Embracing the UNcomfortable

Growing up, my siblings and I loved the movie Remember the Titans. We begged our mom to let us watch it almost every day. We could quote all the lines and drove our parents nuts by repeating them constantly on long car rides.

If you’ve never seen the movie, drop whatever you’re doing. Stop reading this article. GO WATCH THAT MOVIE. It’s SO GOOD. The movie is about football teammates and friends becoming family during racial tension and mandated school integration in 1971. Teammates learn to trust and rely on each other in what turns out to be much bigger than a mere football field.

When we were little and went swimming. My brother would randomly stand on the ledge with his fist in the air and shout, “LEFT SIDE!” and my sister and I would stop doggy paddling to yell back, “STRONG SIDE!”

Then he would cannonball in and act like nothing abnormal had happened, while the rest of our neighbors at the community pool stared in horror at the three crazy Greek kids terrorizing the rest of the innocent little cherubs playing quietly in the water.

Even my mom would join in the fun. While running errands or sitting in traffic, one of us would suddenly scream, “LEFT SIDE!” and my mom calmly replied, “Strong side.”

One of my absolute favorite scenes from the movie is when Julius sacks the opposing QuarterBack who had been really mean. Julius flattens him and then looks down and says, “You better make yourself comfortable down there. Real comfortable.”

When my brother was still shorter than my sister Mia and I, we used to wrestle, and when we pinned him down, we would look him dead in the eyes and say, “You better make yourself comfortable down there. REAL comfortable.” After he got taller (and stronger) than us, the wrestling stopped…because we didn’t like losing. But every once in a while he’d pin us instead and repeat that ultimate comeback, “You better make yourself comfortable down there. Real comfortable.”

I was thinking about the movie and that line, in particular, today because I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about being comfortable. Mostly, I’ve been thinking about how often I sacrifice things for my own comfort. Or at least, how often I’m tempted to sacrifice stuff. I’m awfully tempted to avoid taking too many risks because I might fail and THAT is uncomfortable. I’m tempted to lose a friendship because I don’t want to ask forgiveness even if I know I’m wrong because it’s just too awkward. I don’t want to try new things or go to new places because it’s too unfamiliar. I think to myself, “What if it’s uncomfortable?” The more I think about it, the more I wonder: when did comfort become my ultimate goal in life?

It hasn’t.

I didn’t take out my 2019 calendar and start writing out all the things I wanted to do this year and head them all off with being comfortable. In fact, a lot of my goals for this year require me to be exceptionally UNCOMFORTABLE.

So what’s the solution?


According to author Margie Warrell embracing discomfort is crucial to success. In fact, the more you do things that make you uncomfortable, the more you expand your range of what is comfortable. Taking a little step outside our comfort zone suddenly increases our current comfort zone. The more and more we step outside our area of safety the bigger that area becomes.

In a Forbes article on embracing discomfort, Sujan Patel wrote, “Putting yourself in new and unfamiliar situations triggers a unique part of the brain that releases dopamine, nature’s make-you-happy chemical. Here’s the mind-blower; that unique region of the brain is only activated when you see or experience completely new things.”

The more we force ourselves to step out of our comfort zone, the more benefits we will receive. Not only will we expand the areas we feel comfortable, but usually we enjoy the experience once we’ve gotten started. The trick is to take that first step.

And we can’t let past experiences dictate how we embrace the future.

Sometimes life hits us pretty hard. We fall down, and as we’re laying there we hear the words, “You better get comfortable down there. Real comfortable.” We’re tempted to stay put. Somewhere we can’t keep getting hurt or fail. We might even think, “What’s the point of getting up, I’m just going to end up right back down here.”

I totally get that. It’s frightening to face an uncertain or uncomfortable future. There is always the risk of falling again or failing and starting back at the bottom. But we can’t let a fear of discomfort keep us from living a life that is full of possiblities and potential.

The best way to overcome the addiction to comfort is to force yourself into the uncomfortable. There is an African Proverb that says, “If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting stones today.” Start small if needed. Force yourself to embrace the discomfort. Even in little doses. One toe dipped in the pool at a time if necessary. Eventually, our circle of comfort will expand and life will be more about exploring endless possibilities than focusing on feelings of safety and ease.

So cheers to being uncomfortable in the new year. Cheers to being adventurous. Taking risks. Stepping off the ledge. Falling. Getting back up. And living a life full of infinite possibilities.

2 thoughts on “Embracing the UNcomfortable”

  1. For me personally it is difficult for me to interact with people at times. So when I started working at the bookstore I was definitely out of my comfort zone coming from a lifetime of doing nursing. But it is now easier.

    1. That’s such a great example, Gayle! Stepping into roles that force us to consistently do something that scares us a little is a great way to overcome those feelings of discomfort. You inspire me!

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