Discomfort is Part of Growth


I don’t enjoy being uncomfortable. My first impulse is to try to move away from discomfort. I think that’s true for most people. I’m guessing it’s probably true for you.

Sometimes pulling back from whatever is making us uncomfortable is the best thing to do. Sometimes discomfort means we’re in a harmful situation. It can warn us of threats to our physical safety or alert us that someone is crossing our boundaries. Discomfort can signal to us that we’re putting ourselves in situations that aren’t in our best interest.

But discomfort isn’t always a sign that we should move away. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable simply because what we’re facing is unfamiliar or difficult. It’s tempting to stay where life is safe and easy and comfortable, but discomfort often comes with the very things that help us grow.

Growth sounds desirable and lovely. Plants grow. Children grow. We want our bank accounts to grow. Through learning and experience our wisdom and knowledge grow. Just because growth can be good, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Growth is by definition increasing beyond what was and that expansion can be painful. Growth stretches us to take up more space than we did previously—whether actual physical space or increasing our influence or our visibility.

Growth can bring the pain of regret of not knowing sooner. It can cause friction in relationships when people we care about don’t understand why we no longer act the way we’ve always acted before. Growth can bring confusion when we realize just how much we have yet to learn when we used to feel so sure. In order to grow, we have to face the uncertainty of trying something we’ve never done before.

It’s tempting to stay within our comfort zones. After all, can’t we do good from right here? Can’t we work best from where we feel safe and secure?

There may be some truth in that. The goal isn’t necessarily to live in constant discomfort. But when we become too comfortable we can get stuck.

We may start to feel restless or bored. We may wonder why the thing that we were once so excited about isn’t as satisfying anymore. We may start hearing a question nagging in the back of our minds…couldn’t I do more? That question can sound critical, but often it comes from something in us that knows we’re capable of more than we give ourselves credit for.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we relate to discomfort. This idea of needing to be willing to be uncomfortable in order to grow is something I’m wrestling with everyday. I have so much I want to talk about with you, but I’m going to stop here for today. This is important and it’s worth taking our time.

I really want to know…where are you stretching yourself outside your comfort zone? Or what would you like to try that just sounds too scary? What are the thoughts and fears and obstacles that get in your way? What do you find helpful? Where do you need help?