The idea of “getting comfortable being uncomfortable” is a familiar one. It’s the idea that in order to grow and change and make personal progress in our lives and towards our goals, we need to get uncomfortable. The first part, being comfortable with being uncomfortable, means that we need to get used to being in a moderate state of discomfort (at least at a surface reading). It’s a challenging concept for me, because I think living in a constant state of discomfort is a bit too much. What I think is important to glean from this saying is that in order to grow and change, we must go through a period where we are uncomfortable before we get to our next level of growth and being.
Let’s take a muscle as an example. When you go to the gym or workout, what you are actually doing is tearing muscles down. You are ripping your muscle fibers. The next day, when you are sore, you are uncomfortable. Your muscles are actually rebuilding themselves stronger than they were before after the tearing. In order to get stronger, you have to be uncomfortable, and you have to be ok with something that is just a little bit unpleasant. This gets you to your desired result.
I am currently in a strange place. I just moved into my first apartment by myself. It’s new to me, so it’s uncomfortable. (It’s also a bit comfortable because I think I was mentally ready for it in many ways, and it’s enjoyable to have more freedom and come and go as I please. I even get to decorate it however I want!) The discomfort comes from having all this independence and deciding what to do with it, (since I’m not used to it), budgeting, making important decisions like what insurance company I want to choose, etc. Plus, it’s new! Anything new is uncomfortable and unfamiliar at first. But, in order to grow as an adult and move into the next stage of life, I have to learn that it’s okay to be a bit uncomfortable for a few days or a week as I get used to this new state of being. It’s really fun, and completely worth it!
I think that this same principle, being comfortable with discomfort, can also be applied to being an activist. Think about how uncomfortable it is to tell your conservative uncle that you disagree with his views on climate change, and the resulting friction as you try to change his mind. That is an uncomfortable situation! And he’s your uncle, someone who you love and respect. Now, imagine trying to change a stranger’s mind. Or an important government official! Sometimes, standing up for what we believe in is not easy. However, it’s where the most valuable change can occur. These are the people we need to talk to, whose minds we need to change. It’s well and good (and a wonderful thing) to talk amongst ourselves as environmentalists and agree on everything and work together for change. However, when we put ourselves out there and talk to people whom we know disagree with us, that is where it gets difficult. But, in order to reach a new paradigm in those people, and win more people over to our cause, we have to be ok with a little bit of discomfort. After all, that’s how our movement gains strength.
It’s not easy. I fail sometimes. Sometimes I keep my mouth shut in the presence of those who disagree with me (although it’s not often, I can be pretty obnoxious with my views sometimes.) However, it’s what we all need to do. Let’s all wade into uncomfortable waters together. It is only be doing so that we can reach a greener, cleaner, healthier, future shore.