Embracing the Discomfort
Sometimes, I think I’m terrified of people (or at least the judgement their eyes can bring).
There’s nothing more terrifying to me than being in a social situation and not knowing what I’m supposed to do or say.
I truly put that feeling to the test years ago when I gave my first conference talk. I still recall with vivid detail the absolute terror I felt at everything going on inside of me.
Can they see my right knee is bouncing nervously? What about my shaky voice, is it obvious? Why are the lights so bright? Did someone turn up the heat? Am I still talking right now? Are my words making sense? Why did I agree to do this? Is it over yet?
I remember thinking about all the work I’d put in just to get to this point, including fun ADHD-laced details like a surprise several-hundred-mile drive at 3am just to make it to the conference (maybe we’ll talk about that another time…). And now that I was here, I just wanted it to be over with. I wanted those judgy eyes in the audience to go away.
But looking back, I know that moment was a turning point for me. I knew I had something worth saying, and now I knew I could say it. No matter how uncomfortable it felt.
As I look back on my life, the most impactful things I’ve done have been incredibly uncomfortable and awkward and something I wanted to escape from in the moment.
And I hate that!
I don’t want that to be true. I like being comfortable. Comfortable feels safe.
I want to be safe.
Last month I found myself again taking on another challenge that felt like a “growing opportunity” for me. I signed up for a class called Ultraspeaking, which promised to help you learn to speak effortlessly in any situation.
Every week, we met briefly with the whole class, and then broke into groups of 3 to practice small speech games.
For example, one game fed you rapid comparisons of random things (e.g. “Rabbits are taxes because…”) and you had to complete the sentence in 1 second, before you would get a brand new comparison to solve.
I won’t lie, this class was uncomfortable for me. I was terrified.
But as we continued to play these little games, something kind of magical happened.
In the past, if a friend told me I did a great job after a speech that I thought I’d bombed, I would think “wow, I have a nice supportive friend.” But in the Ultraspeaking class, I got to see both sides of the equation.
When someone else in my group gave a 1 minute speech on a surprise topic, another of the ultraspeaking games, they often sounded brilliant! It was fascinating to see how the speaker’s self perception was ALWAYS so much lower than the students listening. Every single time, over-and-over it was the same.
We’ve become trained to focus on the negative, to accept the fear or assume the worst of what other people will think of us.
My friend (and fellow ADHDer), Marie Poulin, sums this up even better in Ultraspeaking is like Mountain Biking because…
What Ultraspeaking does is provide a safe environment to be uncomfortable. To be seen in all your discomfort and know that you’re fine—you’re actually better than fine, you’re doing great!
This isn’t a sponsored post or anything like that, I’m just sharing my honest experience. This course was transformative for me and gave me an entirely new perspective. I find myself thinking about things I learned there almost daily.
It created an impromptu environment where I could be exposed to the uncomfortable, but in a small safe environment where I got to both speak and listen.
(They just opened up signups for their Fundamentals cohort if this sounds like something you’re at all interest in)
Embracing the uncomfortable is, uncomfortable. That may never go away.
But that uncomfortable place is often where positive change lies.
Jesse J. Anderson
P.S. I’ll be doing another reader Q&A soon, so if you have questions you’d like me to answer, you can submit them right here.
Things that grabbed my attention this week (including some fun and creative summer ideas, a virtual fidget spinner, and sudoku).