Complaining About Not Being Able to Not Complain

On Tuesday, I set out to see if I could not complain for an entire day.

I started strong. I even set an alarm with a little reminder.


But by 10 a.m., I was off the rails and deep into the complaining zone.

The experiment started because I couldn’t stop thinking about an interview we’d had on the Growing Bolder Radio Show (I’m an Executive Producer) with a guy named Will Bowen.

A short description of his message:

In 2006, Pastor Will Bowen challenged his congregation to live complaint-free for 21 days. That meant no griping, no moaning, no criticizing and no gossiping for three weeks.

That idea has sparked a global movement. Now, 10 million people in 106 countries are wearing his purple complaint free bracelets as a reminder to turn their negative attitudes around.

If they could do it for 21 days, I thought I could make it one single day. But no. Examples of times I either desperately wanted to complain or actually gave in and did complain:

  • Lucas’ alarm kept going off and he just went back to sleep — why doesn’t he just wake up or set the alarm for the time he WILL get up???
  • Come on — I have a sore throat and sniffly nose again? Why me? I have been sick twice in two months. Stupid daycare germs.
  • Great. Now I spilled coffee all over my shirt and my kid. Do I need to change? Do I need to change her? She’s probably going to poop all over herself at school anyway.
  • Why does pumping suck so much?


That was all in the early morning. Then, I somehow fell into the BLACK HOLE OF COMPLAINING for about an hour (a work project turned out to be more complicated than I thought).

Then back to the more minor whines:

  • Why do I pack lunches that I don’t like to eat? I wish I could just eat Publix subs every day
  • Oh, great. Traffic is backed up because some dummy ran out of gas and stalled in the middle of an intersection. I can’t be late to this meeting!
  • I am so sick of cleaning my house. I sweep enough hair on a daily basis to create a new cat and a new dog.

I did a vlog at the end of the workday that kind of sums up how disappointed I am in myself for failing the challenge, but how it really did make me stop and think about my reaction to situations — some of them truly crappy and some just easy to bitch and moan about.

Your turn: could you go complaint-free for a day?

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  1. says

    It is hard, isn’t it? Wonder if it will get any easier…

    By the way, I used Pollyanna in a response to someone’s post today…funny world, eh?

  2. says

    I don’t know that I could go a day without complaining.. at least not thinking a complaint or whine, that would be really difficult.
    And pumping does suck. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because it’s a machine and not baby? Every day at work I can’t help but to feel a little bit like a cow as I strap myself to my Medela :)

  3. says

    oh, I needed to read this today. All I’ve done is complain this week.

    Publix subs are the best, so I can’t blame you for wanting to just eat them instead of what you packed.

  4. says

    Smaller goal: get through one Metro commute without complaining. If I can do this, I may also be able to figure out how to reach Nirvana.

  5. says

    I think I could go complaint free for a day IF I was hooked up to an IV of wine. Since that’s not happening any time soon… I guess my answer would be no!

    I think complaining is healthy – as long as it’s not excessive. I’d rather whine and complain then store it all up and explode. Yes, I think you can complain AND be grateful.

  6. says

    I love this concept! I’m not sure if I could last the whole day (I tend lean towards the negative side of things) but it would be a great challenge and I would probably learn a lot about myself.

  7. says

    Hey, good for you on trying to make improvements! Change doesn’t happen over night, so don’t be so hard on yourself. Sometime you just have a crappy day and you need to vent :)

    I probably could go a day without complaining, because I try my best most days not to. I notice that the more I complain, the worse my day gets because I just get into my own head and bring myself down. When you think of it that way, it’s a lot easier to focus on the positives to bring yourself back up.

    Hope today goes better for you!

  8. says

    Love this, Katy. I’m going to give it a try. This morning I’ve been complaining so much about my back hurting that I’m annoying myself! I’m super impressed you made it until 10am though. That is a huge feat! And, yeah, I’m not sure if it’s possible to not complain about pumping!

  9. says

    +1! It’s really hard to stay focused on what really matters when the day to day nonsense keeps stirring up your inner Negative Nelly. Looking forward to trying this myself.

  10. says

    You just made me think about how much I do complain. I think its just part of our daily lives and a super easy way to make conversation with people. (like complaining how slowly the line at the supermarket is going when your standing in line with other strangers) I think its hard not to complain, especially when things bug you, but I’m willing it give it a shot.

  11. says

    This was actually really thought-provoking. I have a bad habit of getting into a complaint cycle and being negative about a lot when it’s really unnecessary. I don’t think I could go a day about complaining, but thinking about if something is really worth complaining about is a good way to go about it.

  12. says

    Hmmm. Can you think about the complaints? And you just can’t voice them? I could do that if I tried…I think. Does it count then if you write about them? I think sometimes we are so out of touch with our habitual inner voice, which quite often can be negative, we don’t even think about it. I think this exercise can shine a light on just how negative one’s thoughts can be, and be the first step towards eliminating and replacing negative thoughts for positive ones, i.e., complaints for gratitude. I.e., I’m sick of cleaning my house, to…I’m luck I have a house over my head to clean. Just a thought. 😉 I try to do this sometimes, and “well, at least…” and “it could be worse” are common in my vernacular. I’m by no means happy-go-lucky all the time, but reframing things has definitely helped me overcome the cynycism of my younger years. Thanks for writing about this!

  13. says

    So, I love the mindset of it…but I would be SO like you and ending up complaining by mid morning. It’s definitely something I could work on. I can handle the big stresses so well but the minor things just get under my skin in a big way.

  14. Deniz says

    I love this idea! It is so timely. I was complaining tonight to my husband about how much my 6 yr old complains and whines. Wonder where she get it from;)!!!! This would be a perfect game to play with her and hopefully get us both out of our rut. Thanks so much for this post!

  15. Laura says

    I honestly don’t think I could do it, sad I know! Too much traffic and ignorant people in this world.

  16. Jess says

    People don’t complain about things they don’t care about. Usually there is a request or an unmet need in the complaint. Acknowledge the importance of what you need and look for a solution. Sometimes the solution is just speaking it aloud and that is perfect! Also see where you can make requests through your day and I am sure your complaint count will go down :)

  17. says

    I really want to try this. I think I am going to try it on Sunday and then do it one day this week as well. I am curious to see which is more challenging (my guess is the weekday). I’m curious but did you tell your husband you were trying to be complaint free before doing it or did you just do it?

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