I have 18 wonderfully wise 5th and 6th grade girls on my running team this spring. We always set goals as a team for the duration of our practices which then lead up to a 5k run at the end of the season. Throughout the program we also work on building strong leadership skills and promoting healthy lifestyles. This is my third season coaching and some of these girls have been a part of my program for all three sessions. When we started talking about goals this year, my repeats made a very candid, yet honest, statement.
“You need to set a bigger goal than one 5k this year, Coach.”
Ouch. Yes. Yes, I do need to set bigger goals, something that I have been well aware of but unable to commit to out of fear. However, now I have 18 accountability partners looking at me to run my first 8k this summer and then a 10k in the fall.
Today we will explore the differences between “comfortable” and “uncomfortable” feelings. It seems like an easy lesson but the deeper I dig into the material and really look at my own feelings, I realize that it isn’t so easy. Things like honesty, fear, and anxiety could be grouped in either category, each having their own strengths and weaknesses.
Giving and receiving honesty can be extremely painful. However, we try to teach our children that honesty is always the best policy, regardless of the situation. But what if we need to be honest with someone about their hygiene, work ethic, or lack of leadership skills when they are supposed to be leading? What happens when I am faced with a parent that thinks their child has been blameless in an unfortunate confrontation with my child – it is uncomfortable to really tell the truth. We tend to avoid those conversations, or gloss over them. How about when our friends ask us if we like their new paint color, and in our eyes it is just hideous? What if our friend complains too much about their spouse? Where is the comfort in that moment of honesty? Who really likes to hear any criticism, no matter how much truth we see in the statements? And let’s really be honest and admit that being truthful with ourselves is one of the most difficult tasks.
Ironically fear would be considered “uncomfortable” but there are countless times that I have avoided change in my life because fear has become a comfort. It is an emotion that I know and accept even though it may be choking true personal growth. Fear is supposed to be uncomfortable in order to protect us in situations that could be potentially harmful, but too many times what I think is an uncomfortable feeling is really just avoidance. Avoidance of speaking up for myself. Avoidance of starting a new endeavor because there are too many unknown factors. Avoidance of submitting my writing because I don’t want to face possible rejection. Avoidance of something that is going to cause me to step outside of my comfort zone.
Outside my comfort zone. That is where anxiety seeps under the skin, creating blemishes that bind irrational thinking with irrational reactions, blinds me from rational responses, causing complete discomfort. Anxiety simply is just not knowing. Webster’s dictionary describes anxiety as “A state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties”. New jobs, new friends, new driving routes, new goals all breed anxiousness. It is an emotion that is neither productive or necessary. If anything, it should be a signal to me that I need to just barrel on through and finish what I’ve started, because once I have gotten to the end of my adventure, I usually find complete peace.
Perhaps the lesson today is really more about accepting that there are times in our life that we should learn to be more comfortable with the discomfort. I want to be more honest, fear less and squelch anxiety in more areas of my life. There will be some discomfort by absorbing these emotions wholly, but I believe it will be worth the effort.