If you’re like me, you’ve seen a few things, held a few jobs, been around the block a time or two and generally feel like you have your worldview figured out. You probably have some non-negotiable guidelines when it comes to the way you live your life.
“Life is too short to be miserable.”
“I don’t need to put up with other people’s bullshit.”
“I’d love to ______________, but I’d have to give up too much time/cake/Netflix.”
Oh, boy. I used to cling to all of these ideas like a lifeline. I’d encounter a challenge, get uncomfortable due to fear and anxiety, and then quit, regardless of how much I thought I wanted to do it. For many years, in fact, my subconscious – the part of us that wants to keep us from being eaten since caveman days – helped to successfully navigate me away from a certain level of fear and discomfort.
If I tried anything I hadn’t done before and found myself smack up against a big, looming wall of discomfort that was not about to budge, I’d leave. Screw it. I didn’t need whatever was on the other side of that stupid wall, citing any of the excuses noted above.
Currently, I’m in the midst of a situation which very recently had me in my fullest expression of discomfort. Dread, bad dreams, anxiety sweat, a stress rash – the works. Talk about misery! My subconscious, trying to save me, screamed relentlessly to get the hell out of dodge. To pull a quote from my journal describing that time, ‘every fiber of your being wants to withdraw more than anything else. The last thing in this world you feel like you can fucking take is one more drop of discomfort and you are desperate to make it GO AWAY.’
Other people were telling me to quit. People around me in the same situation HAVE quit.
But I kept going. Thanks to all the work I’ve been putting in to shift my mindset, and my main belief that everything happens for a reason, I kept putting one foot in front of the other even when I didn’t know what the outcome would be.
Then the weirdest thing happened. Like so many times before, I realized I had the choice to leave this damn uncomfortable situation, and … that I wasn’t going to. I no longer wanted to.
During a call with my business coach on Friday, I finally was able to articulate for the first time, “I’ve always quit things when they got to this level of discomfort. This time I want to stay and see what happens.”
I realized that now what feels right is to sit here in my own discomfort because I want to see who I will be when I come out the other side.
Betcha didn’t see that coming.
Another surprising thing? The misery aspect fades away when you stop trying to outrun your discomfort and agree to sit with it. The misery for me was in the resistance.
It was very interesting to note that the thoughts I had this week were a change from “Oh my god this is torture, I hate it here, nobody should have to deal with this, what would happen if I just drove off and never came back…” to “Well, this kind of sucks. Yep, it does. I feel uncomfortable. Oh well. I’m going to do my best anyway, and that’s all I can control.”
There was a very timely message in the podcast released by The Freelance Writing School on Friday that mentioned the perfect descriptor for what a lot of us try to do when we encounter a high level of discomfort: recoil. This is exactly how I was feeling recently; even to the point of hunching down in my seat trying to physically withdraw from the discomfort.
After listening to that podcast I was able to better define my past cycle of behavior and why it worked for me for so long.
- Running smack up against a challenging experience was meeting resistance.
- Deciding not to feel the discomfort that stemmed from said experience led to recoil.
- Running away from the discomfort and difficult thoughts resulted in relief.
Resistance, recoil, relief. The three steps to staying cozy and comfortable in my comfort zone, yes. But also three steps to never getting anyfuckingwhere.
When it’s broken down like that, it’s easy to see the pattern and understand why we’ve done it, right? Nobody wants to feel their uncomfy feelings. But it also highlights for me that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, discomfort and all. Discomfort especially!
Because if I didn’t have this situation, at this time, with new knowledge, with this mindset, with these business goals, I would not be becoming the new version of myself that I want to be. The universe has given me the means to learn exactly what I need to learn in perfect timing. Put in a frame like that, how can I not be so incredibly grateful for this opportunity to grow?
I’m grateful for my discomfort. Who would have thought?