You can learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable

Make small changes to build up your confidence in handling a major change when it comes your way.

Change. Will there ever come a time when I don’t deeply resist it? Much change is out of our control and widely viewed as unpleasant (being laid off, developing an illness, losing a loved one).

It is human nature to want to avoid such events, but what about change that I know is for my greater good? Why do I attempt to avoid this as well? Is expanding out of my comfort zone really such a traumatic event?

Such were my thoughts while on vacation last month. My mind argued back and forth with itself: Yes, change is difficult but necessary to evolve and grow. No, change is risky and I’m doing just fine in life as is. Yes, I must embrace going through a period of discomfort as my life shifts for the better. Wrong! I’d be wise to stay put, where I know what’s in store and don’t have to fret over the unknown.

Frustrated with my inner battle, I lay on the beach in Playa Del Carmen and watched as numerous adults attempted to brave the ocean waves. With much trepidation, they inched their way into the water, emanating fear and anxiety. Seeing a large wave approach, they frantically turned and tried running toward the beach.

Too late: The wave pounded down on them and slid them in to shore, head-over-tea kettle. They struggled to clamor out, fighting the current with great gusto, only to get pulled back in and tossed about once more. It was quite a scene and, I confess, I had to suppress my chortles. (I’ve had my glutes handed to me by waves plenty of times and know there’s nothing fun about it, but watching from the shore was a bit entertaining.)

In the end, the grown-ups all succeeded in staggering out of the water to the safety of their palapas — likely with no intention of ever again braving the waves.

I then turned my attention to the children on the beach, taking on the very same waves that terrorized the adults — only these kids were not fighting or resisting the flow of the ocean. They whooped with delight as the water pulled them in, and laughed uproariously as it spewed them back up the shore.

They were unafraid, unhurt and having the time of their lives. The exact situation that caused the adults to struggle, resist and feel fear brought these kids no harm — and more astoundingly, it filled them with great joy.

What an incredible lesson to be learned from this scenario! Could I stop resisting what’s happening in my life and instead dance with it, no matter the situation? Can I quit negatively labeling everything that moves me out of my comfort zone? As author Susan Jeffers suggests, can I learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable?

I think I can — with baby steps. I discover when I push myself out of my comfort zone by making small changes, I build confidence in my ability to handle major change.

Instead of my usual gym workout last week, I climbed to the top of Bell Rock, challenging myself both physically and mentally (climbing up those high, skinny ledges with a canyon gaping underneath me was no walk in the park). This weekend, I pushed myself to attend a social event where I knew nobody.

Uncomfortable? You bet. Did I regret either situation? Quite the contrary; I enjoyed both events and felt synchronously empowered and at peace afterward.

Now I am not suggesting you charge headfirst into the Caribbean Sea and let the water carry you to kingdom come, but I do encourage you to face your inner resistance, starting with your health program.

Get up off the couch and take a walk outside. I don’t care how deeply you want to stay holed up (i.e., safe). Skip your boring treadmill routine and take your first Zumba class. Who cares if your dancing skills aren’t worth a hill of beans? Challenge your anxiety over working out in front of others and get to the gym. More often than not, our fear is totally overblown and when we keep giving in to it, we miss out on growth, adventure and endless possibility.

And when you do challenge your fear by making a scary but positive change — no matter how small — give yourself the credit, gratitude and love you deserve. This, more than anything, will propel you to keep confronting resistance. For, in my book, the opposite of fear isn’t courage or even bravery — it’s love.

Catherine Bongiorno is a personal trainer, nutritional therapist and owner of Lift To Lose Fitness & Nutrition. Email her at or visit to learn more.

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