How Complacency Can Prevent You From Moving Forward

Complacency can give you peace at certain times, but it can also turn you into someone who's at the mercy of the wind, without the will or aspiration to control your environment. In this article, we talk about complacency and its consequences.
How Complacency Can Prevent You From Moving Forward

Last update: 07 August, 2022

You live in a world that urges you to be the best and constantly improve yourself. However, regardless of your aspirations, one of the strongest pillars of your well-being is being at peace with who you are. Nevertheless, this pillar isn’t immune to the attack of certain erosive agents, such as extreme conformism or systematic acceptance. In fact, complacency can slow you down and leave you entrenched in feelings of unhappiness. We’re going to talk about it in this article.

First of all, you’re under no obligation to improve in any area or make any changes you don’t want. Personal development is precisely that, personal. Just because your partner likes sports or working out doesn’t mean that you should do it too. Or, the fact that your friend is following a strict diet doesn’t mean that you should do the same.

Everyone is different and some are more motivated or inclined to work in certain areas than others. That said, if there’s a certain aspect of your life that’s causing you discomfort, and you really want to work on it, complacency can prevent you from achieving it. That’s when you should do something about it.

Woman thinking
In its positive sense, complacency helps you treat yourself in a more positive way.

Complacency

Self-complacency is defined as the feeling of satisfaction with your own way of being or acting. It means you’re satisfied with who you are and what you’re doing. You feel that you’re already who you should be and you’re doing what you should be doing. It’s about acceptance and the ability to be at peace with your own reality.

Thus, complacency has a positive and bright aspect. It allows you to be okay with what’s happening that you can’t change. Because there are always parts of your life that you can’t alter and fighting against them only generates emotional wear and tear. Therefore, feeling pleased with, for example, your height or your innate temperament (unchangeable aspects) can save you a lot of suffering.

Self-complacency is also helpful for those people who tend to be extremely self-demanding and rigid. Those who feel that they must always do more, that they’re never enough, that they need to improve, and who never stop trying to validate themselves. In these cases, learning to appreciate their own values, recognizing their merits, and accepting the here and now is really healthy.

On the other hand, when people fall into the habit of excessive complacency, they harm themselves in several ways.

Complacency: an obstacle to moving forward

The dark side of complacency is that it leads you to ignore your responsibilities. The responsibilities you have toward yourself, in taking care of yourself, developing yourself, and taking charge of your life.

There are three main ways in which this attitude can affect you:

Accusation and victimhood

If you feel pleased with who you are and what you do, but are still dissatisfied with your life, you have no choice but to blame an external agent. Thus, you place the responsibility on your parents, boss, friends, or partner. You convince yourself that they’re the cause of your frustration and unhappiness, because they don’t behave as they should.

This kind of self-delusion makes you feel like you’ve already done everything you can and should do, and that, if something goes wrong, it’s no longer anything to do with you. However, this lack of self-criticism prevents you from moving forward. After all, at the end of the day, you’re responsible for your own life. Nobody is going to live it for you.

Lack of self-confidence

Complacency also leads you to be excessively self-indulgent and to forgive yourself for multiple transgressions. For example, if you set yourself a goal to start exercising on Monday, but it’s Thursday and you haven’t started yet, you forgive yourself for not sticking to your plans.

However, behind your complacency hides short-term comfort and reinforcement. When you don’t feel like exercising, you convince yourself that nothing’s wrong, that you already have a healthy enough life, or that you deserve to rest. When this attitude is repeated day after day, it impedes your progress; progress that you marked out for yourself and you want to achieve yet to which you’re not committing yourself.

Impaired self-esteem

Finally, self-esteem is also affected by complacency. People who are overly complacent tend to praise themselves and brag about every little accomplishment while overlooking the areas that require improvement. This is what happens with fathers and mothers who reward and praise their children excessively: their words are empty.

In reality, self-esteem is built on the basis of the facts, the challenges you overcome, the goals you set for yourself and achieve, and the successes you reap. When you overconform, make excuses, and self-deceive, it affects your self-image and you may find yourself feeling less capable and more unmotivated.

Blindfolded man
From a negative point of view, complacency can prevent you from moving forward and, in a way, leads you to self-deception.

Being self-complacent in a smart way

In short, we can’t say that complacency has a negative nature, or is always bad. In fact, to some degree (and especially for some people) it’s positive and beneficial. However, it’s important to find a balance along with self-criticism and self-demand.

If you’re too conformist, permissive, and self-indulgent, you run the risk of being trapped in unsatisfactory realities. Therefore, you should remember to accept what you can’t alter, but work on what you can and want to change.

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  • Germer, C. (2009). The mindful path to self-compassion: Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions. Guilford Press.
  • Kawall, J. (2006). On complacency. American Philosophical Quarterly43(4), 343-355.