Drowning in a Sea of C’s

by Carol Hess on May 3, 2012

I’m trying to break three bad habits.  They aren’t good for me or the people around me.  I’m willing to bet you’ve got some of these bad habits yourself.  Perhaps you would care to join me in my Cease the C’s Campaign.  (I think my habit of alliteration might have to be the next bad habit to go.)

Can you guess what these evil C habits are?  Cigarettes?  No, gave them up years ago (and still miss them).  Cuba libres?  No, gave them up years ago (and don’t miss the hangovers).  Cursing?  No, not ready to let that one go yet.  Chocolate?  Definitely not!  Step away from my chocolate, and no one will get hurt.

My three C’s are old, deeply ingrained patterns, and they are nothing if not stubborn.  But then so am I.  Like a team of mules.  And that just might be what it takes to get rid of these bleepin’ bad habits, but I’m determined.


When I compare myself to you, one of two things happens.  You come out smelling like a rose, and I end up smelling like the manure in which the rose is planted.  Or vice versa.  Either way, someone loses.  And no matter who wins and who loses, I’m setting you and me up for separation and disconnection.

What do I want to do instead?  Identify with you.  We both win then.  Plus the connection between us is strengthened, because I’m focusing on what we have in common.  No war ever started because someone identified with the guy on the other side of the border crossing.


Now here is one of my favorite things to do, and I’m really very good at it.  In fact, I’m so good at it that I can get you complaining too.  I can even get us competing for who can complain more.  Yay!  Now we’re both miserable.  Mission accomplished.

I confess I’m actually a fan of complaining.  I don’t trust those people who go around with a sickly sweet smile pasted on their face, spouting euphemisms and speaking in inspirational quotes.  Life sucks sometimes, and it’s downright healthy to complain.  It’s a good way to let off some steam.  But I’ve got to set the timer on how long I’ll let myself complain, because complaining doesn’t solve my problem.  Action does.  And sometimes I get confused and think complaining is action.  It isn’t.

Last but definitely not least is the deadliest C of them all in which I almost drowned.  I was going down for the third time, when I realized I had to get rid of this bad boy once and for all.


I am an Olympic gold medal winner in the sport of criticizing.  I should be.  I was trained by the world record holder in criticism.  Criticizing is something that is as natural to me as coughing and almost as difficult to stop once I have the criticism frog in my throat.

But I’ve realized a few things about criticizing.  First of all, when I’m pointing the finger at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at me.  (Thank you 12-step program for that seemingly simple but actually multi-faceted jewel of wisdom.)  Second, no one, including me, ever changed as a result of criticizing.  Third, when I criticize you or me, I feel awful.  And that’s about as good a reason as any to stop doing it.

Instead of criticizing, I do what was suggested to me a long time ago to do.  I sincerely compliment – a fellow blogger for a particularly good post, my next door neighbor kids for how talented they are, the grocery store employee for the excellent packing job, myself for handling a difficult situation well.

I’m not saying complimenting comes quite as naturally to me as criticizing, especially if it’s about me.  But practice makes progress.  Notice I didn’t say, “Practice makes perfect.”  Perfectionism is another bad habit I want to break, but it will have to wait.  It’s doesn’t start with a C.

Which of these three C’s are you drowning in?  And what are you going to do about it?

by Carol Hess


Categories Carol's Musings, Stress Management, The Art of Star Polishing, The Mind Game

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar KCLAnderson (Karen) May 3, 2012 at 9:15 am

I have found that what’s even more insidious than comparing myself to others is comparing myself to previous versions of myself!! I’ve been swimming in those seas lately…not drowning, but if I am not careful, well…


avatar Carol Hess May 3, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Oh, gee, I never thought of that version of comparing — comparing yourself to yourself. The comparing waters get mighty deep and murky, don’t they, Karen?


avatar Rita May 3, 2012 at 9:19 am

My ears perked when I read the part about “complaining”. I’ve been talking about it a lot lately, not that I complain a lot, as a human being i think we complain, but i have been hearing a lot of complaining lately…might be a place for me to start. thank you!


avatar Carol Hess May 3, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I think there is a lot of pain in the world right now, and sometimes it comes out as complaining. I’ve been hearing a lot of it lately too, Rita.


avatar Sandi Amorim May 3, 2012 at 10:20 am

Your description of complaining is what I call “trauma sharing” and I think we do it because in some way it DOES connect us. But it also has a cost that we don’t get until we actually stop and feel the spaciousness of a complaint-free life.

I’m not Pollyanna, I do like a good gripe session now and then. I’m talking about stopping the endless laundry list of complaints about things that make no difference in life. Those? I could definitely live without.

I’ll just add these 3 C’s to my detox month then shall I? 😉


avatar Carol Hess May 3, 2012 at 3:48 pm

You make some great points, Sandi. There are different kinds of complaining. I’m going to have to try that complaint-free life you speak of. Not sure I’ve ever experienced that. By the way, I think if you add any more to your detox list this month, you will be so perfect I won’t be able to stand you cuz, you know, I’ll be doing that comparing thing. :)


avatar paula May 5, 2012 at 3:24 pm

hi carol! what an excellent topic! unless one is getting paid to critique someone’s job performance, criticizing others can come from a place inside that feels pretty rotten or is fearful. being so critical of ourselves, which includes that other ‘C’ – comparing – can reflect our unresolved issues. is it ever constructive?? if we use it to understand ourselves and our motivations, yeah, i think so. humans don’t change much unless they want to. and don’t be messing with my chocolate, either!


avatar Carol Hess May 6, 2012 at 8:15 am

You make an excellent point, Paula. Criticizing others can be a way to try to feel better about ourselves, but of course it doesn’t really work, does it?


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: