Why Singaporeans complain so much

SingaporeScene

Complaining can become a habit. (AFP file photo)

Complain—it's something we all do.

We complain about congested roads, high COE prices, expensive housing, hot weather, unreasonable bosses and bad service.

But even though we complain so much, most of us don't know exactly why we complain so much.

Are our lives really that bad? What do we hope to achieve by complaining?

Or, in a strange way, have we come to enjoy complaining as a kind of hobby?

I've come up with three reasons why we complain:

1. We believe that life should be fair, when in fact it's not.

For example, it seems unfair that some people are rich, while some people are poor. Now there's something to complain about, right? After all, it seems like the rich have it so much better than everyone else.

But life isn't fair; some people are dealt better cards than others. And if you think about it, we Singaporeans have been dealt pretty good cards.

We live in a developed country with access to many resources and opportunities. Things definitely could be a lot worse.

Moreover, no matter how rich, good-looking, talented or popular you are, you're bound to have problems.

I once spoke to an American teenager (I'll call him Mike) whose parents are both multi-millionaires. He said that his inheritance would probably be worth at least $200 million.

Mike continued:

Most people look at me and say, "Wow. I would love to be you, Mike."

But they don't understand that it's one of those situations where I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.

If I become successful, people will say, "Of course Mike made it big. He had a $200 million head start."

But if I don't become successful, people will say, "What a disgrace! Mike started with a $200 million head start, and he still couldn't make anything of it?"

To Mike, there was almost no way he could win this game of gaining the approval of others.

I'm sure that none of us would complain about receiving a $200 million inheritance, but we ought to be aware that acquiring wealth won't solve all of our problems.

The grass might seem greener on the other side, but that might not always be the case.

2. We feel entitled to a "good life", when in fact we're not entitled to anything.

We often speak and act as if we have the right to a comfortable life.

If you have the right to something, it means that someone else is obligated to ensure that you get what you're entitled to.

Who is this "someone else" who owes you a comfortable life? Is it the government? Is it your employer? Is it society in general?

I'm of the opinion that no one owes us anything.

Sure, we should expect that the government does its best to run the country well. But we cannot—and should not—expect the government to take care of our every need.

We need to take complete responsibility for our lives and decide that we won't blame anyone for anything that's going on in our lives.

I'm not saying that there isn't room for the government to improve, but I am saying that opposing government policy without proposing a workable solution is irresponsible.

3. Complaining makes us feel justified.

When we complain, the situation rarely improves—but we do feel better about the situation because we've expressed our indignation.

I've observed, of both myself and others, that this feeling of justification is the main reason we complain.

Grumbling about the government or the economy reinforces our belief that we've been wronged, and that we could do a better job than those who are currently in positions of authority.

What we should be doing instead of complaining

If what we really want is to see an improvement in the situation, then we need to stop complaining. Instead, we need to commit to taking action.

Turning our complaints into commitments is the only way to effect change.

Rather than complain about your boss, commit to having a conversation with him or her to address the difficulties you're having.

Rather than complain about the economy and about how difficult it is to find a job, commit to upgrading your skills and knowledge.

The list goes on and on.

In closing…

As Singaporeans who love to complain, it's important to remember that when we're whining, nobody's winning.

Together, let's choose the better way: commitments instead of complaints.

I look forward to the day when we, as Singaporeans, will be known more for being changemakers than complainers.

Daniel Wong is a learning and personal development expert, as well as a certified youth counselor. A sought-after speaker and coach, he is also the best-selling author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He offers programmes to help students attain exam excellence while also finding happiness and fulfillment, and to empower parents to motivate their unmotivated teenagers. He writes regularly at www.daniel-wong.com. Download his FREE e-books, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?" and "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision". The views expressed are his own.