Adulthood is a many splendid thing*. One of its more ghastly delights is the eventual realization that there is something that you face on a regular basis that does not get easier with age nor with practice**.
* Pausing for a moment to roll my eyes.
** Even 10,000 hours don’t make no dent.
I started encountering this thing from around the time I put on my big-girl pants and went off to school – and, decades later, it still feels pretty much exactly the same now as it did then. Whenever it materializes, you, like I, have only two choices…
…evade or endure.
The “thing” I’m talking about is The Uncomfortable Moment.
Uncomfortable Moments never cease to feel physically uncomfortable.
Showing up on the first day of kindergarten and realizing that my brown bag lunch was ego-crushingly conspicuous in a sea of metal lunchboxes felt just as uncomfortable as showing up for first grade with my Wonder Woman lunchbox proudly in tow, only to realize we* had all moved on to brown bags**. Equal to those discomforts was the discomfort I felt last week when I had to request a refund from one of my long-time service providers.
* Defined here as: “everyone but me.”
** From this small sampling of my social incongruity, you can gleefully extrapolate my entire K-12 existence.
On all three occasions I felt the physical sensations of good ‘ole generic discomfort. The main difference with the third, most recent moment is that I have learned – starting way back with the lunch container misfires – that humans don’t die from discomfort*. However, because very few of us desire to feel uncomfortable, many of us get very skilled at evading those Moments.
* Despite what our lizard brains tell us.
We get good at managing other people’s feelings. We get good at avoiding conversations and confrontations. We get good at hiding and pleasing and acquiescing, oh my! Which means we also get good at things like: leaving money on the table, silencing our own voice, and letting opportunities pass us by.
One hallmark of a fully-empowered adult is her commitment and capacity to endure Uncomfortable Moments. It is a requirement of sustained success.
She is able to ask for a raise a year ahead of schedule – even though she feels uncomfortable – because she has decided that the possibility of being compensated for her skill at attracting new clients to the firm is worth having to endure momentary feelings of discomfort.
She is able to ask her visiting parents to stay in a hotel this trip – even though she feels uncomfortable – because she has decided that finishing her art project (which has taken over the guest room) is worth having to endure momentary* feelings of discomfort.
* Yes, a week-long visit from relatives can feel like an eternity, but, in the span of a lifetime, it is but a moment.
She is able to stand up in an arena full of 15,000 people and respectfully question the perspective of the event leader – even though she feels uncomfortable – because she has decided that championing the integrity of the cause that is being disparaged is worth having to endure momentary feelings of discomfort.
A fully-empowered adult is also willing to endure someone else’s Uncomfortable Moment.
A dad, witnessing his daughter attempting to tie her shoelaces for the third time, chooses not to alleviate her discomfort by jumping in to help. He knows she is uncomfortable, but learning.
A life coach, waiting while a prospective client contemplates the expense of an all-inclusive retreat package, refrains from alleviating the client’s discomfort by offering a discount. The coach knows the client will grow in many ways by making the full investment.
A college student, knowing her girlfriend just flunked a test, declines her invitation to join her in alleviating some of her discomfort with a bottle of wine. The student knows that her girlfriend is no longer benefiting from having an on-call drinking buddy.
Enduring Uncomfortable Moments – whether your own or someone else’s – is about allowing yourself to feel what you feel, reminding yourself that the feelings are temporary, and taking action in spite of how you feel… although in some circumstances the only actions necessary will be biting your tongue, waiting patiently, and holding space for the person experiencing their moment of discomfort.
So, so much of what your soul wants to have and experience in this lifetime is waiting for you on the other side of these Uncomfortable Moments. Commit to enduring rather than evading them and you will reap the rewards. If you’d like some support with breaking the habits of discomfort evasion, we can certainly have a helpful conversation about that.
As I was writing this, I recalled that when I was interviewed by the ebullient Loren Kling for his stellar podcast, Five Things That Changed Your Life, strangely enough, four of the stories I told were about me enduring Uncomfortable Moments (none of which I’ve ever shared publicly before). The first of those four stories starts at minute 22:50. Enjoy!