Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

If I only did things that I knew I would be good at, I never would have started swimming with the club team. I never would have taken an acting class. I never would have gone on a date. And I certainly never would have started a blog.

Trying new things and embarrassing ourselves as a consequence is so easy when we’re young. As a child, such “failures” are practically the status quo. In sixth grade, walking around the schoolyard during lunch, I came across a boy juggling. I had never juggled before, but I knew I wanted to learn. I approached him, and he began coaching me. It didn’t matter that I was standing in the middle of the playground dropping beanbags left and right. Over the subsequent months, I learned to juggle, first with two balls, then with three, then under the leg, then behind the back, and so on.

Similarly, for ninth grade drama class, I was assigned the role of a lascivious older man trying to seduce his unimpressed coworker. At that point in my life, I could hardly bring myself to utter flirtatious remarks in private, let alone on stage. The fact that I did a mediocre rather than a disastrous job can only be attributed to my willingness to ask every single woman in my life for help.

Of course, these were insignificant incidents in middle school and high school. But when you think about it, the stakes really don’t get that much higher. A college student first joining a game of pickup basketball at the gym may not know how to shoot or what constitutes a foul and may find the crowd (many of whom played in high school) to be a bit intimidating. He may get yelled at when he fails to play good defense or loses control of the ball. There will be hyper-aggressive law school students who push him around. But really, who cares? What happens on the court has almost zero bearing on the rest of his life.

Ultimately, this is about more than learning your way around the basketball court, or the stage, or the playground. It is about learning that failure and embarrassment are mostly imagined. It is about gaining a comfort with the idea of being uncomfortable.