About six months ago, I moved to a small town to start a new job. I’m enjoying being able to walk to work instead of sitting in commuter traffic and I love the natural beauty all around me. I love that within a 10 minute drive I can walk on the beach or along the river or get out into native bush and listen to birds. It’s an easy lifestyle that is working well for me in so many ways except for one big challenge. I’m an introvert by nature and developing friendships and becoming part of a community is not something I find easy to do. I knew a handful of people here before I moved, but I knew I’d need to reach out to a wider group of people if I was to make this place home.
Over the years I’ve moved many times and while I love the challenge of exploring new places and finding my way into a new job, the idea of reaching out to people I don’t know has always made me feel awkward and uncomfortable.
I remember starting at a new school when I was 8 years old and discovering I had little in common with most of the girls in my new class. A number belonged to a pony club where they rode their own pony and some went skiing in their winter holidays. I read books and dreamed of having a pony and I’d never seen real snow. I was out of my depth and had no idea how to go about making friends or fitting in. As a teenager and in my early 20s, I lacked confidence and struggled to make conversation with people I didn’t know well. Since then I’ve learned how to mix and mingle with the best of them, but I still take a deep breath before going to a social event when I’m the new kid on the block.
My friend who is an extrovert is the complete opposite. She is everyone’s best friend but hates spending time on her own. No one is totally comfortable at all times. I once worked with a highly ambitious, succeed at all costs colleague who thrived in conflict but hated being in situations where failure was a real possibility. Another friend who is always super organized becomes very uncomfortable in disorderly situations. We each thrive in certain situations and feel out of our depth in others.
Discomfort can be physical as well as emotional. My body aches and is sore after my first workout at the gym when I’ve had a break. Flying long-haul for 24 hours from Auckland to London is full of discomfort. A few years ago when I cut caffeine from my diet to help me sleep better, I felt emotionally and physically uncomfortable for about a week. There was nothing at all nice about the experience.
The problem is that if we avoid all situations that make us feel uncomfortable, we end up missing out on the things we really want in our lives. I know that I’ll never make friends if I don’t reach out to the people around me. If I remain in my comfort zone and stay at home to watch TV or read a book instead of socializing, I’m going to be very lonely. Avoiding discomfort narrows down your life and restricts you to a small world that is dissatisfying and frustrating.
We’re hard-wired to prefer comfort and security, but discomfort is a true friend if we’re willing to lean into it. Discomfort shows us the areas of ourselves in which we need to grow in order to become a better person. Discomfort highlights new skills we might need to develop in order to enrich our lives. Discomfort is the doorway we have to go through if we want to create lives that let us feel good about ourselves and make a difference in the world.
I’ve found the three steps below help me to push past the feelings of discomfort and do the thing I really want to do.
Discomfort is a gift because it shows you where you are stuck and what you need to do to become the best version of yourself you can be. Discomfort points you towards your goals and dreams and shows you the next step to take if you want to create an amazing life.
Right now it’s time for me to make a few phone calls and invite others to join me at the movies. How about you? What makes you feel uncomfortable in your life? Don’t run from discomfort – welcome it, lean into it and see where it takes you.
Image by DODO DODO