Finding Comfort in the Middle of Discomfort
Growing up, I was quite confident in expressing myself in my thoughts and interests in things. Even in moments when I was embarrassed, I could still show up for myself in ways others would find difficult. I guess that’s how it feels when you’re a child. You have this innocence that makes you not scared of expressing yourself. If only we carried that as we grew older, or better still, as we become teenagers. What happens when we become teenagers?
Well, I can’t speak for all teenagers but myself when I was a teenager. I got into high school, and it seemed like all I was comfortable with doing earlier on, I became insecure about, and focused more on what people thought of me, my appearance, personality, likes, dislikes, social status, and how well I’m able to blend in with the crowd. I started doing things to fit in. Not because I liked them, but because I wanted others to like me. It had seemed that all of a sudden, I had lost my identity and the sense of who I was and what I was worth. This is how my space — one I was always confident in thriving in, evolved into what was defined by others. This meant that I never really figured out what my personal space was at that time because it kept changing based on other people’s opinions of me. For it to become a little bit better, I had to find my crowd — a group of people I can be at least some bits of myself with, without being judged. Of course, that was difficult to find. This is because your friends are friends with other people who are not your friends. How then do you find your space in such a situation?
To be honest, I had to get used to things being that way. I would be called names, mocked and laughed at, embarrassed, and yet, I would play cool and laugh as well because I didn’t want anyone to know that I was hurt by the words that they said, and cos I didn’t want to lose my cool around my friends. Little did I know that such situations were preventing me from freely expressing myself and my opinions in things. I became scared of criticism and always agreed with what everyone said, even the ones I call friends. I was afraid to share my thoughts and be comfortable with not being agreed with. Wellbeing comfortable with such situations isn’t the right way to find comfort in the midst of discomfort. That is because I was losing a sense of who I was and what I believed in as I let others determine what that was for me. It didn’t get better in high school. I got better at being cool with others putting me down, up till the point I graduated and went to the university.
The University really was an eye-opener. I had to go through some personal journey and it was at that point I realized how deep I was lost in myself with no sense of purpose. I had to figure out what I wanted for myself. Not being around high school folks changed things for me. I didn’t need to impress anyone. I just have to be cool with who I know myself to be or at least, be cool with who I was trying to become. That became better in time. I attended seminars about personal development. I read books, listened to podcasts, watched videos, take notes, etc. With time, I had a sense of understanding of what I wanted to do and who I wanted to become. I passed through a phase I would call “I don’t care”. That phase made me comfortable in fully expressing myself irrespective of other people’s counter opinions. It made me decide how I wanted to live my life. Like I really did own my future (and I do, same as you whether you believe it or not). After that phase, I got into a more advanced phase I would say. A phase of empathy. In this phase, I didn’t want to live in my own world anymore but strived to understand the world and people around me. This made me realize that other people did go through what I went through. Yes, my experience was unique, but at the same time, it was similar to the unique experiences of others.
In all my experiences so far, I have found a way to be comfortable with discomfort. This discomfort comes from my interactions with the world and with my perception of myself at the moment. I see how easy it is to hide and run away from ourselves because it feels easier to be someone you’re not. But being aware of that feeling and understanding that you can only be happy when you are authentic with yourself, enables you to value your space and find comfort and peace in the midst of chaos.