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Why It’s Okay To Be Uncomfortable

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

Discomfort sucks, but it’s better than being stagnant.

When I was younger and getting taller, I felt this aching, throbbing feeling in my legs. My mom told me that it was just growing pains; they’d go away soon. And they did – eventually, I reached the height that I’m supposed to be (five-foot-nothing) and the throbbing in my legs disappeared. But the residual pain of growing up – the angst that comes with reaching an age where independence is expected – never did. To be honest, I hope it never does. Discomfort is awkward and makes all of us uneasy, but it’s also a necessary marker of growth and progress.  

Avoiding discomfort is a normal human reaction. For example, many people choose to not read the news because the negativity in the news makes them upset. This is understandable; it can be overwhelming to wake up and learn that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Moreover, most things are out of our control. Even if we know about current events, there’s often not much that we can do about them, so why bother reading about the world at all? It might be better for our mental states to stick our heads in the sand. This view, while understandable, doesn’t do much for our growth.

We ought to deal with discomfort from a perspective of understanding rather than apathy. Instead of immediately recoiling at the first sense of uneasiness, we should ask ourselves: “Why am I uncomfortable?” The answer to this question gives us insight into our values and perspectives, how these values conflict with the world with which we interact, and how we might go about changing the world (or ourselves) for the better.

Personally, I am most uncomfortable when I’m confronted with ideologies that are different than mine. I have a lot of opinions, so this happens frequently, but it is always rather jarring. There’s no realistic way to avoid such confrontations without silencing a large part of my personality, so I’ve learned to steer into this discomfort. For example, I recently read the novel The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. The novel was written in the 1920s, so it has some outdated language and tropes about minority groups. It would be easy to write the book off as having no literary value due to these old-fashioned viewpoints, but it would also be unwise. Discomfort is a sign of growth. It’s important to examine why I feel discomfort reading about characters who are discriminatory; it reveals that I don’t subscribe to bigoted ideals. This might be an obvious realization, but it’s a significant one because it must be reinforced and questioned to uncover my own biases and thought processes. We can apply this principle to society at large when people are faced with ideological differences and don’t know how to best respond. Feeling discomfort when confronted with different ideologies isn’t necessarily an indication that the ideology is flat-out wrong, but an indication that your values are inherently dissimilar to others’ values. This can be motivation to bridge that gap by working to understand others and help others to understand your own beliefs.

Discomfort can also be a sign that you’ve changed as a person. Often, we cringe when we hear stories about ourselves in the past. Personally, I cringe at old journal entries because my ideals and thought processes have changed immensely since I wrote those entries. As we get older, our belief systems change; it’s natural that we feel discomfort when confronted with our old beliefs because they aren’t reflective of our values anymore. Rather than ignore our past ideologies, we ought to acknowledge them because recognizing the differences in how we think now versus how we used to think is key to continued growth. When I was younger, I was afraid to call people out for being bigoted because I wanted to fit in. Now, I’m less concerned with people’s opinions of me; I value my belief systems over my image to others. In this sense, discomfort is a clear marker of growth.

Therefore, seeking out discomfort is a great way to grow. Seeking discomfort can help people by challenging their belief systems, which is key to both reinforcing their beliefs and changing their beliefs for the better. Challenging our personal ideologies combats dogma, which helps us find compromises with other people and fosters open-mindedness. Discomfort also helps people grow personally by encouraging them to develop new skills and be vulnerable around others. It is important to develop new skills, despite the initial discomfort at not being immediately good at a task, because it builds persistence and encourages tenacity. These traits carry over to other areas; for example, developing tenacity by learning a new skill can encourage persistence in education and in the workplace. Moreover, learning to be vulnerable is important, despite the discomfort that comes with allowing people to see more personal sides of our psyche, because it helps others to understand us. When people share understanding, it becomes easier to deescalate conflict and reduce tension because we can know others’ thought processes and better evaluate how to respond. Thus, learning to be vulnerable improves our interpersonal relationships, which fosters open-mindedness.

Rather than shrinking away from change because it’s scary or painful, we should let ourselves be uncomfortable. There’s a popular sentiment that to be loved is to be changed. If that’s the case, to love yourself is to let yourself grow – that can only happen by getting comfortable with discomfort.

Nadaroopa Saraswathi Mohan is a student at the University of Florida. She was born in India but raised in Boca Raton, Florida. Nada is interested in politics, women's rights, and literature. In her free time, she reads, writes, and listens to music. Her favorite musical artist is Mac Miller.