There’s no shortage of words for women who complain a lot. Bitching. Griping. Nagging. We’ve heard them all and they’ve become very gendered terms. It’s not fair, but most of us are still shocked when we hear one of those words associated with a man. Likely because men get to express themselves freely and receive support for their candid comments. Women, on the other hand, are labeled as “nags.”
The impact of those words is particularly hard for folks like me, who are external processors. If you’re wondering what that is, it basically means that people like me find it easier to make sense of the world around them by vocalizing their feelings.
Being an external processor has several implications, including things like:
– I enjoy things like “talk therapy” to make sense of emotional discomfort.
– I don’t always think before I speak and regularly run things by myself by speaking aloud.
– My tendency to speak out unscripted leaves folks thinking that I’m nagging when I’m just expressing myself.
Through the years, I’ve gotten more and more secure with what it takes to make myself feel comfortable. I’m slowly but surely becoming an expert in all things “me.”
Still, it’s a challenge to make sense of the world the best way I know how when most folks perceive my intrapersonal conversations as a lingering dissatisfaction with life.
I’m not troubled, angry, or a pessimist – well, maybe just a little on that last one – but I am an external processor. More often than not, I’m just thinking out loud.
When you’re dealing with unfiltered comments, it’s expected to get a mix of positive and negative reactions. But it’s a part of my process. I’ve made great progress through the years learning what stuff I should never say out loud, but it’s hard not to notice that the world is a lot less willing to make the adjustments for me that I have for it. What many folks see as me complaining is really me just expressing myself.
The things I say aren’t always positive. Being at home with the kids while trying to manage the demands of wife and motherhood is enough to make anyone roll their eyes from time to time. The dogs need me, folks at work need me, and my responsibilities seem to multiply every day. I’m tired. Scratch that, I’m exhausted. Of course, I have things to say that can be seen as complaining. I mean, have you seen the state of our world lately?
It took a while, but I’ve decided that my communication style isn’t the problem. There’s nothing wrong with me being explicit in expressing my feelings towards the world. However, there is something wrong with the messages the world sends women and other marginalized folks about how much space we’re allowed to take up.
Expressing frustration shows others that we’re not eternally grateful for being given the chance to participate in the pseudo-equality those of us who are “othered” have been given.
My friends know this about me. They understand that my willingness to take no sh*t means that I’m always going to speak up for the little guy — even if I opt-out on speaking up for myself. The people who love me understand that my “complaints” are for a deeper purpose. I want the world to become better and I help achieve that shift by being good to people and suggesting others are reciprocal of that goodness.
Labeling me as someone who “complains a lot” is one of many attempts to strip me of my agency. I’m not expressing myself without purpose. I’m not complaining just for the sake of complaining. But even if I were, why should I have less freedom to do so?
As a Black woman, there is no shortage of negative adjectives to describe me. One of which is “angry.” Any deviation from gratitude is used against me to support efforts that deem my thoughts invalid.
The ironic thing is that even though I complain a lot, I’m a genuinely happy person. I have a zest for life that is rarely seen. But my experiences aren’t without criticism. My perspectives are a dynamic mix of positive and negative themes. I firmly believe the world owes me the same respect that it demands I give to everyone else who crosses my path. It’s a non-negotiable.
If showing up and expressing my highs and lows make me a complainer, then I guess that’s a label I’ll have to adapt to.
In my life, being someone who complains means that I’m not willing to let folks treat me “any old way.” I demand respect, and I will let you know aloud when something doesn’t sit well with me. I’m gaslit regularly, but I refuse to give up on my moral compass and be the world’s pack mule.
I’m able to occupy both spaces and I ignore anyone who says otherwise.
I intend to enjoy life, one constructive criticism at a time.