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Life Is About How To Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Life Is About How To Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone. Change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” -Roy T. Bennett

Ever wonder why some people seem to glide effortlessly through life, handling problems as if they were riding waves on a surfboard? They always appear cool, calm and collected during those intense stressful moments, like college finals or business meetings, while you and everyone else break into a sweat. You wonder if they possess some secret elixir of awesomeness or 24-hour access to a personal self-confidence life coach. Chances are, they do have the formula for success, and some of them may not even realize it. It doesn’t come in powders or pills; it comes through pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone with regular, intense exercise.

Rethinking Your Comfort Zone

Comfort zones are cozy places defined by the familiar things with which you fill your daily lives with.  They are the stuff you don’t question and go through the motions of doing. They are predictable. Unchallenging. Comforting. Like meatloaf and mashed potatoes. And like eating meatloaf every single day, staying within your comfort zone all the time can be bad for your health.

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Athletes who physically push themselves, whether they are training for a marathon or a long distance swim, break through the barriers of that comfort zone, holding on until they reach their goal: that 5-mile run, that 5th lap, the top of the climbing wall. They achieve their athletic goal, but something else happens in the process: they are rewiring their brain to accept physical discomfort.

Society today is geared towards removing obstacles from your life. Remote controls change the television channels from afar, room temperatures are altered with the flick of a button, cars start themselves without you turning a key (some even drive themselves). In the process, you are losing touch with yourself and when faced with a difficult task, it can appear more daunting and stressful than it actually is because you’ve been weaned off of dealing with obstacles.

While interviewing top professional adventure and endurance athletes, Brad Shulberg of Outside Magazine noted in his article[1] that despite their different life choices, from mountain climbing to long distance swimming, these highly successful athletes physically pushed themselves to their limits to reach their final goals—completing the race, reaching the summit. And they had one thing in common: they taught themselves to embrace life outside their comfort zones. They became comfortable with being uncomfortable.

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Change your game, change your brain

If you have ever attained a physical goal like a 10-mile mountain hike, a 3-mile run, or whitewater rafting Class V rapids, a curious thing occurs. When you reach the end, you feel exhausted yet elated. You feel hot and sweaty. Your muscles are aching, maybe even screaming, and your body is shaking. Your heart is pounding. But you feel happy. You came, you saw, you conquered! Yes, it was difficult. Maybe even terrifying. That last part you pushed yourself through, just to reach the end, like Indiana Jones stretching out to grab the golden idol before the temple collapses.

Afterward, you may have high-fived your fellow rafters and chugged a quart of water, feeling like the king of the mountain. It was hard and you survived. Somehow facing the boss on Monday morning doesn’t feel so daunting. And that kid who got your sandwich order mixed up at lunch? You laugh it off. Your perspective on life has altered. Your brain has changed.

Psychotherapist and Counselor, Angela Percival explains[2] that the human brain continuously labels and uploads information. It constantly compares any new information it receives to its “library” of collected data, so when you are faced with something outside of your comfort zone like those finals or the dreaded meeting with the boss, it has nothing with which to compare it, and you get that uncomfortable, queasy feeling—your fear of the unknown.

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Percival goes on to say “the more uncomfortable and new experiences you go through, the more your brain realizes that you will be okay, because you did the unknown before and you survived,” so by all brain-logic, you will survive this too. As a result, you feel less stressed and more confident when venturing outside your comfort zone because you have made that place your new norm.

How to get comfortable with being uncomfortable

The more you wade outside of your comfort zone, the easier it becomes. Partaking in regular exercise to reach an athletic goal—whether it’s training for a marathon or building up the stamina to hike the Appalachian Trail, will improve a plethora of areas throughout your life.

Make a goal and write it down. Set up an action plan to work towards that goal. Use the baby-step process if you are a beginner; in other words, if you want to run a marathon and you don’t jog, start by walking. Download a health and fitness app on your phone to track your progress. Join a gym. Consider hiring a professional trainer. Enlist friends and family to help. And always consult your physician before partaking in any rigorous exercise.

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When you do something on a regular basis, it becomes a habit. If you exercise regularly with a set goal in your mind, you will push yourself towards that goal and it will become easier to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Reference

[1] Science of Us: How Exercise Shapes You
[2] Counselling-Directory.Org: Fear of the Unknown and How The Mind Works

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Sally White

writer, artist & blogger

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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