I used to spend a large portion of my life avoiding situations and people who made me feel uncomfortable. For a while I was pretty successful, but I also succeeded at crafting a blank life. Now I don’t exactly enjoy the discomfort, but I accept it. My sage #gallowadvice to you all is to stop avoiding uncomfortable situations. If you are never uncomfortable, your body and soul will shrivel. Here are some examples from my own life.
Strength Training / Running
My body prefers to sit on a soft cushiony couch, in air conditioning. On the other hand, running until I feel like my heart is going to explode or lifting a weight even when my muscles are shaking is suck-y. But it makes me better. It enables me to do the things I really enjoy, like hiking. It helps me help other people, like by helping a friend move. It helps me live longer so I can continue blessing the world with my existence, like by writing brilliant nonsense for 10 people to enjoy each week. Exercise is uncomfortable, but it is confidence boosting, gives me more energy, opens up new opportunities for me to enjoy life, and keeps me around longer (lucky you). Most importantly, it makes me a sleek tigress.
My anxiety around public speaking used to be really, really severe. When I was in college and the professor of a class wanted us to go around the room and introduce ourselves, I would hide in the bathroom until I was sure enough time had passed that we would have moved on to a different activity. Even now, I get pretty worked up about any speaking engagement, whether it’s to a group of five faculty or giving a guest lecture to 150 bored undergrads. I sweat, listen to Eye of the Tiger, and do push-ups in my office to use up my wild nervous energy. Yet, almost every speaking engagement I’ve had in the past 3 years or so has been really successful. Presentations on my research are good for my career. Leading a discussion or giving a lecture can be confidence boosting. My audiences almost always give me overwhelmingly positive feedback. And sometimes, my presentations are required so that I can check a box and move that much closer to graduation. Public speaking is uncomfortable, but has preceded pretty much every accomplishment or noteworthy success in the past 6 years of my life.
Being friends with leftists
Look y’all, I wish I had the luxury of believing that everyone who disagreed with me was either evil, an idiot, or both. But I don’t. I know super intelligent, kind people – even people who share the same faith as me – who have radically different views on how government should work and what policies promote human flourishing. Knowing this forces me to revisit my own hard-set beliefs, think more deeply about how I came to that conclusion, and identify the assumptions my reasoning is based on – and evaluate whether those are correct or not. It’s irritating. But it’s helped me refine what I believe and become better able to communicate with people who don’t share the same underlying assumptions about life as I do. Being friends with leftists is uncomfortable, but it sharpens me.
Being a Christian in academia
Along the same lines, being a person who believes there is a supernatural reality while pursuing a career in a field that limits reality to whatever is material, observable, and generally repeatable is.. awkward. It has forced me to think about really difficult questions about my faith, from broadly abstract and philosophical to narrowly applied and practical. Sometimes I wish I could live in a community in which everyone has the same baseline assumptions about how the world works, why we’re here, and what comprises reality. But I think that would make me intellectually and spiritually complacent, and I never would have been motivated to seek out answers to really irritating and scary questions. Being a Christian in academia is uncomfortable, but it has actually strengthened my faith overall to know it can hold up under fire.
Having friends and family
People ask things of me. They disrupt my schedule. They want me to eat foods I wouldn’t normally eat at times I wouldn’t normally want to eat. They hurt my feels. They drain my energy, especially when they are going through rough times. They take up my precious time. But a life without those inconveniences is.. empty. Making sacrifices for my friends and family can be uncomfortable, but my friends and family are my support, a large part of my purpose in life, and a large source of my lolz.
I also hope that I make you uncomfortable. Why? Because in the hyper-offendable culture of the present day, the only way you can possibly avoid making someone uncomfortable is to stop saying or doing anything. I used to add “of importance,” but people actually get worked up about this blog sometimes, y’all. Thus proving that even the nonsensical of all nonsense can rub someone the wrong way. Not that I go out of my way to offend people, but I also will not delete posts that I believe in (yes, I “believe” even in the silly ones). Doing and saying things makes people uncomfortable, but doing and saying stuff – especially of importance – is worth enduring a little push back.
So my darling readers, I urge you to review your life and notice how discomfort and struggle are the annoying but necessary parents to success, action, depth, and joy. And now with a tear in my eye and love in my heart — I wish you all moderate discomfort, today and forevermore. ❤