Toddlers whine. Most adults figure out how to lose the habit, because it’s toxic. And yet it persists.

Whining is a seductive package deal. When it works, it gets us attention, it lowers expectations, it gains sympathy and it forces people to identify with our pain. And it helps people feel as though they’re not responsible.

Often, the amount of whining is totally unrelated to the level of discomfort, and it seems to increase with how much privilege people perceive they deserve.

So why avoid it?

Because it changes our outlook on the world. When whining becomes a habit, we need to continue it, so we begin to interpret events as opportunities to prove that our whining is justified.

And because over time, people hate being around a whiner. The selfish desires of the habitual whiner eventually become clear. We realize that our shared reality is the world as it is, and that the whiner isn’t actually being singled out. And through practice, we learn that the best way to make things better is to work to improve them, not to demand special treatment. Reminding myself of the perils of whining is helpful indeed.

Optimists run the risk of being disappointed now and then. Whiners are always disappointing.