Thursday, March 6, 2008

If You Aren't Part of the Solution, You're Part of the Problem

Doncha hate those catch phrases? I hate shiny, happy motivational-type messages. You know the ones. "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger." Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just give me more money and turn your stereo down.

Truth be told I could use a motivational kick in the pants now and again. I was just reading this blog post about a hospital that instituted a "no complaining" policy and how it helped with staff morale. Some people responded in the negative, saying that complaints are justified and nurses should be treated better and paid well, etc., etc.

Then I felt guilty. You see. I am a complainer. I'm whiny. I'm self-centered. I don't like conflict. I don't like to hear babies crying at the next table when I'm eating in a restaurant. In other words, I'm perpetually 4 years old and emotionally retarded.

But I'm working on it.

Pastor Will Bowen appeared on Oprah recently to talk about his anti-complaining campaign. I didn't see the show, but I can get behind this idea. I have been a complainer for years and I'm not sure when I first realized how bad I was about it. It was probably when my girlfriend called me "whiny-ass baby" to my face. Since then I've been putting serious effort into changing. I'm working on finding the line between valid complaint and emotional immaturity.

I never realized how badly a negative attitude affects other people until I started working with someone who complains more than me. I dread it when I see I'm on the schedule with her. I know that at some point during the day she's going to corner me and go on and on about her life. I can be a supportive, good listener if I'm having a pretty good day myself. What gets to me is that this person has been complaining about the same problems for the two years that we have worked together. I had heard of energy vampires, but didn't quite get the concept until I worked with this person. Once I read more about energy vampires, I was horrified to think that I might be an energy vampire too. I have been quilty of several energy vampire actions from time to time. But knowledge is power it. Naming it means I can change it.

Anyway I haven't figured out how to tell my co-worker that she needs to make some different choices. Well, actually I have told her, but it hasn't worked. She makes the same mistakes over and over then wants to whine about it. If I came in feeling good that day, it isn't long before I feel depressed from talking to her. The good thing is now that I know how it feels to be the victim of an energy vampire, I know that I don't want other people to feel emotionally drained by me. I'm insecure enough that I want other people to like me. There. I said it.

This is what I call universal justice - something that you have done to other people comes back to visit you. Luckily I got the message and I'm working on staying positive and not drag other people into my misery and problems. But here's the thing - I have a great life. I have a lot of love and support from the people in my life. I'm lucky enough to have financial support so that I can go to nursing school full time. My children are happy and healthy. I have siblings who adore me. I attend the best nursing school hands down, and don't experience many of the horrible nursing school experiences other people have told me about. Why do I want to make myself miserable?

Because it's a bad habit. I would like to blame it on my mother, but she's not alive to defend herself. She was a miserable, unhappy person and I suppose I learned the art of complaining at her knee. But there is nothing that says I have to keep doing some 25 years since leaving home.

So I support people who are working to remind people to quit complaining. It doesn't hurt me to be reminded that complaining is a waste of energy and it drags other people down. If I want to complain that nursing pay and working conditions are wretched and we deserve better, I have options besides complaining. I can get involved politically and work on changing laws to make our job safer and our patient loads more sane. I can tell myself that it could be worse; I have worked harder for less money. I can even make the choice to not go into nursing at all.

I won't go so far as wearing the purple bracelet, but I vow to take other people into consideration before I start complaining. And thanks for reminding me. Now would you stop slurping your coffee and leaving your empty sugar packets on the counter? Thanks.


susanchap21 said...

A wonderful book about energy vampires is Positive Energy by Dr. Judith Orloff. It contains many tools to combat those people in your life who are draining your energy. I found it quite enlightening since I didn't realize that I was an energy vampire. Since reading the book, I have been able to start controlling my bad habit that were tiring out those who love me.

Heather said...

you have got to visit the funniest site for making fun of those motivation posters, here ya go: . I cannot see a real one now without laughing. Heather