Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Last week I wrote that when you know yourself, you know what to do.

I believe that’s true. But I also believe that ‘knowing yourself’ is both a) not as simple as it sounds, and b) a lifelong process.

It’s about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Figuring out what really matters to you, what doesn’t matter, what fits and what no longer belongs — it’s hard. It often means making changes, saying goodbye to relationships, shifting the focus of your work, casting a new identity.

It means being completely open and curious about your thoughts, emotions, needs and desires — if only with yourself. And holy moly, can that get uncomfortable.

Now, maybe it’s the introvert in me, but if I’m going to be uncomfortable, I’m going to do it in private, until I’m good and ready to reveal what I’ve figured out.

I like the sensation of having a secret science lab in my own mind, where I’m experimenting, testing this and that, documenting my progress… without anyone over my shoulder, marring my results with their opinions. 

This is why writing works for me. It’s completely mine.

It’s inevitable that I’m influenced by the people around me and what I consume, but on the page I can tease out what’s me and what I’ve collected from someone else.

In writing I can explore every possible reality before committing to a course of action — and having played out all the consequences I can imagine, I can make the choice that’s going to have the best outcomes. It’s like being able to get a little preview of the future whenever you need it.

There are many ways to get clarity. Meditation, running, cliff diving and many other physical experiences can all create that transcendent moment of insight.

But none of those options create a record for your future self to rely on.

And when, inevitably, you bump up against something that challenges your sense of self, that makes you uncomfortable again, these records are invaluable. They remind you of where you’ve come from and how you’ll find the path forward.

Your records don’t have to be pristine, long-form treatises on every part of your life. Mine are often a few pages of falling headfirst into the thing that’s been buzzing around my brain that day — and so would be completely inane for anyone else to read.

But our lives are made up of our days, and so for me, these scribbled brain dumps hold treasure to dig up again in the future.

Write something down about yourself that’s true today. Ask yourself a question you don’t yet know the answer to. And then do it again tomorrow.