Finding comfort in discomfort
I was recently working with a coaching client who was reconnecting with lost parts of herself. Pieces she had stuffed down and alienated years ago in order to fit in and be a "good" daughter, student and person.
This work turned out ato be an integral part of claiming her agency. Of answering the quintessential questions, who am I? What do I stand for? What kind of leader do I want to be? What impact do I want to have on the world? Then, showing up accordingly.
Such discoveries began with acknowledging a disconnect. She had been fitting a mold rather than living her truth. And the further down that path she went, the more lost she became to herself. A journey that beguiled her; she had done all the right stuff and yet, felt unsatisfied, unfulfilled. It's not that she was deeply unhappy, more like something was missing.
In Glennon Doyle's latest book, Untamed, she talked about the age of ten being the time when children start to abandon their free spirit in order to conform to the expectations of others. It is helpful to see these experiences as part of our shared humanity. That somewhere along the way, we lost a piece of ourselves in an effort to fit in, survive, and navigate the stressors of our childhood.
That others have received messages connecting their worth and value as a person with conforming to the needs and expectations of those around them. Such messages imprint on us that we must be, and act a certain way, otherwise, we are unworthy of love and belonging. It is a shared experience, yet we typically suffer it alone.
A common pattern in this journey I see among clients is the suppression of feelings. Tied with the long-held myth that we are rational, not emotional beings. We are taught at young ages to stamp out the less desirable feelings of rage, anger, sadness, grief, disappointment. With not so subtle messages of, "act that way and you're not worthy of my love...You will not belong with us."
And our desire for love and belonging, for connection, is so great we are willing to abandon ourselves in the moment for temporary satisfaction.
This interaction dynamics, repeated over and over again, leads to patterns of ignoring our inner wisdom and suppressing our feelings out of fear. Losing oneself becomes a slow process of fading away, like the stars giving way to the sun at dawn. Our truth remains within us but hidden.
It is not a noble path, nor a way of being that aligns with our deepest values. It is simply, the path of least resistance. For chief among the feelings we have spent a lifetime learning to reject is discomfort. As though the penultimate of life is comfort. As if we are all meant to live like the Greek gods, lounging on pillows while being fed grapes and fanned, nary a worry to be had.
Yet the very act of being birthed into this world is, in and of itself, uncomfortable.
"The challenge is what makes it so rewarding," I tell my daughter when she struggles. And like most humans, her encounter with struggles is as predictable as the waxing moon.
So, we must begin by acknowledging the disconnect, as my client did. To recognize that the equation of our life is not adding up as we had been led to expect it would. And rather than seek external validation, to look within.
To lean into the discomfort (instead of rejecting it) with curiosity and an open mind. So often, when we feel uncomfortable, we instantly tell ourselves a story. It's a story of being broken, of something being wrong with us, of not being good enough. And we build a wall, defending ourselves from feeling the discomfort.
But it doesn't have to be that way. What if we rewrote the story; discomfort is part of our shared human experience. It is simply a sign of our being alive. And by leaning in, I mean to say that we listen to what that discomfort has to tell us.
I have been practicing yoga for over 20 years. It took me a long time to distinguish between the different messages my body was telling me when I experienced discomfort in a pose. But there is a distinct difference between the discomfort of an impending injury and the discomfort of deeper release and strengthening.
The same is true when we experience emotional discomfort. When we listen to what that discomfort is telling us we gain insight. We learn where we need to push on, and when we need to nurture. In neither of those instances do we deny, bury, reject or numb, which are the prototypical reactions to inconvenient emotions.
This process of personal discovery and deepening self-awareness takes time. As the client I was recently working with can attest to, this didn't happen overnight. It has been a multi-year journey of coming home to herself. Of leaning in, exploring, listening, nurturing, learning, growing, adapting, healing, repatterning. Of connecting with supportive communities. Meditating. And journaling.
In a recent Krista Tippett episode of OnBeing Serene Jones reflected, "in writing, we discover so much about what we think and who we are."
In order to bridge the disconnect, one must be willing to say yes to this journey of personal discovery!
By leaning into the discomfort and embarking on this journey of personal discovery, my client has become the leader her people and vision deserve.
Are you ready to embark on a journey of personal discovery? Would you like to connect with a supportive community of fellow seekers, all learning how to listen within through journaling in order to create the change we want to see? Join us at the next Journal Jam this Thursday, April 8th. More information and registration is available online.