The upside of being uncertain & uncomfortable
Human beings generally don’t like discomfort of any kind: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. We stop exercising (if we even start) when we get tired or our muscles start to complain. We exhaust our ‘bandwidth’ when confronted with ideas that stretch our mind or learn new skills that feel overwhelming. In doing so, we may walk away in the midst of chaos, not realising that chaos is a prelude to a breakthrough. We may find emotions illogical and hard to control so we don’t let them out to begin with or we find other people’s emotions very confronting. Or when our spiritual practice brings up questions we can’t answer or philosophies that seem to be at odds with our own experience of the world, we may disconnect or walk away.
Yet, discomfort is a state that we are designed neurologically to experience. It’s role in our evolution is to signal that it’s time for the next stage of our human development. However, most of us don’t interpret it that way. We see it as a signal that we’re not good enough.
We’ve seen the images about the comfort zone that tell us magic happens outside it. We know, if we’ve allowed ourselves to experience it, the exhilaration of pushing through fear and redefining what we’re capable of. We know we need to ‘dare greatly’ to quote Brene Brown. It might sound simple … it certainly isn’t easy.
I believed for years that I was up for any adventure in my life. I learned that was true … and I needed 3 days notice! I wanted to be ready for whatever was coming at me. That is a typical desire for someone who feels he/she needs to be hypervigilant to protect themselves.
Uncertainty is a natural part of our lives. There is very little out there that we can control. All we can control is our response to it. Yet so many of us persist, albeit unconsciously, in seeking to control the actual situations that create a feeling of uncertainty within us.
Let’s bring it closer to home. We can’t change the poor behaviour of others wherever it may occur. We can’t make our manager behave more respectfully, appreciate our qualities and contribution. We can’t make our clients recognise the value we bring. We can’t force others to see the world the way we do.
We can’t even impose control over our internal uncertainty. We might think we succeed because we’ve distanced ourselves from the feeling of uncertainty through our behaviours. However, the cause is still there, lurking beneath the surface.
1. Engage in a retrospective: If you look back on your life – however short or long – you will see that you have experienced uncertainty many times before … and survived! Recognising this may well calm the fear associated with uncertainty.
2. See the positive: We can recognise that uncertainty means we’re in new territory and understand that means we have an opportunity to grow. In doing so, we can convert the fear associated with uncertainty into the excitement of a new journey.
3. Listen to the message: We can pay attention to the uncertainty and what lies beneath to provide us with the next chunk in our development – what we need to eliminate, transform or take on
4. Address the low self-esteem / Imposter Syndrome: While we can’t change the fact that we live with uncertainty, we can personally reduce the unnecessary uncertainty that comes from feeling we’re not good enough by addressing the distorted belief.
5. Reframe our discomfort into a larger context: We can convert the energy associated with the uncertainty into something more constructive such as fulfilling our purpose – our big why.
Everything in our lives has a duality. When we look, we can see a positive and a limiting aspect to any situation. We can and do benefit from both. We can hold ourselves in limitation which may protect us from failure and/or other peoples’ judgements. Or we may become positively infatuated with any situation. Only by balancing both aspects can we neutralise our response to the situation and come to a place of acceptance.