The scary space of being uncomfortable

The first time we do things can be terrifying. New is hard. It feels really uncomfortable.

 

Being new at something makes you feel vulnerable. It is scary. You fear that other people might be judging you. You are going to look foolish, clumsy, like you are trying too hard, possibly incompetent. out of your depth

 

When big new things come into your life, it is tough. A new job, a new baby. Moving country. Riding a bike when you are a child.

But small things are tough too. The first yoga class, a new haircut. The first time putting yourself out-there online. The first time you speak up and state your truth. Attending AA, starting a diet.

They are all daunting.

You can get so scared of trying new things, you stop altogether. You avoid being the newbie and experimenting. You stick with what you know. You avoid awkward. You stop growing.

But you have to force yourself to try new things. It is an important part of life.

 

The more you force yourself into that scary space of doing something awkward and cringey, eventually the easier it gets. Not because it gets simpler. But because you become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Think about that: when you are too scared to try that new fitness class, because everyone else will be so much stronger than you. is there anything real to fear? Can the class hurt you, kill you? is it dangerous? No – the fear is simply that you will look unfit and embarrassed. You will feel uncomfortable.

 

If you step back and acknowledge that its okay to fear new things, you take away their power to shame you. Brene Brown calls it the FFT – the f***ing first time. The FFT is an acknowledgement of the ickyness of being vulnerable and ‘looking bad’ while you are learning.

Acknowledging that the first time is always going to feel bad gives you perspective.  It is a reality check – it is normal to feel scared. To want to avoid being embarrassed. Not knowing what you are doing always feels odd. And its OK. Everyone would be scared. It is not just you. By normalising the fear, the shame eases.

And the more often you let yourself feel scared and awkward and uncomfortable, the easier it gets. You gain confidence that you can survive the discomfort, the embarrassment and the vulnerability. The more you do it, the less you fear it. Suddenly your life is full of new and exciting things. And you grow, you change, you evolve.

 

New things are upsetting if you are expecting them to be easy. Reality check – new things are not going to be easy. They NEVER will be. Not if they are of any value. And consider that if they were easy, you wouldn’t have waited this long to try it.

 

It’s a handy one with your children – “of course the first time is hard and scary. What you are feeling is completely normal. It doesn’t mean you stop trying does it?”

And it is OK if it takes longer than you thought, if it is more complicated, if it needs greater skills than you think you have. And it is OK if you feel more frustrated, stressed and angrier than you thought you would feel. Just ride it out. And remember it won’t always feel like this. It will feel easier eventually. It will become more natural and simple. One day you will saunter out of that class feeling strong and capable.

 

So next time you find yourself avoiding doing something new. Not making the phone call, not joining the fitness class, not starting that business…. Ask yourself: am I just trying to avoid the icky first time? Am I just avoiding feeling uncomfortable? Is this just about me looking awkward?

Is my fear of being uncomfortable truly stronger than my desire to experience the joy that this new class could potentially bring?

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