I’m about to tell a bunch of people what the voices in my head are telling me. This is scary stuff. How did I get to this point?
It all started with a run. A shitty 5k race that I ran this morning, to be precise. Ninety percent of the reason it was shitty was because I was sick at the beginning of the week, following a long weekend up in Reno/Tahoe spent snowshoeing rather than running, so by the time I felt good enough to lace up my running shoes on Wednesday, it had been nearly a week since my legs had moved faster than a brisk walk.
After a mile I started coughing and wheezing, probably scaring everyone around me (maybe I helped them run faster – running away from typhoid Erin). I obviously wasn’t back to my healthy self, and from then on every time I tried to push, I felt like I was having an asthma attack. Not a recipe for 5k success.
But you’ll notice I said that was 90% of the reason. A part of me is 100% sure that there was a part of my lackluster performance that had nothing to do with my lungs. It had to do with my brain. If you do that math, there is less than a 100% chance that I competed to the best of my ability today (TB and all). I can get over the numbers on a clock, but not that pit in my stomach that thinks I gave up when things got hard. And that made me sad.
Sad enough to cut my planned extra miles and laze around in bed the rest of the morning. But as I did that, I thought about why I can push through 26.2 miles of intensity and not 3.1. I thought about how there is so much of a marathon that is actually comfortable – most of it, really, in a good race. I’m also comfortable training for marathons, as without a high school and collegiate distance running career, my first introduction to a training plan was Hal Higdon’s Novice Marathon Training Plan.
Still in the safety of my bed, I started Googling things like “switching to a 5k from a marathon” and “how to gain speed after a marathon,” which only got me so far. I then Googled what I was really thinking: “I’d rather run a marathon than a 5k.” I found some blog posts and general articles, but I came across the phrase “getting out of your comfort zone.”
Light bulb moment.
I need to train to get out of my comfort zone that, for me, is the marathon. So I started searching “training to get out of comfort zone 5k” and such things, when I came across the phrase, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Reading this phrase made me realize that I have never in my life really trained for anything shorter than a marathon (even if I’ve done shorter races, it’s always been along the way to a marathon or kind of as an afterthought, and I’ve always brushed them off – “only” a 5k). No wonder I haven’t gotten better at running anything but marathons!
But then, almost immediately, I realized this phrase hit home for me in almost every aspect of my life. Running, work, relationships, food.
I suck at being uncomfortable.
Comfort. It’s, well, a comfortable place to be. But no growth comes from comfort. Growth comes from instability and change and things needing to be thrown into the air in order to fall into a different arrangement. Which is all inherently uncomfortable.
As I ruminated on this, instead of getting depressed and down on myself for having something “wrong” with me (my usual MO), I immediately got excited. This one simple phrase may have ramifications in all the parts of my life that I want to improve? Sounds too good to be true.
And maybe it is. But I want to try to improve my threshold for discomfort.
Writing this is absolutely the first step. Well, the writing is Step 1A. Step 1B is posting this. Step 1C is letting people know I posted it. Admitting weakness and sharing goals = uncomfortable.
But what are these goals, you ask? I am a huge goal-setter, but I usually never tell anyone what they are. I will let my therapist figure out the why (and you can imagine how well that works for me), but for the time being, I’m going to address how I think being uncomfortable will help me in aspects of my life. This in itself is risky, because this may not work. And now it’s in writing. On the interwebs. Where nothing ever dies.
So, about those goals…
I guess I’ve painted the picture here: my uncomfortable place in running is running shorter distances fast. Luckily, I have coaches and teammates and a race schedule that does not include a marathon for me to use this spring to prepare for a goal 10k in May, with other races along the way.
I’m in that lovely place of mid-management: I am responsible for a team of people on top of a to-do list a mile long. I’m enjoying learning about leadership and management, and have great opportunities to do so. One thing that keeps coming up is – networking.
Me = introvert. Me = fear of rejection. You see the problem.
My current uncomfortable place in work, then, is the seemingly simple act of reaching out to people to have a cup of coffee.
I’m so bad at it. I feel so awkward. I think I don’t have time. But I have to make time – it’s one of those big-picture “Quadrant II” activities. My goal is to start making a list of contacts and reaching out to them.
Well, this is awkward: you’re all reading this!
My current uncomfortable place in relationships (friends, family, significant other, etc.) is being able to speak up for what I want and how I’m feeling. I’m really good at pushing “bad” feelings down and going with the flow so as to not upset anyone (just ask my therapist), so my goal is to first identify what I’m feeling and what I want (which is a huge task for me in and of itself), and then say it out loud (Exhibit A).
Oh boy. I am a huge emotional eater. I eat what’s in front of me no matter what. I eat at parties when I’m uncomfortable. I bust out the peanut butter and a spoon when I’m home and bored or anxious about something. Food covers up whatever I’m feeling uncomfortable about.
So my uncomfortable place is my uncomfortable place. And not being so afraid to be in that place that I need to cover it up with something else, like food. Or wine. Or whatever. My goal is to think about why I’m eating, and see the emotional eating as a symptom of something bigger.
The biggest tools I think I have are mindfulness and writing. Mindfulness is something I’ve been working on by meditating and journaling and doing yoga, so is an ongoing practice. Writing it down here will I think be a way of motivating mindfulness – if I “have to” record what progress I’m making, I’ll think about things more and be able to hold myself accountable.
So, even if no one reads this, that’s not the point. At the end of the day, I like structure and having this blog will give me that. Here’s hoping, anyway!