5 reasons why discomfort is your friend
I often see wonderful people shying away from opportunities or avoiding what they know in their heart they should do, because of the associated discomfort. The discomfort I’m talking about is anything that is emotionally uncomfortable. It could be anxiety, fear or stress, often combined with thoughts like: Can I do this? I can’t do it. Other people are better. My friends can do it, why can’t I? I’m not going to be able to do a good job …
The great news is that it’s possible to change your relationship with discomfort.
Here are five reasons why discomfort is your friend:
1. To be human is to experience discomfort
To be alive and human is such an opportunity. From the moment we are born, our response to discomfort shows our parents when we need to be fed, held and sleep. We continue as humans to navigate life’s challenges and experience the discomfort that comes with living life.
However, one of the big problems I see is that we’re in a world where people often don’t openly share their uncomfortable feelings and experiences. This is one of the reasons many people that I work with feel that they are alone in struggling and finding life difficult. It is so easy to see the faces of happy families and friends on social media or to have conversations with people and to get the impression that their lives are easier, better, less uncomfortable.
I know many stories behind those apparently happy scenes … and everyone is dealing with a range of life’s challenges. Emotional pain, distant relationships, breakups, physical and mental illness, sadness, depression, anxiety and loss. It’s so important to try not to judge yourself when you have feelings of discomfort. It’s what makes you human and you are definitely not alone when you feel it.
2. With growth comes discomfort
If you want to grow, change, develop, do something different in your life … discomfort is also part of that package. If you’re feeling discomfort for that reason, well done! Discomfort is your friend because you’re acting with courage. The human experience is that, if you push yourself, stretch yourself, do anything outside of your comfort zone, you will feel discomfort. It is also highly likely that the more significant and unfamiliar your opportunity, the more you’ll feel it. That’s certainly my experience. And sometimes all I want to do is run! I too find it challenging when I’m in the ‘discomfort zone’. Anyone who is embracing a new opportunity, looking for a job, applying for a job, starting a new relationship, starting a new business, working in a challenging role or needing to have a difficult conversation will feel discomfort. Celebrate it if you can … because it means you’re learning and growing and doing ‘it’!
3. Discomfort tells you when there is a threat
Sometimes you need to be able to run away from danger. We’ve been given wonderful flight-or-fight responses to keep us safe. In prehistoric times, it gave us the ability to run from the wild beast or to hit it over the head with a club to protect ourselves.
We continue as humans to navigate life’s challenges and experience the discomfort that comes with living life.
However, if you’re embracing new challenges, the same physiological response that happens when there is a threat, will begin doing its thing. That’s OK. It’s what the body does. With slow breathing and consciously watching what is happening, you can work with the feeling. You might say, Oh that feels like anxiety. That’s okay. That’s normal. I’m just going to breathe slowly and continue on. If you’re struggling with those feelings, try and connect back to your purpose, the reason why you are stretching yourself.
4. Discomfort can force change
Discomfort can be a message that says, I’m feeling a bit strange, uncomfortable. This discomfort is continuing. What’s going on? Discomfort can push you to make the changes you need to. If you continue to feel discomfort around a particular issue, it could be because something needs to be said or done. This may be worth exploring with a close and trusted loved one or a therapist.
5. Discomfort gives you opportunities for growth
Because discomfort is part and parcel of being human, it also gives you many opportunities to explore, embrace and accept who you are and what you feel. The more aware you are of the particular nature of your discomfort and where it comes from, the more opportunities you have to overcome the barriers holding you back from being the best that you can be.
If you’ve been holding back from embracing new opportunities or making changes you know you need to, perhaps take some time to reflect, make a few notes, have a chat with a trusted person and explore this more deeply. It’s not always easy. But you can do it.
Lead Your Own Change.