One of my greatest lessons this year has been learning to be comfortable with discomfort.
Yes, as simple as that. I am learning to let go of my attachment to comfort. I am no longer entitled to be comfortable – it is not a birthright or a privilege of a first world country citizen. In fact not being able to sit in discomfort is one of the most disabling things I know. Comfort is very over rated.
Let me explain.
I have watched myself, and others over the past few years. Doesn’t matter whether it is relationship driven, job oriented, family centered, personal boundaries, or a matter of life and death, discomfort is everywhere and I must say very much a common and everyday experience. Many of us reach for our creature comforts, some tool, or some distraction to get ourselves off the hot seat of discomfort – television, the Internet, food or drink, a drug legal or illegal, denial, hope, a vacation, a party, or blame.
Our ability to be with discomfort has lots to do with how we grow and evolve as people. The less capable we are of sitting in the discomfort, the less we will mature as self-responsible, interdependent adults and self empowered people. Instead, we will find ways out of the awkward situations, using tools such as projection, blame, denial, or hope to get off the hot seat and back into our comfort zone. Yes, these tools may temporarily minimize the discomfort, but it is temporary only, short lived and no growth, evolution or improvement in our relationships takes place at all.
If we are unwilling to work through the discomfort, face it head on with our family and friends, it will over time morph into resentment, distancing, and isolation. Facing the situation with a shared reality and living with the discomfort, is the only way I have found to move through these tough spots in life.
Here are two examples of what I mean by growing through discomfort.
One. Watching my brother die before my very eyes was indeed uncomfortable and yet the benefits of staying with him at his bedside through the discomfort are too numerous to mention, one being the deep and profound love for each other we discovered while facing Peter’s death together. If I took the easy way out I would have missed this opportunity to experience this magical love.
Two. Working through a family upset and not backing down. Yes it would make it easier for others and smooth over the rough waters had I fled for comfort. Yet staying in the discomfort renewed my self esteem and my self confidence in that I know even more deeply that I have value and deserve to be valued. If I took the easy way out I would have diminished myself and missed an opportunity to take a stand for what I believed in and allowed myself to be unseen by others.
Believe me, if there were another way through that was easier I would have found it because I really do not like discomfort. That being said I have learned to feel uncomfortable and not pull back from it’s edge. I have learned to lean into discomfort just a little bit and stay right there facing it with those people I am involved with.
The easy way out is to err on the side of returning to comfort before the ‘work’ gets done. More important than comfort is to stay in the uncomfortable conversation or situation until it is resolved – to stay open and willing to be changed by discomfort, to take discomfort as an opportunity to grow.