What's Your Solution? - Erin's Inside Job

What’s Your Solution?

Are you a productive or an unproductive complainer? Learn to find the solution instead of playing the victim.

I used to be the queen of complaining.

This was mainly because I was living my life as a victim, where everything happened to me rather than just happening. My life was so awful because I wasn’t paid enough. I was only arrested because a police officer lied to me. It was always the guy’s fault when a relationship ended because I never did anything wrong.

One thing I’ve noticed as time has gone on is there’s a big difference between productive and unproductive complaining.

  • Productive Complaining: sharing about a negative situation, followed by a productive solution in order to change the situation
  • Unproductive Complaining: complaining to elicit sympathy, play the victim, or simply to be negative

There’s nothing wrong with venting or explaining something negative to another person. It becomes unproductive when there’s no solutions to follow up the problem.

The problem with complaining for complaining’s sake is that you become stuck. There’s no movement forward and it’s harder to get past whatever negative situation you may find yourself in.

Unproductive complaining also led me to feeling out of control. By not looking for a solution or a way out, I didn’t feel like I had control over my life. I started to think that there was nothing I could do to change what was happening and I lost sight of the options I had.

When I’m faced with a negative situation, I run through the following list in my head:

  • What are the facts? Not the theories I may be making up in my mind, but the absolute facts of the situation.
  • What can I learn from this situation? Many times this already helps me start feeling better by putting a positive spin on it.
  • What do I have control over? These are the things that will help you to your solution.
  • What steps can I take to change the situation I’m in?

Living with a lot of self-inflicted pain and now being 6 years into recovery has left me with a much smaller tolerance for discomfort. I try and change those negative situations around as quickly as I can because otherwise I know that I can easily slip back into victim mode, equaling unproductive mode for me.

I want to share a current example with you so you have an idea of how my process works.

I am getting busier with everything that I do to earn an income. This is a great problem to have, but one that leaves me feeling overwhelmed and stressed. I am working close to 14 hours a day on various projects, training clients, and teaching classes. The simplest thing to do is complain that I’m tired and worn out and probably sprinkle some crying breakdowns in there.

The harder thing to do is actually take a step back and look at the whole situation. What are the facts? I continue to take on more training clients and freelance projects and schedule them wherever I can fit them according to someone else’s schedule.

What can I learn from this situation? I can’t multitask for an extended period of time. I used to get most of my blogging work done on Tuesdays when I had an 8 hour gap during my day. As I’ve taken on more clients, that gap has gotten smaller and smaller and I try and break up blogging throughout the day and week, often stopping in the middle and resuming at a later time. For me, writing doesn’t work that way. I need to sit and write until I’m done.

What do I have control over? My schedule! Many of the things I do to earn money are scheduled by me. This means that if I need a longer period of time to work on this blog, I’m fully in control of that.

What steps can I take to change the situation? I can limit the number of new clients I take on. I can set training hours and adhere to those boundaries. I can pick and choose which freelance projects I take so I don’t become overloaded.

Telling your story with a solution shows that you respect yourself enough to change your situation. Now when someone asks me how I am, I can tell them a situation where I feel overwhelmed, but in a positive way. I’ve learned something new about myself (I can’t multi task 🙂 ) and I’m in the process of working towards a solution.

I don’t know about you, but I much prefer to be around people who are actively working to better their lives. Next time you want to complain about a situation, pause and think about whether that conversation will be productive. If not, take some time to figure out how you can turn it around!

Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.


  • Are you a productive or unproductive complainer?
  • Do you have any other suggestions to add?

12 comments on “What’s Your Solution?

  1. I can totally relate to your struggle as a freelancer it’s so easy to say yes to everything and work to everyone else’s needs. I finally had to set hours for my coaching practice because it got too crazy and people were wanting specific days and times and I just needed boundaries. I finally told a client to view seeing me like going to the doctor. They don’t work around your schedule, you work around theirs.
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…Friends Who Leave You When You’re SickMy Profile

  2. I certainly TRY to be a productive complainer – only because I’ve learned many times that complaining and taking no action to solve or improve things is… pretty pointless.

    But I also do give myself a few minutes to just be a complainer, have a pity party and then do my best to move on! Talking to friends who aren’t afraid to give you some tough love (and great advice) is helpful too.
    Danielle @ Wild Coast Tales recently posted…My Vancouver #9: Hiking Dam Mountain & Thunderbird Ridge {in photos}My Profile

  3. I, too, have been that ultimate complainer/victim before. I must have been a joy to be around. 😉
    I think venting is necessary but outright complaining with no intention of making change is just pointless. I have to distance myself from negative people, and I make it a point to think of what I can do differently if I find myself in a situation I’m not pleased with.
    Catherine @ A Cup of Catherine recently posted…What I Learned Running My Most Recent 5KMy Profile

  4. Hmmm…. This is kind of like an ‘ouch’ moment, because I do complain about things when I could really just say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ to things instead of bemoaning the circumstances. I think I have often not been nice to my family by ‘being stressed’ when it would be so simple to admit that I can’t do everything, that it’s ok, and that I have to focus on what is really important.

    And 14 hours a day Erin? How do you do it while still being so positive?
    Emily recently posted…Strawberries n’ Cream Smoothies and More Summer Smoothies!My Profile

  5. I’m the opposite I don’t complain enough. I think I should complain more…just kidding but I do think I need to give myself permission to not always be optimistic because I always feel bad when I complain or am negative but I’m human right???? Sometimes it’s a little draining to be the motivator all the time, but I guess it’s my calling, I’ll embrace it. Great post!
    Ivanna recently posted…Why Holistic Health is Important (Guest Post)My Profile

  6. Erin, I love everything about this. You have the best TOL posts! I try to be aware when I’m an unproductive complainer, which can very easily happen. It’s much harder for me to take a step back and stop playing victim, and actually DO something about it, like seeing a therapist for MIL issues! Sigh. 😛 xoxo
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…6 Delicious and Festive Fall BeveragesMy Profile

  7. OMG, yes. I have a very unproductive complainer in my family and it drives me nuts, because I try to make suggestions and help where I can, but I think she doesn’t really want to change anything, she just wants to complain. It’s so frustrating. I need her to read this.
    San recently posted…Currently | OctoberMy Profile

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