Discomfort as a Signal for Growth

In our quick-fix, take-a-pill, never-feel-uncomfortable culture, we are quick to brush away discomfort and find a way to get right back into our comfort zone. When we are faced with any sort of adversity or stress, we usually do whatever we can to get rid of it, deflect it, numb it, or ignore it.

Unfortunately, this means the thing that makes us uncomfortable will continue to makes us uncomfortable. We try avoiding it at all costs, but it’s still there, and by focusing on it as something to avoid, it remains alive and thriving in our consciousness. It never goes away, it haunts us even, and we never change.

However, when we lean into the discomfort, sit with it, name it, and allow ourselves to really internalize it, we move through it and push through to the other side. Getting uncomfortable gives us the opportunity to develop new tools to get through the stressful situation, thereby encouraging us to evolve and grow.

A great analogy by Dr. Abraham Twerski talks about the lobster, a creature with soft innards inside a hard shell. As the lobster’s soft parts grow, the shell does not, so at a certain point, the lobster needs to cast off its shell and grow a new one.

But how does the lobster know when it’s time to grow a new shell? Presumably, the old shell gets too tight and starts to feel uncomfortable, and it is the discomfort itself that is the indicator that it’s time to grow.

Like the lobster, if we let ourselves truly feel our discomfort, we can recognize it as a signal that growth is imminent. We can choose to see times of adversity and stress as actually being signals for growth, and we can actively use our discomfort as a catalyst for change within ourselves.

The next time you feel uncomfortable, name it, lean into it, and allow yourself to fully feel it. Then watch yourself emerge on the other side a changed person, more mature, and having grown for the better.

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