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'Reklamo' is Valid: How to Complain Minus the Guilt

Yes, it's okay to complain about traffic.
by Arianne Merez
Jun 13, 2022
Photo/s: Jerome Ascano

With the pandemic, Russia's war in Ukraine and soaring prices of basic goods, copywriter Melody Algru said she feels guilty for complaining about  her commute and that she should just grit it out.

Algru's return to office ordeal requires her to wait two hours for a bus ride. While she's not dodging bullets or fighting a monkeypox infection, her "first world problems", on top of two years of quarantine life, is taking a toll on her mental health.

"How can I feel bad about waiting in line for a bus for nearly two hours when there are people who are literally fighting for their lives on the other side of the world?" she told reportr.

"Compared to what other people are experiencing, I know I'm at a much better place that's why I feel guilty to complain because I don't want to come off as ungrateful," she said.



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With all the crazy going on around the world, it's important to remember that everyone has bad days and it's okay to feel bad and complain when things don't go the way you want them to no matter how insignificant you think it is compared to other people's problems, according to two clinical psychologists.

"What you feel is what you feel so no judgment. Acknowledging and accepting without judgment whatever you feel about an experience is a way to honor your experiences, and respect whatever experiences you're having," said Karina Therese Fernandez, executive director of Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychology Services.

"It's normal to feel guilty when things are actually difficult for a lot of people especially when you compare what you're complaining about to others. It's important to remember however that your feelings are valid. It's part of being human and it's unique to everyone," said Agnes Agbayani, executive director of  Life Change Recovery Center, Inc.

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The feeling of guilt that comes with complaining can better be dealt with action to contribute to a positive outcome according to Agbayani. Channeling one's energy to action is a healthy way to avoid spiraling into the cycle of negativity, she added.

"When you feel guilty about complaining because you think others have it worse, think of 'what you can do to make things better?' Directing your energy to action can help you avoid spiraling into negativity or repressing your feelings which can have negative effects on your health," Agbayani said.

Why you complain

When it comes to complaining, mindfulness is key which is why it's important to understand the underlying reason for why you feel the need to complain.

"Knowing why you complain can help you take action so you can do something about it," Agbayani said.

Here are possible reasons why you complain:

You want to fix a problem

When you complain, Agbayani said one reason could be because you see a problem that you want to fix or you know can be fixed.


"Sometimes, you complain because you want to help improve or fix a problem and that's not a bad thing. For example, you complain at the mall of a water spill on the floor because it's a problem that can cause harm to other people," she said.

You value something

How "intense" you complain about something is related to how much you value the issue according to Fernandez.

For example, feeling bad about a poor report at work can be related to how much you value your career.

"It means that something you complain very much about is also very important to you," she said. "Knowing that you feel that way because you hold on to this value or values is a good reminder that underneath your complaint and negative feeling, there is a meaning that you hold on to."

By pushing it away, there's a chance that you can be more stressed about it but at the same time, if you spend a lot of time ruminating about it that can also be negative since it can lead you to spiral.


You want to blow off steam

Another reason why you complain can also be simply to blow off steam.

"Sometimes, you just want to release stress and tension. That's okay but don't let yourself spiral," Agbayani said, noting that setting a time limit can be helpful. "Sometimes you just want to get it out for your mental health."

How to overcome the guilt

Complaining, if done the right way, can lead to positive change. But complaining only for the sake of complaining can lead to whining which is unhealthy.

"Do you complain because you have a purpose or just because you want to complain? Kasi baka mamaya nagging whiner ka na lang and it's becoming toxic for you too," Agbayani said.

If you feel guilty about complaining, here are some tips on how you can overcome it and turn it into something productive:

Acknowledge your emotions

Know that it's okay to complain because you have the right to feel your emotions and express your thoughts, Agbayani said. Acknowledging your emotions helps one's mental health because it provides an opportunity to express these instead of repressing feelings, she added.


"It doesn't mean that when you complain you are not sensitive to what is happening or the pain of others. It only means that you are human and you have these emotions and thoughts," Agbayani said.

Turn guilt into gratefulness

When you feel guilty when you complain about things that you feel are less significant, work on shifting your emotions to gratefulness.

"Shifting it from a guilt thing to a gratefulness thing, we found, helps in terms of our wellbeing," Fernandez said.

For example, the next time you find yourself stuck in traffic after a long day at work, try to think of things that you're grateful for in that situation such as being able to finish a day's work and being safe while on the road.

Think of your 'north star'

Think of what is of value to you and what you can do about it according to Fernandez.


"This helps you see the bigger picture of things. Where are you headed and what is your goal?" Fernandez said.

Think if complaining will help you in reaching your goal or improve the situation you're currently in.

"The things you have control of, act on those, and the things you cannot control, let go," she said.


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If you need mental health services, you can contact  Life Change Recovery Center, Inc. at  09175203509 for inquiries

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