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Having lunch alone at work. Waiting on a diagnosis after a doctor’s appointment. Networking at events.

I no longer fear having to do these. (Okay, I’m a little afraid of seeing my doctor.) They’re all part of being a functional adult. But they’re only the start of a long list of things that make me feel uncomfortable. I do all I can to put them off as long as I can.

In her TED talk, Priya Parker talks about building your resistance towards discomfort. When we’re in public, our first instinct is to reach for the phone and blending in with everyone else. It’s easy. What’s hard is drawing attention to yourself and being okay with it.

Parker suggests singing — not too loudly — but loud enough to be heard. Your heart will start to pound as people zero in on you. Training yourself to get used to this feeling will build your discomfort muscles. Luckily, you don’t even have to sing in Tesco to try this experiment.

“It’s he or she who’s willing to be the most uncomfortable can rise strong.”
— Brené Brown

Discomfort is a compass. It helps you navigate why you deliberately or subconsciously avoid something.

  • Why do I get nervous at networking events? I take a long time to warm up to people and it might get awkward.
  • Why do I take so long to be myself around new people? I don’t spend much time talking to people at events.
  • Why do I want to meet other local artists and designers if it makes me nervous? I want to learn from them.

By shifting the focus towards leaning into discomfort, you stop relying on motivation. Instead, your goal is to see it through.

I’m always nervous around new people, so I prepare for the possibility of awkward moments. I speak up whenever I’m curious. Even if I all I do is ask people about themselves, I can learn a lot by listening. And it ends up being fun.

Instead conquering your biggest fears, why not start the new year confronting something that makes you uncomfortable?