Bragging vs. Complaining

In some pockets of our society it seems not only accepted but expected to complain. I have been keenly aware of this as I have walked along the path of Happiness. Sometimes people do not know how to react when I do not chime in. They have even try to spur me on with “Isn’t that terrible? For some, misery seems to be the bond that relationships are made of. I am thinking of one such person I knew. He took a snippet of information and built his world around this “truth”. He had heard that another person is incapable of truly being happy about your successes; that secretly they are jealous and hope you soon fall on your face. This “truth” IS true – for some people. They are called unhappy people. In Sonja Lyubomirsky‘s book, The How of Happiness, there is a chapter focusing on social comparison. In it, she reveals that in one of her earliest studies they found that unhappy people compare themselves to others in a highly competitive way – even if they were not in a formal competition. They secretly revel in the failure and misfortune of others. Happy people competed – but not with others. They measured themselves against their own standards and therefore could feel happiness when others succeeded.

There ARE people who speak of good news, successes and hopes of the future. Ironically, speaking liberally about one’s good fortune might seem like bragging to some. My guess is that the unhappy person would jump to this conclusion quicker than the happy person. In Happiness 101, we periodically set time aside for “Success Stories”. This is an opportunity for you to speak of your triumphs and successes. Without this permission, some are reluctant to talk about them. How sad that complaining seems more accepted than sharing one’s successes.

There is a remedy though: hang out with happy people. They are out there but you must watch and listen. They can be seen smiling when there seems to be no good reason to do so. They usually complain little. They use hopeful language. If you want to be in conversation with them, I would suggest you do likewise, even if it seems awkward at first. I love having conversations with happy people. I had the good fortune to be contacted by such a person last week. Psychologist Kathy Bell graduated from the Authentic Happiness Coaching Program. She is a facinating person. You can learn more about her and sign up for her newsletter at In speaking with her I found myself happy, invigorated, hopeful and excited. If you are ready to make a change, join us for Happiness 101. Not only will you learn how to be happy, you will have an opportunity to meet other people who are looking for the same thing.

Frank Clayton, LPC

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