Balance, Life Lessons

The Discomfort Zone

I know all about the dangers of remaining firmly in your Comfort Zone, and the benefits of pushing beyond your limits – setting the bar high and then attempting to surpass it! But what about that feeling when you realise that you’ve been struggling for quite some time, to the point that this has actually become what I would like to call your “Discomfort Zone”. It’s that place where you’re ever so slightly overworked, or too busy, or underappreciated, or under-supported. Where things are just not going with the flow, but they’ve been like this for so long that you almost don’t know any other way. And you feel as if it would be a sign of weakness to contemplate an easier existence. But this can’t be true. You are allowed to enjoy your work. You are allowed to feel happy with what you do.

I’ve written about the difficulty with taking things easy, and I’ve been working on listening to my gut instinct, and taking time for self-care, as recommended by so many successful women (and men). I meditate every day (thanks to Headspace), I write in a journal, and I regularly practice yoga. But I feel as though I’m trying to play music with the wrong instrument, or at the wrong tempo. It’s as if a record is set on slow motion but it has been for so long that I think that’s what the song sounds like. The scratches have become part of the music.

The benefit of journalling is that there is a written record of how I felt at different points in my life. This time last year, I was telling myself the benefits of staying in the job I am in, how it will teach me so much, and that despite how unhappy it made me that I would be all the better for learning from the experience. Fast forward 12 months and I can’t say whether my life is indeed better – I have learned a lot over the last year, and I have shared it on this blog. I know I wouldn’t have set this up if I hadn’t been struggling so much.

Reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, I have realised that I have been seeking all the easy ways I am already comfortable with in order to try and manage my life. I’ve been actively avoiding sitting with the discomfort itself. So my latest challenge for myself is to, paraphrasing Brene Brown and channel both Pema Chodron and Sheryl Sandberg, “Lean into the discomfort”. By that I mean I am trying to be aware of what I am unhappy with, but instead of distracting myself with social media, or doping myself with sugar or caffeine, I am trying to stay present with that awkward, vulnerable feeling of self-awareness.

I am on day 2 of this challenge, and it has already been quite difficult – drifting in and out of this form of awareness to push myself. But I remind myself of Brene’s analogy of the twinkling fairy lights – on their own they cannot light the darkness, but in great numbers they shine brightly and beautifully together. Every time I lean into the discomfort, I light another little fairy light, guiding me out of this zone of despair, and into a brighter future.

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