"Stop Whining"

ask for help burnout impostor phenomenon mentalwellbeing Aug 24, 2021
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Dr Jessica Metcalfe
"Stop Whining"

I can’t remember the last time someone said this directly to me, but I was definitely of a much younger age. I’m unsure if it was directed at me or spoken to me describing that I shouldn't "whine" in general.

However, I most definitely took it very literal and to heart. For years to come, I didn’t whine, nor did I speak up about how I was thinking and feeling. I didn't vent. I didn't complain. I just sucked it up because that's what I was taught to do.

Because of this, I didn't understand that I should talk about my problems and concerns when they bother me instead of bottling them up.

As of recently, this topic of conversation came up in a Dental Facebook Group – called Dental Nachos (which might I add, is the first ever social media dental group I’ve been a part of). I appreciated this topic of conversation because my view of "stop whining" changed when I was diagnosed with depression a few years ago.

In fact, "stop whining" shouldn’t be a part of the high-achiever mentality.

If we look back to when our parents, school teachers or someone said this, it was likely in reference to a child repeatedly asking for something or complaining about something.

Listen, I can understand how “stop whining” may be used in that context. However, I think there is a better way to communicate what you are trying to get across instead of stifling one's thoughts, emotions or behaviours.


Why “stop whining” isn’t good for the high-achiever.

Let me be clear. You’re all high-achievers (even if you explain away your successes or underestimate your abilities). If you are reading this, then yes, you are, in fact, a high-achiever. **pat yourself on the back**

“Stop whining” isn’t something we should be telling our colleagues, peers or mentors/mentees because to me, it’s another way of saying, "what you are concerned or worried about isn't worth being talked about," or, “you should tough it out.”

"Stop whining" negates validating one's fears and worries. It communicates to the individual sharing their concern that they shouldn't be admitting what they are truly thinking or feeling. Ultimately, the individual who wants and needs to share what is going on, will avoid doing so for fear that something is wrong with themselves.

For the high-achiever, “toughing it out” can be extremely detrimental to their mental and physical health. High-achievers push themselves to their limits. High-achievers sometimes don't know when to give themselves a break. High-achievers can be their own worst enemy.

As a high-achiever, I programmed myself to “tough it out” because how would I become successful if I didn’t? Well, that didn't work in my favor. “Stop whining” and “tough it out” became synonymous to me because the overall concept was to prevent me from sharing what I truly was thinking and feeling about my life and the dental profession.

I get it. There is s%*t in every profession, but, not all of us were equipped with how to be kind to ourselves. So this is what I am suggesting: I want you to learn how to vent to your support system (or to people I like to call my 'trust squad'). I want you to share what is bothering you so it doesn't keep you up at night or causes the pot to boil over.

Why you should vent! 

Venting to your support system is truly important. By sharing your inner most thoughts or fears to others it helps reduce anxiety, worry and depression. Sharing with others means you don’t bottle it up, preventing you from sleeping or even worse, heading down a path where mental illness feels all-consuming.

Venting can bring light to problems and even find you solutions just by hearing your own voice or because the person you shared with can offer advice.


How to vent.

Yes, there is an optimal way to vent so you walk away energized instead of demoralized. Let me walk you through them.


ONE: For starters, pick a couple of people to be in your trust squad. You can even ask them if they are willing (or have the bandwidth) to be that person for you. It doesn’t mean with every little thing you reach out, but you feel safe to be vulnerable with this person without the fear of judgement. If someone judges you, choose someone else.

TWO: Inform your trust squad listener if you want someone to listen ONLY or to offer solutions. Some of us can immediately jump into fixer mode when we don’t actually need to be fixing. So take the pressure of the listener by saying, “hey, I really just need you to listen, I’m not looking for solutions,” or “hey, I need advice on this problem.” Be clear with your listener. 

THREE: Be mindful of your listener’s time. When I was in the pits of my depression, I relied on my trust squad immensely. However, there were days they just didn’t have the bandwidth for me and that’s totally normal. We are all busy people and sometimes we just need our own alone time. If you are constantly leaning on someone, check in with them to make sure they have the time and if they are doing okay.

FOUR: Return the act of listening. We all need people to lean on. If your trust squad relationship is that, make sure you return the same kindness and follow steps one through three.

FIVE: Lastly, if friends or family don’t have the bandwidth, don’t get upset, but remember there are other support systems out there including a coach, psychologist/counsellor, or a psychiatrist.


To end: learning and growing can bring some struggles and challenges; that is expected. But you should never feel like you can’t share or vent about the problems and/or experiences that you have going on in your life.


Take home message: 1) Venting isn’t whining 2) Actively listening (without offering solutions) is a skill that should be nourished!


Yours truly,


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