Being Uncomfortable

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Being uncomfortable is part of life. 

Most of us avoid it, yet it is an important element of our personal growth. If we do not allow ourselves to be uncomfortable we keep the possibilities of our life limited. So often we resist being uncomfortable rather than leaning into it. 

As Eckhart Tolle says, “What we resist, persists, what we push against, strengthens.”

So what does it look like to lean into the uncomfortable? 

Well, rather than making judgment, we acknowledge what is uncomfortable, we process any emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, then respond with an action. Responding means making a conscious decision about what you want to do with the uncomfortable situation. This takes the part of the brain called the frontal lobe to be engaged. However, we tend to react rather than respond. When we react, we are typically engaging the amygdala.  The amygdala part of the brain is all about keeping us safe and getting us out of uncomfortable situations as quickly as possible. It is not about doing what will help us grow. 

Therefore, when we are reacting we end up making decisions that are based on trying to get out of feeling uncomfortable and back to the status quo, rather than working through the uncomfortable-ness. It is in our genetic makeup to avoid change, to avoid what is uncomfortable. We have to make a conscious decision to stay with the uncomfortable situation and feelings.  

For most of us, we have found ways to avoid being uncomfortable through blaming, excuses, addictions, emotional outbursts, over/under eating, allowing ourselves to get distracted, focusing on things that are not that important, just to name a few. None of these work.

Embracing the uncomfortable is living with consciousness. It is about making choices on a daily basis and not letting life just happen to us. When we are under stress we tend to be reacting to most life situations. Managing stress through exercise, prayer, meditation, journaling, therapy, massage will assist you in being more conscious and less stressed which in turn allows us to live more from the frontal lobe.  

This uncomfortable-ness could be just pushing yourself to do 10 more pushups each day to changing your eating patterns.  But it could be much larger than this. It could be dealing with a relationship that you know you need to end or work on to knowing you need to go back to school or change jobs or acceptance of a health issue.

I had to deal with one of these uncomfortable situations myself recently.

My daughter has decided to move to another state to finish her schooling. This was unexpected for me, and having a great relationship with her, my amygdala was flooded with feelings of sadness, fear, grief and loss. Therefore my first reaction was not about what was best for her, but to keep things the same as this is what I wanted with little thought about her. However, once I was able to breathe and let my frontal lobe help me, I was able to own “what is,” (my daughter has decided to move to another state to complete school, and it’s not personal), then I was able to process my emotions in a way that is appropriate and helpful. 

Lastly, I was able to sit down with her and share my thoughts and feelings objectively that assisted and supported my daughter which in turn just improved my relationship with her. It has also made me look at my own life and look at what I needed to do to grow through this experience, rather than shrink. 

We are constantly being given these chances to grow, but it is an every moment, every day decision to embrace or push away these opportunities.

There are many quotes about living in the uncomfortable, but this one by Martin Luther King, Jr., is one of my favorites.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  

It is always our choice to grow or play small.

 Dr Shelly Zavala can be reached at [email protected] or

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