One of the biggest lessons one can learn along the spiritual or creative path is to be comfortable in the discomfort of the unknown. As a recovering perfectionist, I struggle quite mightily with this.
Until recently, I believed that uncertainty was to be avoided at all costs. If I was unsure about the next step to take in my life, I’d just do anything. I’d just keep moving so no one could tell I was stuck. I once heard Dr. Brene Brown (a fellow recovering perfectionist – albeit a much more successful one!) say that she “always, always had an exit strategy” for when shit really hit the fan. I know exactly what she meant.
It’s like living with only half your attention; with only half your heart.
When you have no ability to face uncertainty, you can’t bear the thought of having to own the fact that you just don’t know. It’s exhausting and unhelpful to say the least.
Following a dream is not an option when you avoid uncertainty. Following a passion or a dream means having the courage to be comfortable in the discomfort of not being sure that things will work out. In order not to be judged by anyone, I had to give them what they wanted to see. Correction: what I thought they wanted to see. That’s an important distinction. I was living up to a standard I made up and projected onto those around me: my parents, friends, husband, family, boss – you name it.
Not cool, you guys.
One of the meditations I do now includes the mantra to “be comfortable in the discomfort.” It sounds counter intuitive right? How can you be comfortable when you are uncomfortable? How can you be comfortable with being uncertain? Doesn’t the very drag of uncertainty mean being stressed and crawling out of your skin with fear of the unknown?
Apparently, it doesn’t have to mean any of that.
I’m still new to this practice but it comes more naturally than you might expect. In order to really get comfortable in the discomfort doesn’t mean you forget, ignore or deny the problem or situation that is making you uncomfortable. In fact, its just the opposite. It allows you to come clean with yourself and to acknowledge all the fear and feelings that come up around facing the uncertain. When you do this, something wild happens: you surrender and accept it. And when you finally accept that you don’t know what may happen, you become ok with that. You become able to choose to act according to your passion, conviction, and gut instincts even though you cannot guarantee things will work out.
There is no greater freedom than the freedom of allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling. As soon as you do, you realize the tremendous power you have within you to create your own experience. No one need give you permission to be uncertain. It’s ok to not have all the answers yet. There is only one person who needs to give you permission to be ok with your uncertainty. There is only one person who needs to acknowledge and accept that you cannot guarantee the future. There is only one person who can release you to the reality that all you can control is now.
That person, of course, is you.
As I continue along this life journey, it occurs to me time and time again that all the power we seek already lies within us and we just don’t realize it or put it into practice often enough. The power to be comfortable in the discomfort is a life changing one. There will always be unknowns and if you can learn to roll with that, to not let it paralyze you, then you have one major powerhouse of a gift.
After all, if we could control everything we’d never meet the joy of surprise or the delight of serendipity. All of that goodness comes from uncertainty, too.
Now I realize I don’t have to react to things so quickly. I don’t have to shut off half of what I feel in order to suck it up, cover it up, run away, or appear to have everything figured out. That’s a major break through.
We can be comfortable in the discomfort of uncertainty and do what we believe is important anyway.