There are so many things swirling around in my mind that I want to write about that it is hard to know where to start.
I think I will start with being uncomfortable. No one wants to be uncomfortable. In fact, many of us go out of our way to make things as comfortable as possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we are going for comfortable–just closer to the standard of comfortable than not.
As a large person comfort is often at the forefront of my mind. Fortunately (or oft times unfortunately) it is usually second in line to my enthusiasm for participation in just about everything. I make plans ALL OF THE TIME–like full-on committed, paid for, how the hell do I get out of it now, plans–and then think, “Ugh! What was I thinking? I don’t know what that venue will be like. Will I fit in those seats? If I do, will it be a tight fit that will make it uncomfortable for those seated next to me? Will I have to walk farther than my out-of-shape body has capacity for? Will I be embarrassed?”
You get the picture. The problem (or the perk, depending on how I look at it) is that I am in denial. I know I’m fat. I’ve been a big gal for the better part of two decades. I beat myself up with it daily. And yet, it still doesn’t cross my mind in those moments of decision that I might have issues that would make a particular decision less than practical, less than the best possible choice. Somewhere inside of me, I identify more with the fit, athletic, kick-butt girl of decades gone by. In my gut. At my core. It doesn’t occur to me that I’m not that person I see so clearly in my mind until it puts me in a position of being really uncomfortable. (And that is why I know this is not a permanent state of being.)
I went to a conference last week. It was a three-day event in a hotel-type ballroom with a thousand other people where we learned about body language. Sitting in tight quarters with forced interaction with other people can be a bit uncomfortable. In this conference we had several opportunities a day to interact with strangers in ways that were well outside of the normal person’s comfort zone. My take-away from this experience is that being uncomfortable can often be a good thing. It can be that catalyst that makes us take a look at ourselves, our situation, or those things that we are trying to accomplish in a way that we wouldn’t have if we were comfortable 100% of the time.
One of the activities that really stood out to me involved mapping another person’s eye movement while they told a story for three minutes. They, in turn, would map my eye movement while I told a story for three minutes. As the facilitator outlined the activity it became clear to me that I would be teamed up with not one, but two different people for this activity. Two friends I had not yet met. While the directions were being given I was scanning my wealth of stories (because we all know I can tell a good yarn) only to find out at the last minute that our stories would all begin the same. “Hi! (Introduce yourself). I’m awesome because…..” for three minutes. TALK ABOUT UNCOMFORTABLE. I can tell you a story or two for all the live-long day, but talk to you about why I, Teresa Passey, am awesome (I am, by the way) was well outside of the comfort zone for me.
But it was in those six minutes, with a lot of stammering, stuttering, looking up to the left, up to the center, up to the right, and occasionally down to the right, that I realized something. Actually saying things about yourself that you know to be true–at your core–cements them. It was rough. I had to look hard. But going through the uncomfortable activity of pulling those statements out of my gut and saying them aloud to another person made them more believable to me. The second time wasn’t as hard as the first. I was less worried about the other person’s opinion of whether or not they thought what I said was really awesome the second time around. I couldn’t exaggerate. I mean, I guess I could have, but because I was stating it as truth and not “telling a story” I had to say things that I really believed. And then I realized that I really did believe them.
So, the purpose of the post? The next time you have to face something uncomfortable–do it! Look for ways to make the uncomfortable comfortable. I mean, be safe, but push the limits, even just a little bit. I know the next time I’m asked to explain to someone why I’m awesome, it will still be uncomfortable, but it will be more comfortable than it was last week. Because I’ve already done it. Because I know I can tell my truth and have it be just that, mine. And I know that the more I do that uncomfortable thing, whatever it is, the more comfortable I become.