Embrace the Chill and Lean Into the Discomfort
Today I learned how to embrace the chill.
And I’m not talking about the relaxed kind of “chill” — although that’s always a good thing to embrace too.
I’m talking about the chill in the air. Why the heck does this matter, you ask?
Well, let me give you some background.
I Really Hate the Cold
I’m not someone who enjoys being cold. It’s funny because I live in Canada (one of the coldest places on earth). But I really don’t like it. I like warmth.
I love bright sunshine, crackling fires and cozy sweaters.
In stark contrast, I don’t like the way the frigid cold seeps through my layers of clothing and seems to wrap itself around my very bones. It unsettles me.
That’s why I prefer the comfort of warmth. It envelopes and reassures me. Nothing calms me more than sitting by a crackling fire that kisses my skin. And nothing feels as protective as winter clothes. I like the way chunky gloves and scarves and sweaters cocoon me, shielding me from the world outside.
And I love the way the sun shines in the sky like a giant spotlight, generously spilling its rays down on me. I turn like a plant toward the light, basking in its rays (even though the Irish skin I’ve inherited from my ancestors makes me burn as easily as a vampire).
However, if I hide away too long in that toasty comfort zone it can feel very limiting. The warmth can lull me into a pleasant state where nothing ever changes or grows.
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” -John Assaraf
Sometimes I need the cold because it wakes me up to reality.
Sometimes the Cold Is Needed
That’s what I discovered today on my walk. It was about 13 degrees Celsius outside and since we’ve been getting some milder spring weather, I figured I’d be okay in a light long-sleeved top and wind-jacket. I still felt the chill, however.
I get cold really easily, so that’s another reason why I don’t enjoy the cold. And in my defence, it had just rained and there was cloud cover, so it was cooler than usual.
At first, I was worried I’d be too uncomfortable and that I’d need to cut my walk short. But by the time I was nearing home, the discomfort had faded and I was warm.
Throughout my walk, I noticed how alert I had felt. In fact, cold weather sharpens your thinking. Although it wasn’t exactly cold, the air was cool enough to give me a nice little boost and a clear mind.
I might not like the cold but I can deal with cool. Cool is just the right temperature; just brisk enough to be invigorating but not cold enough to be unbearable. I think we need to treat our comfort zones in the same manner. Sometimes we need to turn the notch up just a little bit…
The more I thought about this chill in the air, the more I realized that avoiding the cold is similar to so many other things I avoid. I believe many of us are too quick to run away from the chill of discomfort and retreat into the confines of our comfortable space, whether that be in our minds or our behaviours.
We often don’t stay long enough to walk through it and discover that we can actually deal with more discomfort than we realize.
We Need to Face Our Discomfort
The fact is that we can’t always avoid the coldness of reality. Too many times I’ve witnessed myself and others give up too easily whenever things got uncomfortable. We give up because we see the cold hard truth of our perceived shortcomings, failures and insecurities.
To illustrate, I gave up too easily on math when I was in school. Similar to other girls, I experienced math anxiety and believed I was “bad” at math. In my struggle, what I was really doing was shying away from the pain of dealing with a challenging task.
I often felt defeated and frustrated. Instead of seeking out help and working to find the answers, I didn’t fully apply myself and received low grades. Sometimes I failed tests.
On the other hand, I no problem applying myself to other subjects because I could make sense of them. Math, however, was a constant thorn in my side. For this reason, I hated it.
Math was a knotted web I couldn’t seem to unravel.
It seemed much easier to avoid my discomfort than face it.
But the More You Resist, The More It Persists
“What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” -Carl Jung
After a few years of wrestling with math, I realized that something had to change. I wanted to go to university. The thought of my math grades affecting my acceptance into university was more painful than the pain of math itself. By fighting the pain, I was only prolonging the pain.
So I started seeking out after-school math help. Although I didn’t fail any math classes my grades were in the low 60s. My parents suggested I go to summer school to improve my grades, so I did.
Once I started facing my insecurities with math, things got better.
When I didn’t understand something, I asked questions.
When I couldn’t figure out the answer, I persisted until I did.
When I went to summer school and only improved my grade by 2%, I gave myself credit because I had given it my all this time.
And this persistence paid off.
By the time I reached the end of high school, I was getting grades in the high 90s. I realized I wasn’t inherently bad at math — I’d just been telling myself I was. I hadn’t been facing those unpleasant moments when I felt inadequate and frustrated and full of doubt.
Once I confronted my discomfort and worked past it, I started seeing my potential.
And get this…
I actually started enjoying math.
Learn to Lean Into the Discomfort
We shouldn’t retreat from our discomfort. It can offer valuable lessons. It’s reminded me of all the times my persistence has paid off, especially those times when I felt incapable of achieving things. So the discomfort is worth it.
“Discomfort is a wise teacher.” -Caroline Myss
As another case in point, I’m going through a dry spell with my writing. Despite my writer’s block, I’ve persisted, writing every day, trying to search for something to dredge up out of the sludge of my mind.
But a quick walk in the brisk air did just the trick.
In fact, it inspired this post.
So bundle up and enjoy the chill.
Breathe it in.
It just might give you the clarity you need.