, but the venting process is often enough to feel mentally satisfied. But do we need to do it?
I’ve grown up my whole life around naggers and complainers. Some of my family, close friends, and colleagues along the way, have all enjoyed a good moan. It was deeply embedded within the culture of my upbringing if I’m entirely honest. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I too, became a complainer. But with time and maturity, it becomes apparent that complaining is simply an attempt at seeking emotional validation. You want somebody to validate your bad experience. You want a friend to tell you—it was the boss that was in the wrong and not you. That yes, the waiter did have a bad attitude when we ordered our meal and that it’s totally bullshit that a doctor can’t fit you in within the next week.
What also becomes apparent is the burden this trait places on the people closest to you. It’s fundamentally negative. With repetitiveness, you become known for speaking of the wrong—Like the anchorman on the 5 o’Clock news, your reputation swiftly becomes that of the bearer of bad news. Solutions often never follow; just more struggle, problems and issues for those around you to apprehend and digest.
Wrap it up. Master the cold face and become capable of producing viable solutions towards your problems instead of merely complaining about them. And no, nobody should bottle up their issues. A good friend or trustee should always be used to converse with when you’re in need of help or when you feel you’re out of your depth. But this article is a direct challenge to make you think about taking personal responsibility for your circumstances, however unfortunate. Do people have to hear about the fact that your bus was late and that you got to work late again? No. Chalk it up to something you can personally fix and take responsibility for it in the future. We have created this excellent introduction to Stoicism for those who wish to turn life’s obstacles into advantages.
So what is this ‘cold face’ you speak of?
The cold face is the mask that gives nothing away to those around you. It comes from a strength that has nothing to do with muscles. It is the dignity of facing your problems with nothing but calmness. Its secret is that it is more than a simple mask to hide an emotion. Learning it brings its own calmness, a state that means you have conquered fear and your flesh. This act forms a mindset that truly alters the environment around you. Those who think negatively will undoubtfully attract negativity.
The immediate effect of removing the act of complaining from your life brings an aura of positivity around your presence. The people I look up to the most and respect, don’t complain. They handle their issues with authority and capability without adding their problems to the healthy airtime around friends. I leave you all with this quote, describing the cold face from one of my all-time favorite books:
“Did it kill you?’ Genghis asked them.’ Your body does not rule you… it is a stupid beast that knows nothing of the works of men. It is merely the cart that carries you. You control it with will and breathe through your nose, when it calls for you to pant like a dog. When you take an arrow in battle and pain is overwhelming, you will press it away and, before you fall, you will return death to your enemies.”
— Genghis Khan, in Conn Iggulden’s Lord of the Bow