Getting comfortable with discomfort

If you were to ask me to describe myself here is what I’d tell you:

I’m enthusiastic and emotional. I laugh and cry openly. I can be argumentative. I have heart. I’m empathetic. I’m willing to listen. I take everything personal, and I over-analyze every conversation. I’m easily convinced. And I’m a people pleaser.

I like to talk, but more than that, I like to communicate and connect. I’m honest and open. I’m willing to be vulnerable.

I believe I am all of these things. Of these, I would argue that my willingness to be honest, open and vulnerable are my most strongly routed qualities, or so I’ve always believed of myself. That is, until recently when I learned something very important about myself. It was eye-opening and somewhat humbling and was completely unexpected. I AM this person, but I’m not very good at BEING this person.

In this space, this ironically very public space, I do a very good job of living this honestly. Here, I share openly.

But when I step away, I’m actually very different. I am tremendously intimated by myself. I lack confidence. I’m willing to be honest, but to a point. If I feel strongly about something, I’ll tell you, but I won’t push it.

In real life, I can be very guarded. And if I let down my protective barriers, if I put myself into a situation where I feel vulnerable or I’m losing control, I quickly surrender. It a self-protection mechanism that I’ve perfected to the point that I failed to recognize it in myself. Deep down I know myself to be someone different, rightly believed myself to be that person that I had actually convinced myself that I was that person.

Here’s what I mean.

When my thoughts, feelings, perceptions and assumptions (the very things that make our emotional psyche) are rolling around in my head they make sense. They are weighty and important. I believe them, I trust them, I live by them. And when I write them here,  they feel okay. I’m comfortable with sharing, secure in their black and white absoluteness. I can speculate on the many reasons that may be. Perhaps it’s because I ultimately don’t have to hit publish. Even as my fingers clickety clack across the keys, the words are still anonymous, exist only on the screen, in a draft only I can see, and thus, arguably are still very much safe in my head. As they roll off my fingertips, offering comfort and self-understanding, I’m still protected, protected until I release them into the universe, or the Internet as it were. Or maybe it’s because I know that even when you, my dear friends, read them they still, in a way maintain their silence. I’m not there with you. I don’t need to witness, see or hear your reaction. It’s safe. When I hit publish there is still silence.

But when I say them, articulate them out loud, it feels prickly. When I talk with friends, colleagues, mentors, family and even my husband, the words just never seem good enough. They feel cheap, almost fake. I  worry there will be consequences. And that sensation makes me believe my thoughts aren’t important. It makes me feel silly, even provincial.

My husband reads my blog pretty faithfully. I appreciate his support, and feel blessed by his encouragement and interest. But he’s the kind of person who likes to read out loud. When he reads these words, my words out loud it makes me profoundly uncomfortable. It’s prickly. For some reason hearing them feels like a judgment.

Extend this to the rest of my life and you see the struggle I’m facing. It’s unpleasant. Well it’s more than unpleasant, it’s downright debilitating.

I need to find a way to get comfortable with my own discomfort. And to further complicate it, I need to do it so that I can be myself. Twisted in a way. But our subconscious has a funny way of protecting us.

I took some early steps recently but talking about all of this with my husband. Explaining it as honestly and openly as I could. You might think it would be easy, but it isn’t. It took me almost a month to muster the courage, to describe why this is, what is has meant, and what I must do now. It all makes sense in my head, but as soon as I say it, it makes it real, and the reality is very hard for me to accept.

So this blog post is step two. It’s me coming clean so to speak. I’m practicing for the harder parts I still have to face, the more difficult discussions that will need to be had, and the person I need to learn to be.




13 thoughts on “Getting comfortable with discomfort

  1. I believe that I know exactly what you mean. At a couple of points in my life, I realized that I thought I’d been very clear about what was needed in a particular situation, but in fact I’d diluted my words or simply failed to deliver the message. Obviously I didn’t learn well enough from the first situation because it happened again in another setting. I got a bit better after realizing that I had ability and opportunities to do things I really wanted to do, but needed to get better at bringing others along.

  2. lena says:

    What an open and honest post. As a blogger, though not nearly as beautifully articulate as you!, I can very much relate to the dichotomy between writing and saying or being and doing. I commend you for putting yourself out there so openly. As a faithful reader, I very much appreciate it and feel honored to be a part of your journey. You also motivate me to continue on mine, So, thank you. And good luck. 😉

  3. Well, I think you’re ahead of most of us already since you write so openly and honestly. Most of us (i.e. me!) do not feel comfortable enough to do even that. We, your readers, will continue to follow along on your journey and send you strength and cheers along the way.

  4. It’s funny, I always say (and mean it)…”I’m better on paper.” 🙂 Love to you, soulmate.

  5. Cathy says:

    Wow Christine. I could write these words (albeit not as well) and it would be true to my core. I am learning some things about myself. Learning to understand my patterns and habits. Learning my weaknesses and fears. It is not a journey I necessarily chose for myself but I am intrigued to continue.

  6. Cathy says:

    But still – I notice I did NOT mention learning my strengths? Why is it so hard to admit these things?

  7. I hopped over here from Twitter, after seeing your Head. Wall. tweet – and ohmy, I’m SO glad I did – and am wondering where I’ve been for the past while (so much going on here! I want to make this a frequent “stopping in for coffee” place).

    I resonate with so much in this post – how courageous and beautiful it (and YOU) are. Thank you for sharing this!

  8. Pamela says:

    We’re all better on paper. I’m with kitch. Being comfortable with discomfort seems to be the secret to life. Don’t forget that you are human and are right where you need to be doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. Xoxo

  9. Kelly says:

    It seems this is why many of us blog. Many of us start a novel but don’t finish it. Many of us pull away as the cloak of anonymity starts to fall away. There’s a fear that our most vulnerable, honest selves will be rejected. If we keep ourselves hidden away, we avoid that pain. However, we also avoid the lightness of being our most authentic selves in all situations. Kudos to you for shining a light into your own dark, fearful corners.

  10. Tracey says:

    This post hit a chord with me but I haven’t had a chance to comment until now. And I probably won’t do a great job explaining my thoughts in the five minutes I have! I think there are different types of situations and subject matter you could be talking about here, but the part that struck me me was this: “If I feel strongly about something, I’ll tell you, but I won’t push it.” That’s not a bad thing. There are definitely situations where you do need to push your feelings/beliefs, I’d say primarily where they impact you or your family in a very direct and immediate way. However, I think knowing when to pull back and leave it alone can actually be seen as a strength, not as a weakness or being inauthentic. If your audience doesn’t share your point of view and/or is not a person or group that you feel to be open-minded and willing to enter into an genuine back-and-forth of ideas (or perhaps not confident enough themselves to be challenged), then just the “I’ll tell you” part can take a lot of strength. A lot. Seriously, a lot. And knowing that you’re best to drop it after that is also a sign of strength and wisdom. Because you don’t really want to drop it. You want to share and explain. But sometimes it just isn’t worth it and can end up causing you even more stress. So I say embrace the fact that you are strong and confident enough to express your point of view, and wise enough to know when to leave it at that.

  11. denise says:

    This is a very noble effort. I applaud you, as always, for doing what it is you need to do when you need to do it. I have been pondering this idea of duality, or dichotomy, a lot lately. And your post seems to fit right into my line of wondering. Living who I am in the many different shades of life. Hmmmm. Thanks for your honest words, friend.

  12. Amber says:

    I totally understand where you’re coming from. I feel safer expressing certain things online than I do in person, as well. Although I don’t think it’s the online thing, I think it’s the written thing. I have time to think about what I’m going to say, I say it well, and really very few people argue. It removes a lot of the social anxiety.

    I’m working on becoming comfortable with my own discomfort in real life, as well. It isn’t easy, but it really is worth it.

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