When is comfort bad for you? Of course, comfort is important because it alleviates your distress. But all too often, you fall down the cliff of escapism without you even noticing it! In this episode, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen discuss how, when you sink into escapism, the value of comfort is diminished because you lose awareness of yourself experiencing the comfort. Hence, you want more and more of what it is that comforts you. Therein lies the danger because when you have too much of a good thing, your body is going to go the opposite direction. Not only that, but you’ll also discover the danger of going the other way by throwing comfort out of the window and putting yourself on overdrive. How then do you strike the balance of having just enough comfort? Dive in!
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Is Comfort Bad For You? The Dangers Of Escapism And Overwork
We have the title for this show as This Might Get Uncomfortable, which is an eyebrow-raiser for a lot of people. Whitney, I’m curious if this is your experience. It’s interesting to share this episode with people that have never heard of it before because most of the time, people do their version of the people’s eyebrow from The Rock. It’s like, “This Might Get Uncomfortable. Tell me more.” In that regard, I feel like I don’t know that we necessarily selected this title to elicit that response from people but it is interesting to see how curious people get when we share the title and the concept of what we present here on the show.
The thing that it naturally brings up, though, is, does that mean being comfortable is bad? I have had people purport that question in various versions, not verbatim but, “Are you implying that discomfort is the better choice?” To us, we say we are trying to get past these binary sets of evaluations regarding life. Being uncomfortable isn’t better or worse than comfort. However, the reason we chose This Might Get Uncomfortable for this show is that we found that when we challenge ourselves to do things that scare us, make us feel, “I don’t know if I can pull this off. I’m not sure if I can do this.” That level of discomfort, specifically what we are talking about and moving past self-imposed limitations, fears and those icky belief systems that hold us back.
That’s the discomfort we are talking about where we willfully choose to put ourselves in positions to try things we have never done before. Make new life experiments, get outside the box and all those other cliché phrases. They are cliché because they are true. All of this is to say that, Whitney, I want to discuss with you this idea of comfort, internal comfort and discomfort versus external comfort and discomfort. I want to lead it off by saying that I have noticed something about myself in terms of comfort.
When I have blocks in my schedule during my day where I don’t have anything scheduled or anything to do, whether that’s a 2 or 5-hour block usually it’s at the end of my day, I have found that I observe myself not knowing what to do when I don’t have something scheduled. Here’s a four-hour block of time where I could relax on the couch, take a nap or watch a basketball game, I could do any of those things. I’m finding that physiologically and mentally has been difficult for me to get comfortable. I don’t know if this is endemic, maybe workaholism or some offshoot of that but it’s difficult for me to relax and get comfortable.
I’m saying this out loud for the first time because it has been something I have noticed but haven’t discussed. I’m wondering if that’s me in this habitual space of, “Go, go, go,” and always feeling I have something to do or feeling guilty if I’m not doing something. It’s almost as if I have taken our mantra of this show too literally. I’m constantly wanting to fling myself into things that I have resistance toward or things that I feel uncomfortable doing to the point that relaxation and comfort almost feel foreign now. I’m curious if you relate to this feeling if you have difficulty winding down and being comfortable. The other question is what are things that bring you comfort? Do you seek out comfort in different ways? What does comfortable even mean to you?
I will start with sharing the dictionary definition from Oxford of the word comfort, which is a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint followed by the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings of grief or distress. Certainly, if you are experiencing distress, comfort is something you can do. It’s the act of alleviating that distress so comfort is important. Stress is not beneficial for us physically, mentally or emotionally in the long run.
Grief, it’s certainly. Many of us when we feel grief, it’s painful so we want to ease and alleviate that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong or shameful. Also, I often say, “The word wrong is relative.” I use it incredibly lightly and intentionally. This phrase, “There’s nothing wrong with,” is overused because sometimes you do see things that are wrong with but it’s the pros outweighing the cons and the cons outweighing the pros type of thing. There are different sides to this. Sometimes we over ease or over alleviate our discomfort, our grief and our distress.
Sometimes that’s a coping mechanism and coping mechanisms serve us and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes we cope for too long and sometimes maybe we don’t cope in ways that are beneficial for us. Maybe they hurt other people. This is a complicated thing. As human beings, many of us if not most of us or all of us yearn to ease pain and constraint. An animal, in general, doesn’t want to be constrained. It’s scary. It’s tied to our survival. You might want to feel some ease and it’s important for each of us to reflect on what that means for us.The act of pausing to reflect is incredibly important because it helps you understand what is best for you at that moment. Click To Tweet
I spoke on a podcast and it was wonderful. Many of our readers will enjoy it because, in that episode, I was talking about being a recovering people pleaser and perfectionist, which is something I know many of our clients, students, and readers struggle with. It’s a common thing, especially for women. We have a lot of women who are readers. One of the reasons I was talking about people-pleasing and perfectionism is because the podcast I was on is geared towards women and it’s a common challenge.
In that episode, I talked about how one of the best things that I have been doing for myself in the past few years, especially once I’ve got deeper into my understanding and practice of meditation, which was around 2017. For the past few years, I have been mindful about practicing this, which is pausing and the act of pausing to reflect are incredibly important and beneficial to me. When I pause, I can examine and I can grow my awareness. That helps me understand what is best for me at that moment and understand what my motivations are.
To your example, Jason, when I want to experience comfort, for me, one of my go-tos is using TikTok. I have been on TikTok since October 2020 and it has become something that I use most days as a source of comfort, escape entertainment, information, connection and sometimes as a source of coping. There are a lot that I get out of that platform. I like the medium and atmosphere of TikTok now in May 2021. I am aware that it could change and shift and I probably won’t always feel like this way about it.
I noticed how social media also has given my awareness of social media’s role in many of our lives and how a lot of us tend to go to social media for comfort, distraction, entertainment, news, connection and all these things I’m listing. There’s a huge part of the human experience culturally right now. It is incredibly important for us to be aware because sometimes there are things happening to us psychologically that may not be beneficial for us. That’s one of the big points here.
If we are using a platform like TikTok for comfort, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it if we are aware of why we want to use it, how we are using it and we are also doing our best to stay informed about what’s going on behind the scenes with the app. Many people realize that social media is designed by people who are looking to get something out of it by you using it and sometimes that can lead to us being manipulated without us even realizing it. That’s part of the awareness and the same thing is true too with a lot of different forms of comfort such as watching TV. It’s the same thing.
There is somebody that’s benefiting from us watching a TV show. The advertisers, producers, actors and everybody involved are benefiting. The longer we watch it, tune in, the more we spread the word about it, there’s a benefit to somebody else in addition to us. That’s the way the entertainment world works. They want us to find comfort in that experience so we will keep going back to it. They want us to associate that experience with relieving the pain, distress and all of that is built in there. That’s part of how they hook us.
The same thing is true with other forms of comfort, be it fast food, alcohol, drugs and all of those different things. There is somebody that is well aware of the reasons that you are using it so it’s up to us as consumers to also be aware and know how we are playing a role in that cycle. That is how we can determine whether or not we are deeply okay with that form of comfort and decide for ourselves. The other level in this conversation is the amount of shame and messaging that goes into convincing us, whether or not it’s okay for us to be comfortable.
This is challenging because the line between comfort and escapism is close. To your point, Whitney, with a lot of the things that I do for comfort can make the jump into escapism quickly and if I’m not aware of it, it’s almost like there is a point of diminishing returns. What I have noticed for myself is if I say, as an example, lay on the couch to watch the basketball game and I have mentioned this on many episodes prior but it bears repeating. I have struggled a lot with sugar addiction and wanting sweet things for emotional comfort.
I will notice that at a certain point of the three-hour experience of watching an average basketball game that I will feel a sense of comfort and joy at the beginning. At a certain point of watching this, I’m like, “You have been on the couch for 2.5 hours. You have not physically risen to move your body in 2.5 hours.” After the first few bites of the chocolate ice cream you are eating, you stopped being even present to how much you were eating. Now it’s 2.5 hours later, you are looking at the empty container of ice cream pint and you haven’t moved your body.
My point is I will notice that some things I seek out for comfort, whether that’s physical or emotional comfort if I stopped being present, to my experience of choosing the thing, it can descend into me being completely not present and total escapism quickly. It’s almost like it falls off a cliff and now the returns are diminishing because you are not enjoying the ice cream. You don’t even remember getting to the bottom of that pint. You are zoned out that you are not even engaged in the game anymore.
For me, I always need to be mindful of when the chasm opens up and that jump is made between you are doing this to feel comfortable and now it’s total escapism and your presence is gone. It’s a complicated thing and it requires us to be self-aware and pay attention. It’s the same thing for me with overeating sugar and sweets. After the first seven bites, doesn’t even taste as good? It doesn’t. After the first 7 to 10 bites, the food doesn’t taste as good. For me, can I enjoy the comfort of two squares of chocolate rather than eating the whole bar in one sitting? I’m not implying that’s wrong. I have done it many times. I have noticed through self-awareness that after those first two squares, the chocolate bar doesn’t taste as good.
After the first hour of the basketball game, I’m good. I can watch the highlights later. That’s for me in developing this muscle of self-awareness of saying, “This isn’t about comfort anymore. This is you are zoned out and you are engaging in escapism now.” I’m wondering if this is something you relate to and is there an internal signal that happens in your body or your consciousness that’s like, “We are good with this.” Do you notice that there’s any mechanism in you that you were like, “We are at our limit now? Let’s get off TikTok or let’s stop watching the show.” Do you have a similar experience? What is that for you?
I do and that is what I mean. It’s taken practice for me to get to that point because a lot of this process that you are describing will numb us. As human beings, we tend to go numb and we get used to things. We are not aware that’s where it’s at is that. When something’s pleasant, you are enjoying it and you are so caught up in it being pleasant that you don’t feel that switch between the initial spike of joy that you are experiencing and it tampers off but it still feels good. You become so numb and spaced out.
It’s also like drugs from what I understand. There are a tolerance level and there are certain drugs that you have to keep upping your dosage of. It’s true with most drugs. Caffeine even is a drug. You can get used to having caffeine and you no longer feel the high from it anymore so you up to your caffeine dosage. People drink more and more coffee, tea and other stimulants to feel it. That to me starts to become dangerous because generally speaking with your health when you have too much of a good thing, your body is going to go the opposite direction. That’s one of the big reasons it’s important to be aware and that’s true physically, mentally and emotionally.
My commitment to being aware is because I want to feel that balance. From my belief system, balance is incredibly important. That’s why I’m not a big fan of the polar extremes of right and wrong. I like to be in the middle, black and white, I like to be in the gray zone. That feels balanced to me and I can adjust as needed. I feel comforted through the process of being aware because I feel like I find comfort in the balance. It’s being aware of what’s making me feel comfortable. That’s also another level of comfort. Ironically, it all ties in together.
Many of us, especially these days with technology, have that experience of numbing out, zoning out and not even recognizing what we have been doing and how much time has passed. That’s such a common human experience these days. That’s true of so much. It’s similar also to The Matrix where if we are not fully aware, we are going through the motions of life without knowing the reality of what we are choosing and suddenly it doesn’t even feel it’s a choice. We are going through the motions and the rhythm and that takes us out of the present moment.When you have too much of a good thing, your body is going to go the opposite direction. Click To Tweet
Time goes by fast and that’s the most dangerous part of too much comfort. Maybe one of the reasons why I’m prioritizing awareness is life is going by fast enough already. When I’m present, I can feel every second go by and it slows it down. I enjoy the slowness. We move in fast-paced and we have talked about in episodes how technology is rewiring our brains and that might not be great for us because it’s causing us to have shorter attention spans. We brush that off like, “People have shorter attention spans these days. We have to adjust.”
I don’t know if that’s a good thing because shorter attention spans to me also mean that you are going through life so quickly and life is going by fast. This is one of the reasons I started paying attention to my usage of TikTok. It’s known for that. It’s an app designed for short attention spans and yet you could spend hours there easily. It’s not that you go on there for a short time. No, you consume a ton of content in a long period of time in most cases.
It’s triggering this pleasure center in our brains over and over again. It’s similar to a slot machine. You are pulling down in the app to refresh and swiping through the app. It’s similar to a dating app where you swipe left and right and for TikTok, you swipe up and down. You are going through and seeing where the next hit is, “This is boring.” Swipe and swipe, “Another hit. That felt good. I’m going to swipe again.” You get caught up in this.
I often will step back from TikTok and wonder about what that’s doing for us in the long run and it’s certainly trendy and what people think they want right now but I believe that we are being conditioned to want those things. We can find ourselves with any addiction where it feels good. If you enjoy drinking alcohol, you are going to drink it because you associate it with feeling good. You are going to take a drug because you are associated with feeling good. For example, I drink coffee every day, almost without exception. Why? I enjoy it. It brings me immense pleasure. I love the whole experience of making it, tasting it and experimenting. It’s pleasure so when I wake up, I’m like, “I get some pleasure.”
I can step away from it and I’m aware I can step away from it but because you can, it doesn’t mean that you will and it doesn’t mean that it’s easy because in your brain, you go, “That brings me pleasure. Why would I step away from something that gives me pleasure?” Pleasure and comfort are similar, Jason. If we are not aware, it could get out of control or it could lead us to that sense of numbing and time going by quickly. Suddenly, we may not be as clear about what we want in the long run because we are caught up in the pleasure.
What I reflect on is the compassion for how easily we as human beings, generally speaking, are addicted. Our neurobiology and neurochemistry are so intricate, wonderful and mystifying despite all of the research we have on the human brain. We are still learning so much more about neural pathways and learning and habituation. In that, I have so much compassion for my addictive tendencies, people that have, I suppose, not to quantify this but major drug addictions or people in my family that have been addicted.
As human beings, we are easily addicted, especially given the advances in technologies and how they are building the AI and the user experience on a lot of these apps like you mentioned. On top of that, we have access to so many substances legal and otherwise. They are becoming more legal all the time but you think about as you said, Whitney, caffeine and I mentioned sugar. You think about the casomorphin in dairy products and how addicting those are. You think about alcohol. There are a lot of things in the world that we get easily addicted to.
First of all, I want to say this, there is rhetoric sometimes of shaming human beings for their addiction. There are a lot of shame around addiction but if you think about the things that are out there, how they are designed, constructed and produced from foods to beverages to social media. We need to not let ourselves off the hook in the sense of denying the fact that we are addicted or maybe have addictive tendencies. It’s realizing that as human beings in the modern world, we are facing a lot of temptation for addictive things. It’s not easy.
The second thing, Whitney, you mentioned coffee. For the reader, I don’t have a daily ritual of coffee but I’m wondering what’s stopping you. I have no idea how much you drink a day but let’s say 6, 7 or 8 cups a day. If it brings you joy, you could easily make that choice and I know certain people that have that many cups a day, no judgment. What is it about you where you have this thing you enjoy where you acknowledge that caffeine is an addictive chemical or it can be? I might be phrasing this in a clunky way. Why don’t you drink 8 to 10 cups a day? Why don’t you go there if it brings you joy?
Two reasons. One, I don’t have the tolerance for that much caffeine and it will make me feel sick. Since I have been getting into coffee, by the way, if the readers are into coffee too, I wrote an eBook on it called The Mindful Mug that I don’t promote often enough. It came out at the beginning of 2020 and I’m proud of it. If you are wanting to learn more about my coffee philosophy, how I make it, how I buy it, all of that, you can go to our website Wellevatr.com. Depending on how I brew my coffee, as I talk about in that book and what beans I buy and all these other factors, I have a certain tolerance level.
For some coffee, I can have one cup and feel stimulated by it sometimes in a bad way. There are so many factors that go into how I feel with coffee and I have learned enough about it to be able to anticipate how I’m going to feel, Jason. I have also found that my general tolerance is two cups a day. Statistically, health experts say that four cups a day, depending on the ratios, is about the maximum you want to have if you don’t want to disrupt your sleep.
I also set a time limit for myself because I want to be able to have good sleep. They say that the caffeine will stay in your system for eight hours so you want to work backward from your bedtime. I cut myself off no later than 4:00 PM and that way it doesn’t disrupt my sleep to my knowledge. There are a lot of philosophies on caffeine. It may be in your system much longer and you might not even realize how it’s disrupting your sleep. That awareness and knowledge I have about coffee and caffeine, in particular, guide me in my decision-making.
Secondly, to your point, I don’t get pleasure beyond the second cup of coffee, generally speaking. The second cup is usually less pleasurable to me than the first. First, I am fresh because I haven’t had coffee in however many hours. I have slept and when I wake up it’s one of the first pleasurable experiences I have each day. It’s heightened. It’s exciting. The first sip of it is amazing. I have trained myself to be more mindful of how quickly I drink. Sometimes it’s so pleasurable, I want to drink it all quickly but then I feel sad when the cup is empty. I have tuned into the whole experience of drinking coffee.
I also have experimented with cutting out coffee. I did this a few years ago. I went cold turkey, as they say, and cut myself off to see how I would feel. I didn’t get the caffeine headaches or whatever. I missed the experience of it but there are other things that I could have in place, to your point, tea or all the coffee alternatives that exist out there like Teeccino and carob. Chocolate can be an alternative. You can make yourself iced chocolate milks and there are so many things that you can have. For me, I love the specific flavor of coffee, which is hard to replicate but you can also have decaf. If it’s specifically about caffeine, decaf could be an option for you.
My point being is that part of it is the ritual and that’s why it doesn’t have to be specifically coffee. Doing lots of research, I found that there isn’t definitive research that says, “Coffee is bad for you.” Something that I explored in The Mindful Mug and I might add to the book at some point and I don’t have a chapter on it. This is something I want to get in back in terms of comfort in general. It’s judgments around comfort.
Coffee is a complex category, subject matter or product. It depends on where the coffee comes from, how you are making it, and how much of it you are having to determine whether or not that is suitable for your lifestyle and your health goals. Coffee is not a black or white subject matter. There are many factors, which is another reason I wrote my book. It’s to get into the basics of this and to make it easier for people to understand because I found it all confusing. Now I feel confident about it, Jason, that confidence has made it easier for me to be aware of my coffee experience.As human beings in the modern world, we're facing a lot of temptation for addictive things. It's really not easy. Click To Tweet
To go back to this idea of judgments, whether it’s self-judgments, judgments from other people, cultural judgment and all of that. There are a lot of judgments around comfort. I pulled up a ton of articles. You and I are drawn and as we have spoken publicly about on the show how much our philosophies have shifted over time. I know for me, I bought into this, “Get out of your comfort zone. Success is on the other side of your comfort. You have to be uncomfortable to grow,” and all of that. I typed in, “Is comfort bad?” I found all these articles about that.
The first one came from this website called TheFrugalGene.com and the article is titled Yes, Comfort is Bad and Here’s How to Fix It. In the beginning, the author who is a woman named Lily said, “For example, being fit requires some serious soreness. Lots of time commitment to nutrition and working out consistently, none of which is comfortable but should you still do it? Absolutely.” I can agree with some of that and she has a section, “Why comfort is bad. Short and sweet. Comfort is bad because facing adversity keeps us fighting, growing, learning, and forcibly placing our trust and others we wouldn’t have given away otherwise.”
I agree and can see what she was saying in part but then she gets into a section titled How to Be Uncomfortable. One of the things she said is, “Comfort isn’t always bad but it’s mostly bad to me.” I’m glad she said to me. This is her opinion, “It’s because that’s when a lot of amazing people with great potential get lazy.” This is where I don’t fully agree. I’m not a fan of the word laziness and this goes back to our upcoming guest, Celeste Headlee, who wrote a book called Do Nothing. It’s one of my favorite books. As you read through that episode, I fangirled over her!
In her book, Do Nothing, Celeste talks about the origins of our cultural associations with laziness and how a lot of that came from religion. It was specifically Catholicism and how many of us have grown to believe and spread this gospel that if we sit around, we aren’t only lazy but we are wasting money and time. This was drilled into me over and over again. To quote her in the book, Celeste wrote, “Over the course of a couple of 100 years, the religious notion that working long and hard makes you deserving while taking time off makes you lazy. This was adopted as an economic policy, a way to motivate employees and get the most out of them.”
One of my big messages with this episode is you have to understand the roots of your beliefs and keep digging into them through research and looking at history. What you may believe about comfort and something like laziness might be rooted in a religion or capitalism, or a work ethic that you don’t fully align with. To believe that you are not deserving because you are resting, not working hard, not hustling and too comfortable, I take major issue with. Every person is inherently worthy and deserving. What you do and how often you do it and how you do it does not fully equate to that but this has been drilled into us. We wanted to find people. We want to judge people by their actions. If their actions come across as lazy to us, they are undeserving.
This is all-important to have each one of us get to the foundation, if possible, as you said, of why we believe what we believe and what systems have shaped our worldview. There’s a political writer named Robert Reich who I follow and he posts a lot about economic equality in a capitalist system. He posted something that I read on Instagram. It was a series of a few slides and he said, “This is a list of the states in the United States where the minimum wage can allow you to afford a two-bedroom apartment.” The national minimum wage is $7.25 at the time of this episode. You swipe through the slides and all the lines are blank. Meaning if you are a hard-working person, it’s not about effort because we are talking now about our belief systems around who gets the favor of God or society or whatever you believe through your hard work.
A person can be busting their ass 40, 50, 60 hours a week and if they are making minimum wage. His point was there’s no state in the United States contiguous where you can afford a two-bedroom apartment on minimum wage. This gets into the rhetoric of a lot of politicians and economists that are like, “The handouts and universal basic income is bad. Continuing to have the unemployment benefits roll on as long as they have is bad because people don’t feel motivated to work.” I don’t think that’s true. For the most part, human beings are wired to want to create things. We want to put our hands and things to create and move energy in the world. That’s part of our wiring.
My counterpoint is, I don’t think it’s a lack of work ethic. I don’t think it’s a desire for hard work. A big part of this is adult human beings are not being compensated in a way where they can survive through their hard work. I say this because we do have it drilled into us of, “That person’s rich, successful and known because they worked hard.” We said this many episodes ago about the myth of hard work and how I use the examples of my family, which still I’m doing a lot of that. We had this unspoken philosophy in my family of like, “You might not be the most talented, privileged or advantage but you are going to outwork everyone in the room.”
Consequently, my entire upbringing was like, “I need to work harder than everyone.” That has also had a level of diminishing returns, whereas I mentioned, at the beginning of this episode, I feel weird about relaxing and taking a nap. I’m still unraveling these thoughts that I have when I lay down to take a nap or I try and relax on the couch of like, “You could be investing now. You could be researching loans. You could be looking at new houses.” My brain will not stop. I don’t know in my life if there will ever be an end to that per se because of the depth of that conditioning but I can acknowledge that voice and take the nap and rest anyway.
I can acknowledge that voice and tell myself, “Your worth as a human being is not tied to your willingness to burn yourself out to prove to everyone that you are the hardest worker in the room.” We are still bombarded with that every single day on social media and in the regular media. It’s like, “They’ve got all this stuff. Look at how hard they work to achieve it.” Who’s to say that a billionaire is “working harder” than a person who works at a fast-food restaurant making minimum wage? It’s implied. They outwork that person. It’s not true. I say this because we have to do the deep work of unraveling our biases, these old toxic belief systems and give ourselves a break.
We also need to examine where these belief systems are coming from and who’s perpetuating them. If we are perpetuating them, can we step back and examine the damage that’s potentially doing? For example, I went down a little bit of a rabbit hole behind the scenes. I pulled up an article I found on this website called Elite Daily, which the word elite is a little triggering for me personally. It seems to be a website targeted towards probably Millennials, trendy women, girl bosses perhaps and people that buy into hustle culture. This is my impression of it.
The article is written in 2013, which is an important context for the rabbit hole I went down. The title of this article is A Life of Comfort Will Kill You Silently. There are a lot of things in here. The author, who’s a woman, talks about fear and how not to let fear control us. I get that. Breaking away from conformity, which is also part of our point and how we might be comfortable because it feels like a safety net avoiding fear. One line she has here and I don’t know if this is her quote or somebody else’s but she says, “It’s torture to make yourself comfortable in your own unhappiness.” I could see that. It’s this ongoing all-over-the-place article giving a lot of different examples around why comfort is a silent killer. She’s encouraging people to get off their ass to make their own happiness. “Remaining somewhere out of pure contentment is lazy.” This line triggered me.
She was giving examples of how comfort in the workplace can be detrimental. If you are unhappy there, if you remain in a position where you are unhappy or if you are remaining somewhere because of pure contentment is lazy. Those are her words. She then goes on to say, “Don’t ever get too relaxed in your office because you can get replaced. If you are not showing growth or motivation within a company, they can get bored of you and start looking to replace you. There’s always someone else out there who can do a task better than you. As soon as you get too comfortable, that’s when things fall apart.”
Ironically, this is what I mean. I don’t think this person knows what she’s talking about because she’s completely contradicting herself. Granted it was 2013. Who knows? In 2013, there are a lot of hustle culture going on. This mentality is so fucked up to me. “As soon as you get too comfortable, that’s when things fall apart. That’s fear,” and yet, in the beginning, she says, “We need to stop letting our fear control us.” You are perpetuating fear in people by having them fear to comfort. It’s complete bullshit. She’s quoting JFK, “There are risks and costs to a program of action but they are far outweighed by the long-term risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
There’s wisdom to that but the context is frustrating so I was curious. I was like, “Who is this woman?” Clicking through a lot of her articles, she’s the senior lifestyle writer there. A lot of the articles she’s writing feel a bit trendy, clickbaity or whatever. They were tapping into experiences that Millennial and Gen Z women are having. That’s their audience. I went to her Twitter account and she’s talking about being hungover and watching TV until 11:00 PM and the only thing that she uses her gym membership for is free tampons. On and on it’s all of these things.
It’s like, “You wrote this article years ago. Clearly or seemingly either things changed or you are contradicting the advice that you are giving to other people, in my opinion. Here you are shaming people in getting comfortable but you are talking about getting hungover, watching TV and not using your gym membership to work out. You are tweeting these things probably to get attention from other people who can relate.”Challenge and cross-reference things instead of taking them at face value. Click To Tweet
My point is when you read stuff like this, you can start to have these beliefs reinforced. This is why it’s so important for us to be mindful of our social media usage. Who are we following? What do they stand for? Where are they getting their information? Are they educated? This is why I love the book Do Nothing and Celeste’s work in general. She’s so research-based. She’s studying this and cross-referencing these. These are not opinions. These are historical information that she’s pulling from not opinion pieces. Social media, content and our show included have become so dangerous.
Jason and I have our opinions. We are sharing them with you. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with us, follow our advice or take us as experts. We have been saying from the beginning of the show, “Please do not associate us with being experts.” We are not gurus. We are changing and evolving human beings. We are working hard to encourage you to make the decision that makes sense for you and to get lots of sources to make a decision and to challenge your belief systems. When we talk about getting uncomfortable, there’s a reason we use the word might.
We were not saying, “This is uncomfortable.” It’s, “This Might Get Uncomfortable.” Meaning anything could get uncomfortable. Ultimately, that title in itself could mean anything, Jason. That’s part of what I like about it. A lot of people stop and think about what that title means. They were curious. It draws people in as a result but it’s a possibility. That’s something that we have to remember when we are reading articles and hearing conversations around comfort. It’s somebody’s opinion. If you are going to believe that person’s opinion, align with it and agree with it, where did they form their opinion and how are you forming your opinion? That’s my big suggestion for you. Challenge that.
It’s so healthy and important that we challenge and cross-reference things instead of taking them at face value. What happens as you turn into 2013 where this woman was out when she read this article was spewing out all this stuff and quoting. There’s one attributed quote here. There’s no backup to any of the things that she’s saying and she’s contradicting herself as a result and confusing people but leading them to feel they can’t get comfortable because it will silently kill them. That’s incredibly detrimental.
If I can extract one thing, the part of the article that triggered you also about how easily one can be replaced. What this engenders is an unhealthy relationship to our work of constantly or proverbially speaking, looking over one’s shoulder, never doing enough and trying to climb that ladder. It also intersects with the people-pleasing thing too. It’s like, “What do I need to do to please my boss so I can stay here?” It has been a few years since you and I have been working in a corporate environment. You and I both left more than a decade ago.
It’s not every single job I had but I remember being in those environments with that mentality of sacrificing in some ways what my creative instincts were as a writer, for instance, when I worked in the advertising industry. It was like, “If I write this thing this way, I know my creative director will like it and I will win her favor.” For me, I find that when I do my best work is when I remove the desire to please and placate whoever I’m trying to and allow the thing that I want to create to come through and do for me the hard work of letting go of my attachment to the outcome. It’s hard. Are they going to like it? Are they going to approve of it? Do they want me to revise it? Do they want me to change it? I can deal with that when it comes.
I find that if I lead with the intention of, “I’ve got to stay safe, keep my job and please my boss.” I’m sacrificing the authenticity of my work for the fear of, “I have to get this.” That point is triggering for me because I have been in those situations and I have realized for myself that I can’t operate creatively or productively under that kind of mentality. It’s so stressful to think I have to please this human being all the time so I don’t get fired. It’s horrible from a level of emotional health and it’s also horrible because I don’t do my best work under those conditions and I’m sure other people feel the same.
I’m also excited to share an article I found on Inc.com called Actually, Science Says Pushing Yourself Way Outside Your Comfort Zone Is a Terrible Idea. It starts by saying, “If you are looking for self-improvement advice online, the first thing you are likely to encounter is some guru armed with a workout metaphor telling you that, ‘Growth starts where your comfort zone ends.’ It’s simple, intuitive advice and it appeals to a great many people’s masochistic desire to prove their mettle by making themselves uncomfortable. There’s only one problem with this bedrock piece of internet wisdom. Science proves it’s plain wrong.” This is a phenomenal article.
One example they said, “A number of overeager CrossFit enthusiasts have discovered taking things too far in the other direction will cause you to suffer a list of ailments and visit your local emergency room writhing in excruciating pain. This isn’t a grim but medically accurate sports metaphor. As performance coach Melody Wildling confessed in the UK Guardian, ‘Pushing yourself way beyond your comfort zone, psychologically can lead to ugly collapse too.’” There’s a little bit of story here.
Jumping forward, this woman said, “On the outside, everything looked peachy as if I were the picture of success. On the inside, I felt defeated and helpless. By the self-improvement mindset, I rationalized these feelings as stemming from my own inadequacy, ‘I need to work harder.’ I told myself. I’m out of my comfort zone. I will get better. I will adjust. Instead of improving. I found myself laid up in bed so tired that I could barely move. I’m suffering from heart palpitations and nightmares. By pushing myself in the name of getting uncomfortable, I had self-sacrificed to the point of exhaustion.”
I feel that. As you were reading it, I had this visceral physical reaction to what you were saying. In my own way, I have felt what that’s like to be so exhausted to the core of my being and wondering, “Was this the reward everyone was talking about? Are other people feeling this but they are not talking about it publicly?” The key of that is not only the exhaustion this person was feeling but how the immense pressure to present ourselves publicly in a certain way of, “I’m successful, I’m popular and I’m influential.” Behind the scenes, someone could be crumbling.
Not only is this a cautionary tale but it’s relatable as hell if people were to say, “I know what that feels like,” because it is relatable. We have talked about this in various iterations. We had an episode about the mythology of the big break and how people are willing to destroy their health, mental health and physical health by chasing the brass ring in the sky. Only to find you get to that proverbial place and you were like, “This is what I was killing myself to get?” Yet, the myth continues to perpetuate. It doesn’t want to die, does it?
This article on Inc.com is enlightening and helpful. It goes on to talk about how to push yourself according to science. This is what I mean. This is unlike the other article I referenced. This one is based on research. One of the most consistent findings that scientists have had is that the best way to stay motivated is to work on tasks of manageable difficulty. The author James Clear, who I respect, explained something called The Goldilocks Rule, which is humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard, not too easy, just right.
Scientists have found that high-stress levels don’t drive high performance and this is according to Harvard Business School. They also found that flat-out boredom is not a recipe for improvement and achievement. Instead, psychologists recommend that you stay in your stress-sweet spot of a little pressure to improve the fastest. The article says, “Your comfort zone is there for a reason. In a world of increasing demands on our time and attention, our comfort zones act as a predictable space of mastery where we can seek refuge when the stress becomes too much. They act as containers to shore up confidence, gain momentum and think clearly. When we spend less time grappling with discomfort, we can focus more on what matters most. If people who routinely push themselves past their comfort zones are metaphorically skydiving out of airplanes, those of us who choose to operate from within our comfort zones are serenely laying bricks creating a home we can thrive in.”
That’s beautiful imagery. I love how they contextualize that. This idea of resting or finding refuge in our comfort zones, I have never heard it phrased that way. First of all, that’s poetic and beautiful and also real. When I think about my comfort zones, that makes a lot of sense. There’s a level of acumen and familiarity. If I think about the things that I’m comfortable doing, Whitney, it’s almost like there’s no effort in it. We can name a variety of things and it’s all relative, isn’t it?
The idea of someone making a Caesar salad, that could feel massively uncomfortable and intimidating to another person making a Caesar salad from scratch who’s like, “I’ve got that,” or being on stage, singing or accounting. We all have things in our comfort zones, maybe we can celebrate those things more. Maybe what comes up for me is the idea of, “That is comfortable for me. I do have a level of acumen and mastery over that thing.” Instead of making myself feel bad because you are hanging out there too comfortable, maybe we can celebrate it.Scientists have found that high-stress levels don't actually drive high performance. Click To Tweet
What comes to mind are certain artists, whether that’s an actor or a musician, where he, she or they are typecast, “I have seen that person in this role and this role.” Let’s use Will Ferrell as a random example, “Will, you should do drama. You should get out of that comfort zone and you should tackle some dramatic roles.” He has been one of the most successful comedic actors in history. God knows how much he has made, tens of hundreds of millions of dollars. Will Ferrell is a national treasure and a comedic actor. Who’s going to go, “Will, you need to do a dramatic piece about loss and pain. Show the world what you can do.” He was like, “No. I’m in my wheelhouse. Everyone knows I’m a comedian.” It is defeating this mindset of, “You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone.” Sometimes our comfort zones are profitable and fruitful for us. If you find your zone and you stick with it, why the hell did not milk it? If you think about it, it’s worked for a hell of a lot of people.
This all comes down to each of us determining what feels right for us at the time. I love the advice that we have talked about here on the show and it has come up over and over again from other people which I’m fascinated by is that question, “Is it true? How do you know it’s true?” Byron Katie has a wonderful framework around this called The Work and a set of questions that you can ask. That process of examining ourselves is important because when we believe something like staying in your comfort zone is lazy, you can ask yourself, “Is it true?” If your answer is yes, you can ask yourself, “How do I know it’s true?” That’s where you can start to examine where you’ve got all these messages and who was saying them.
As I have demonstrated, I tend to trust people that are researchers. I love scientific back studies. I love hearing from medical experts and I use that word intentionally, somebody who has a deep foundational education and experience and something is typically how I will define an expert. When I can read several sources that are well-researched, I tend to trust them more than I do anecdotal evidence and little quotes being passed around. That phrase, “Growth is on the other side of your comfort zone,” which we have certainly used in our marketing. This is what I’m saying, take things even from us with a grain of salt. Those are convenient and trendy things to believe, share and spread the word on but then you get caught up in everybody sharing something that they don’t even know is true. When you examine it, you have plenty of people saying, “It’s not true.”
One other resource I found was on WebMD and the author of this article had an expert, best-selling author, that’s the founder of the Fearless Living Institute. Her name is Rhonda Britten and she had some great points. She says, “I’m not interested in people getting rid of their comfort zones. You want to have the largest comfort zone possible because the larger it is, the more masterful you feel in more areas of your life. When you have a large comfort zone, you can take risks that shift you.” She also pushes back when people say that staying in your comfort zone is a rut. She said, “It’s not a rut, it’s life. Our comfort zone is where we go to recharge in an ever-changing world. It’s our place of reprieve where we can conserve our energy and not have to figure everything out. People often don’t honor the comfort zones they have created. They think it’s wrong or bad to need one. It’s not. If you deny that you have a comfort zone or pretend you don’t need one, you will be stressed all the time. When you want to make a life change, build off your existing comfort zone instead of revamping everything at once.”
That brings me peace to read, Jason. I feel a sense of relief and comfort from that advice, which is going back to one of the questions you asked me about coffee. One of my big points is tuning into myself. When I feel relief wash over me when reading or hearing advice, that’s my signal that’s right for me now in my life. I much prefer that versus the feeling that I had read that article on Elite Daily. That made me feel icky and triggered me and I’ve got uncomfortable. Sometimes that discomfort that we feel in our bodies and our minds is a signal that it’s not right for us.
We are told over and over again, “Don’t worry. Ignore that sense, that intuitive hit that it’s wrong for you. Go through it anyways. You’ve got to push through the resistance.” This is tricky because it is incredibly relative. That’s where I’m at with this right now, Jason. Yes, there are plenty of examples in life where you push past the resistance. You allow yourself to be uncomfortable, you experiment with it but you also have to tune in to yourself and you are the only one who can guide yourself through this. You learn best by experimenting.
You know your body. When you are in a fitness class and something hurts, you know if that’s the pain of temporary discomfort or if that’s the pain of a potential injury. Your trainer doesn’t know what you feel. You can verbalize it but they are interpreting that in their brains. Nobody knows how you feel except for you. My advice is, I put a bow on this episode, you need to tune into yourself. That’s the only way you can make these decisions. Whatever we have said, whatever resonates when you get that hit of, “They touched upon something,” that is your signal to explore it more, lean into it and experiment. If it’s uncomfortable, you can still experiment with things that don’t make you feel good but maybe be a little bit more mindful of how far you go down because our intuition gives us some major signals and we need to pay attention to them.
I want to share a story I haven’t thought of in a while before we wrap this episode about where our edge is and the script or the pressure to move way beyond it. I took myself to Tulum, Mexico on a birthday and I went on a solo trip. There were some friends there that I met up with but for the most part, I was there on my own exploring Mexico and Tulum. I went one day by myself to one of the cenotes there, which is a natural giant swimming hole in the Earth where it’s usually in the middle of the forest or the rainforest. It’s this giant and natural freshwater swimming hole.
This particular cenote was one of the larger ones so there were a lot of people there that day. Over the cenote was a tree and people were diving into the cenote from the edge of it. If I had to guess the edge of it, it was probably 50 to 55 feet up there. I have a tremendous fear of heights. I always have since I was a child. I don’t do well with heights. I feel a primal fear of falling. I challenged myself to jump off the edge of this 50 to 55-foot drop, which was high for me.
I remember standing on the edge feeling that beyond butterflies. It’s like an iron knot in my gut of, “Are you going to do this?” As the trope goes, “I felt the fear and did it anyway.” I was proud of myself so I was building up. I’ve then got a little more comfortable doing this 50-foot dive and I noticed this tree that was off to the side that was an additional probably 25 feet higher than that. It was a big drop into the water. I’m watching mostly these young teenage or twenty-something boys jumping up, climbing up the tree in the drop.
I’ve got this idea in my head that I’m going to do that. I did the 50 to 55 and I would do 70 feet. I can do this. I remember walking over to the tree and I probably did it fifteen times, Whitney. I walk over to the tree. I put my hands on the tree, I start climbing, I get ready to get on the branch and I walk back down. I had this internal dialogue of, “Fuck it. Everyone is judging me. They are going to think I’m weak. You did the 50-foot one. You can fucking do this. Do the 75-foot.” This went on for 40 minutes. I would walk up to the tree and try the climb it. I’m saying this because the feeling was different from 50 feet. The 50 feet was that iron knot in the gut but it was like, “I’m going to do this.”
The 70 to 75-foot that is on top of the branch. You had to climb a tree, walk out onto the edge of a branch and jump 70 feet down. Everything in my being was like, “Do not do this.” It wasn’t like, “I’m uncomfortable.” For 40 minutes, I’m trying to push through everything in my entire being because when I’ve got up there, I froze. I look back on that moment and how much I beat myself up. I remember leaving that cenote on this beautiful and perfect day. I’m beating myself up, “You couldn’t do it. You are a fucking pussy.” I was being so mean to myself, that voice in my head.
I look back on it after this conversation and I’m like, “That was so unnecessary for me to beat myself up.” Why was I beating myself up? It’s because I was on that script of, “You didn’t conquer that fear. You are weak, you failed. You felt the Primal Fear and you couldn’t do it.” Instead of rewarding myself and being like, “You have such a primal fear of heights. You did a 55-foot drop. Wasn’t that enough?” It wasn’t enough. The script in my mind was, “You need to conquer the giant dragon.”
I say that because it’s time for us to all stop beating ourselves up and being so cruel to ourselves when we don’t do the thing that we think is some self-defining thing. Would anybody else in that cenote give a shit whether I jumped off that tree? Would anybody else in my life give a shit? No. It was all me trying to live up to some illusion in my head of being this fearless alpha male who conquers the dragon and slays his fears. I can laugh about it now but I beat the shit out of myself for that, Whitney.
My impression of this is can we be gentler with ourselves? Can we have more compassion for the folly of the human experience and not push ourselves to maybe do dangerous things. Who’s to say I could have jumped off that branch and hit that water and hurt myself? Who knows why I didn’t do it? I look back on that and I have a lot of compassion for myself. That being said, dear reader, we are curious how you feel about this discussion of comfort versus discomfort. If there are any situations like mine where you didn’t do a thing that you were trying to force yourself to do and you look back and go, “That was a good thing.” We are so curious. We always love your feedback.
Check out all the resources we mentioned and shoot us an email if you have some ideas and reflections on this topic. It’s [email protected]. That’s also our website, Wellevatr.com. Let’s talk about it, comfort, discomfort, pushing ourselves, where our line is, where our boundaries are and where our edge is because I feel this is a super relatable subject for all of us. If you have any ideas or topics you want us to cover, we had a great email come through where someone submitted about 5 or 6 topics. Anything you want us to cover and dive into, we always love your suggestions. We have new episodes every Monday and Wednesday and Friday with our special guests, so mark your calendars for new episodes of This Might Get Uncomfortable. We are not going to change the name at this point. Thanks for reading. We will be back with another episode soon!
*We use affiliate links in our show notes. This means we receive a small sales commission if you purchase an item based on our recommendation.
- Expand Your Comfort Zone
- TikTok – Whitney Lauritsen
- The Mindful Mug
- Yes, Comfort is Bad and Here’s How to Fix It
- Do Nothing
- Instagram – Robert Reich
- A Life of Comfort Will Kill You Silently
- Actually, Science Says Pushing Yourself Way Outside Your Comfort Zone Is a Terrible Idea
- Fearless Living Institute
- [email protected]
- Chasing the Big Break: How Weaponizing Trust Plays a Part in the Road to Success – Previous episode
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