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Published on March 8, 2021

Why Feeling Uncomfortable Is a Sign To Improve Yourself

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Why Feeling Uncomfortable Is a Sign To Improve Yourself

Feeling uncomfortable may not be a pleasant experience, but it can be an opportunity to manifest positive change and personal development. Whatever caused the uncomfortable feeling may serve as a sign that something’s wrong. When you feel uncomfortable for no discernable reason, it’s unconscious—it may even manifest physically, for example, in the heart or the gut.

Negative emotions can reveal things of which you may be in denial, and with that revelation, you can empower yourself to maximize your potential. Not engaging with negative feelings is one thing, but ignoring them is quite another. So, let your watchword be “curiosity” rather than “fear.”

“Everything of which I have been afraid was based on nothing.”— A Course in Miracles

Accepting Negative Emotions

Negative emotions naturally impact our sense of well-being at the moment, and that’s only natural. But they also have a purpose: they alert us to the fact that something isn’t right.

Often, the thing that needs correction is thinking itself. However, it’s not easy to examine your own thinking. It’s a bit like tickling yourself—it just doesn’t work. Thoughts are wedded to our experiences, perceptions, beliefs, and prejudices to the extent that they are often irrational.

“Feeling arises from thinking.” —Michael Neill

So, rather than just wanting the feeling to go away, use it as a tool. You can disrupt the auto-responses in your thinking mind and think differently—think “outside of the box” of your conditioned perceptions and limiting beliefs. Ask yourself why you are feeling uncomfortable and examine the rationale behind that feeling. You will open pathways to different perceptions including the acceptance of not being certain.

Making a Friend of Not Knowing

Emotional discomfort is borne out of uncertainty which, in turn, arises from not knowing.

The human has historically strived for a state of “knowing,” from the ancient world to the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, secularization, and the Technical Revolution. Spirituality and wisdom have been supplanted by science and knowledge. “Knowing” has become synonymous with safety, and as animals – albeit highly intelligent ones – what makes us feel safe will always seem like a good option.

So, why, with all the facts and figures at your fingertips—just one click away—do you still experience unaccountable unease from time to time?

The answer is evolution. Despite the exponential development of the human way of life in the sense of form—especially over the last few centuries—you are still an animal. Although technological inventions have rendered redundant many of the physical skills of your forebears, your visceral feelings lurk just beneath the surface, ready to bubble up at any time.[1]

As children, we were taught that not knowing is a bad thing. The word “ignorance” has become almost exclusively a pejorative term, whereas, in truth, it simply means “lack of knowledge or information.” Certainty blinds us from new ideas and perspectives. It limits potential both for ourselves and others. Most of all, it cramps our creativity.

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To a young child, every day—every moment even—is an adventure, a chance for new experiences and discoveries. Compare the child’s experience to that of an adult who has made their mind up about everything and is sure that they are right. Boring, right?

Why Judgement Is Okay

You might feel uncomfortable in a situation where you are judging someone based on their clothes, their accent, their demeanor, their words, the car they drive, or maybe the house they live in. But that’s okay. You are designed to make instant judgments all the time because it’s another natural way of keeping yourself safe—it’s common sense, and you can’t help it.

However, there may be times when you feel a judgment come up and you question it:

  • Why do I feel uncomfortable about that person?
  • Who do they remind me of?
  • What is it about them?
  • What am I assuming?

The danger then is that you judge yourself for judging, but there’s no need for that. You have already disrupted the primeval reflex action thanks to your awareness, and so you can make an intelligent choice based on this. This is how feeling uncomfortable serves as a sign of improvement—an opportunity to grow.

Some people feel uncomfortable around others who have learning difficulties or physical challenges, but where does the feeling come from? Is it fear of the unknown perhaps? Or fear of the possibility of being disabled oneself? Or maybe just the unpredictability of someone who is “different”?

Imagine that you’re in a supermarket and a mother is scolding one of her three children. First, she shouts, then she swears. Eventually, at the end of her tether, she slaps the child. How does the child feel? How does the mother feel? What could she be feeling to behave like that? Most importantly, how do you feel, and why?

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How Discernment Promotes “Response-ability,” Not Reactivity

The ability to respond rather than to react is synonymous with consciousness. Blanket acceptance of and reaction to primeval responses consigns Renaissance Man to the dark ages. The trick is to have the awareness to choose which feelings serve you and which do not.

For example, there exists within humans a tendency to trust those who live nearer to them than those from other regions or countries—not just neighbors that they know by contact or sight but also people who look like them, sound like them, and act like them.

This knee-jerk reaction is based on fact since before the security of the “rule of law”—which we take for granted these days—misdemeanors were indeed more often perpetrated by strangers rather than locals. Without discernment, a tendency to distrust can all too easily develop into xenophobia or outright racism.

By analyzing your feelings, you can rationally choose how to respond to situations rather than simply react to them.

Discomfort Triggers

Feeling uncomfortable can often be the precursor of a breakthrough. For most humans, the preferred default position is control. Control—or rather the illusion, thereof—is the plaster we stick on fear because we don’t like this feeling.

There are several potential triggers to feeling uncomfortable.

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  • lack of authenticity
  • a conflict of values
  • lack of self-worth
  • lack of fulfillment
  • lack of purpose
  • lack of control in one’s life
  • sacrifice – playing a role
  • guilt

Lack of congruency between our values and our actions will always show up somewhere, whether it be conscious or unconscious, and one way is through a feeling of discomfort.

Self-Improvement—Where Am I Versus Where I Want to Be

Many people start their journey of self-improvement by expressing an aspiration for things to be better—a better job, a better social life, and better relationships. However, somewhere along the way, they realize that at their core is their desire to” be” better.

When you look in the mirror—literally or metaphorically—what do you see?

If you want to be the best version of yourself, then you have to be your real self—your authentic self. Your real self is not necessarily the version you have created, which may include many negative aspects. Your real self is your inner being, your higher mind, the version that came into this world innocent—and who still is.

Conclusion

So, the next time you are feeling uncomfortable, try moving towards that negative feeling rather than running away from it. Examine it, be curious about it, and in doing so, you will disempower it, thereby empowering yourself.

Next, identify the thought that created the feeling. You and you alone get to choose with which thoughts you want to engage and which to recycle. By recognizing the discomfort as a sign to improve yourself, you grasp the opportunity to be the best version of yourself—to “be” better.

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More About Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Featured photo credit: Mael BALLAND via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Gray Hughes

Life coach (using the motivational 3 c's Model) and writer.

7 Tips On Putting Knowledge Into Action Why Feeling Uncomfortable Is a Sign To Improve Yourself How to Cure Boredom: 20 Things to Reignite Your Life 5 Ways to Make Good Choices That Align With Your Life’s Goals How To Find Your Passion in Life and Fulfill Purpose

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

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How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

Quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. Some people quit smoking a thousand times in their lives! Everyone knows someone with this mindset.

But this type of change is superficial. It doesn’t last. For real, lasting change to take place, we need to consider the quadrants of change.

Real change, the change that is fundamental, consistent, and longitudinal (lasting over time) has to happen in four quadrants of your life.

It doesn’t have to be quitting smoking; it can be any habit you want to break — drinking, biting your nails, overeating, playing video games, shopping, and more.

Most experts focus on only one area of change, some focus on two areas, but almost none focus on all four quadrants of change. That’s why much of change management fails.

Whether it is in the personal life of a single individual through actions and habits, or in a corporate environment, regarding the way they conduct their business, current change management strategies are lacking.

It all stems from ignoring at least one part of the equation.

So, today, we will cover all four quadrants of change and learn the formula for how to change fundamentally and never go back to your “old self.”

A word of warning: this is simple to do, but it’s not easy. Anyone who tells you that change is easy is either trying to sell you something, or they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Those who want an overnight solution have left the article now, so that leaves you, me, and the real process of change.

The Four Quadrants of Change

There are four areas, or quadrants, in which you need to make a change in order for it to stick. If you miss or ignore a single one of these, your change won’t stick, and you will go back to your previous behavior.

The four quadrants are:

  1. Internal individual – mindset
  2. External individual – behavior
  3. Internal collective – culture/support system
  4. External collective – laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

All four of these quadrants of change may sound like they could carry change all by themselves, but they can’t. So, be sure to implement your change in all four quadrants. Otherwise, it will all be in vain.

First Quadrant — Internal Individual

This quadrant focuses on the internal world of an individual, and it concerns itself with the mindset of a person.

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Our actions stem from our thoughts (most of the time), and if we change our mindset toward something, we will begin to process of changing the way we act.

People who use the law of attraction fall into this category, where they’ve recognized the strength of thoughts and how they make us change ourselves.

Even Lao Tzu had a great saying regarding this:

“Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.” [1]

One of the most impactful ways you can make a change in this quadrant is to implement what James Clear calls identity-based habits. [2]

Instead of prioritizing the outcome of a change (ex.: I want to lose 20 pounds), you prioritize your identity as a person (I want to become/remain a healthy person).

Here are a couple of examples for you to see the strength of this kind of resolution:

I want to watch many movies = I am a cinema lover
I want to clean my apartment = I am a clean person
I want to harvest my crops = I am a harvester (farmer)
I want to swim = I am a swimmer

This quadrant is about changing the identity you attach to a certain action. Once you re-frame your thinking in this way, you will have completed the first of the quadrants of change.

Second Quadrant — External Individual

This quadrant focuses on the external world of an individual and concerns itself with the behavior of a person.

This is where people like Darren Hardy, the author of the Compound Effect reside. Hardy is about doing small, consistent actions that will create change in the long run (the compound effect).

You want to lose 30 pounds? Start by eating just 150 calories (approximately two slices of bread) less a day, and in two and a half years, you will have lost 30 pounds.

The same rules apply to business, investing, sports, and multiple other areas. Small, consistent actions can create big changes.

This works — I’ve read 20 extra pages a day for the past two years, and it accumulated into 90 books read in two years. [3]

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Here, you have two ways of dealing with change behaviorally: negative environmental design and positive environmental design.

Negative Environmental Design

This is when you eliminate the things from your environment that revert you to the old behavior. If you want to stop eating ice cream, you don’t keep it in your freezer.

If you want to stop watching TV, you remove the batteries from the remote and put them on the other side of the house (it works!).

Positive Environmental Design

This is when you put the things that you want to do withing reach — literally!

You want to learn how to play guitar? Put your guitar right next to your sofa. You want to head to the gym? Put the gym clothes in a backpack and put it on top of your shoes.

You want to read more books? Have a book on your nightstand, your kitchen table, and on the sofa.

You can even combine this last trick with my early advice about removing the batteries from your remote control, combining the negative and positive environmental designs for maximum effect.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

If you just change your behavior and leave your intentions (thoughts) intact, your discipline will fail you and the real change won’t happen.

You will simply revert back to the previous behavior because you haven’t changed the fundamental root of why this problem occurs in the first place.

That is why you need to create change both in the first quadrant (internal individual — mindset) and the second quadrant (external individual — behavior). These quadrants of change are two sides of the same coin.

Most change management would stop here, and that’s why most change management fails.

No matter how much you focus on yourself, there are things that affect our lives that are happening outside of us. That is the focus of the two remaining quadrants.

Third Quadrant — Internal Collective

This quadrant focuses on the internal world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the culture of that collective.

There are two different distinctions here: the Inner Ring and the Outer Ring.

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The Inner Ring

These are your friends and your family. The Inner Ring is the place where the social and cultural norms of your friends and family rule.

So, if everyone in your family is overweight and every lunch is 1,000 calories per person, then you can say goodbye to your idea of becoming healthy.

In this case, the culture of your group, the inner norms that guide the decisions, actions, thoughts, ideas, and patterns of behaviors are all focused on eating as much as possible. [4]

You need to have the support of your Inner Ring if you want to achieve change. If you don’t have this support, the the best way to proceed is by either changing your entire Inner Ring or distancing yourself from it.

Beware — most Inner Rings won’t accept the fact that you want to change and will undermine you on many occasions — some out of habit, some due to jealousy, and some because supporting you would mean that they have to change, too.

You don’t have to cut ties with people, but you can consciously decide to spend less time with them.

The Outer Ring

The Outer Ring consists of the culture of your company, community, county, region, and country. For example, it’s quite hard to be an open-minded person in North Nigeria, no matter how you, your friends, and your family think.

The Outer Ring is the reason why young people move to the places that share their value systems instead of staying in their current city, county, or country.

Sometimes, you need to change your Outer Ring as well because its culture is preventing you from changing.

I see this every single day in my country, where the culture can be so toxic that it doesn’t matter how great of a job you have or how great your life currently looks — the culture will change you, inch by inch, until you become like it.

Fourth Quadrant — External Collective

This quadrant focuses on the external world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the systems, teams, laws, and rules of that collective.

This quadrant is about the external manifestations of the collective culture. If the majority of the environment thinks in a certain way, they will create institutions that will implement that way of thinking.

The same rules apply to companies.

One example for companies would be those managers who think that employees are lazy, lack responsibility, and need constant supervision (or what is called Theory X in management).

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Then, those managers implement systems that reflect that kind of culture– no flexible work hours, strict rules about logging work, no remote work, etc.

Your thoughts, however, may be different. You might believe that people want responsibility, that they are capable of self-direction, that they can make good decisions, and that managers don’t need to stand on their necks if they want something done (this is called Theory Y in management).

Then, you would want to have flexible working hours, different ways of measuring your productivity (for example, not time on the job but work produced), and remote work, if possible for your profession.

This is when you enter into a conflict with the external collective quadrant. Here, you have four options: leave, persevere, neglect, and voice.

Leave

You can simply leave the company/organization/community/country and go to a different place. Most people decide to do this.

Persevere

This is when you see that the situation isn’t good, but you decide to stick at it and wait for the perfect time (or position) where you can implement change.

Neglect

This is where you give up on the change you want to see and just go with the flow, doing the minimal work necessary to keep the status quo.

These are the people who are disengaged at work and are doing just the bare minimum necessary (which, in the U.S. is around 65% of the workforce).

I did this only once, and it’s probably the only thing I regret doing in my life.

Voice

This is where you actively work on changing the situation, and the people in charge know that you want to create a change.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your company, community, or your country; you are actively calling for a change and will not stop until it’s implemented.

Putting It All Together

When you take it all into account, change is simple, in theory, but it isn’t easy to execute. It takes work in all four quadrants:

  1. Internal individual — mindset
  2. External individual — behavior
  3. Internal collective — culture/support system
  4. External collective — laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

Some will require more work, some less, but you will need to create a change in all four of them.

But don’t let that discourage you because change is possible, and many people have done this. The best time to start changing was yesterday, but the second best time is today.

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Featured photo credit: Djim Loic via unsplash.com

Reference

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