5 Powerful Benefits of Uncomfortability

Although seeking comfort seems ideal, embracing discomfort is key to creating happiness. 5 powerful benefits of uncomfortability are covered in this post.


What is Uncomfortability?

Think of something fun and exciting that you do. Do you remember the first time you did it? It was probably uncomfortable. Fighting through that discomfort gave you the gift of this activity that means so much to you.

I found a few different definitions of the word uncomfortability, none of which were in dictionaries. Not finding it in dictionaries would indicate that it isn’t technically a real word. Yet. Although it doesn’t show up in a dictionary yet, it is used often in books and articles.

The word does show up in Urban Dictionary. Does that count? I think it counts.

Who Feels More Comfortable With “Discomfort”?

In a post on BYU’s Cougarboard, a college professor states that graduate students mistakenly use uncomfortability instead of discomfort*. The graduate students first started using it in 2017. So the word’s use began recently.

Also, graduate students are the main culprit. That is to say, educated people are using this word. If the smartest of us are using it, then it will be a word soon.

Who Best Dishes Discomfort?

Uncomfortability appears in Rice University’s online database of neologisms**. (In other words, it’s a new word.) The definition:

The act of making another extremely anxious or upset.

How annoying or disturbing can a person or thing be?

However, my searches rarely found the definitions that those two references suggest. The primary use of uncomfortability I found was…

How Much Discomfort Can You Tolerate?

Most uses of the word referenced the benefits of increasing your uncomfortability. To put it differently, how much discomfort you can tolerate?

Uncomfortable + Ability

The ability to tolerate discomfort.

What Uncomfortability is Not

This does not mean you should tolerate others making you feel uncomfortable. Don’t allow anyone to touch you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable or say anything to you that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Although I recommend learning to take a joke, it’s also important to know what is appropriate and what is not. My friends and I always joke around, and it often includes put-downs. However, we know each others’ boundaries and don’t cross them.

Practice speaking up when you’re uncomfortable.

We’ve had family members whom our kids were not comfortable hugging. We never forced our kids to hug anyone they weren’t comfortable hugging. Even though it created some awkward family moments saying “goodbye” after a weekend visit, we wanted our kids to understand that it is okay to say, “No.”

At the time we wondered if we might be sheltering our kids too much, but now we know we did the right thing.

Now, why should you increase your uncomfortability?

Why Not Try to Be Comfortable?

Being comfortable isn’t the problem. Fearing and avoiding discomfort can be a problem. Much of life is spent being uncomfortable. You can’t control everything. You can’t shave all the edges of the world. Expecting a world without discomfort is an unrealistic expectation.

Mark Manson wisely stated, “The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering.” Likewise, avoiding uncomfortable feelings is uncomfortable.

Have you ever had a task that you didn’t want to do? I’ve seen people put more work into avoiding a task than the task would have required. They created more discomfort by trying to avoid something uncomfortable.

The work required to avoid the uncomfortable situation is almost as uncomfortable as the situation. In other words, you create more discomfort by trying to avoid discomfort.

Let uncomfortability be your compass. You’re already comfortable being comfortable. If you’re comfortable being uncomfortable, then you’ll spend more time feeling contented. As Marcus Aurelius said, “What stands in the way becomes the way.”

What About Others’ Comfort?

I’m happy that you asked. I’m even happier that you made it a heading!

You and I will benefit from embracing uncomfortability. That gives neither of us the cause or the right to make others uncomfortable. My advice is to work to make those around your who are not your children as comfortable as possible.

Since we influence our kids’ happiness, and we definitely want our children to grow up to be happy and productive humans, we’ll want to help them learn to get comfortable with uncomfortable.

As I stated above, this also means that nobody has the right to make you uncomfortable.

5 Powerful Benefits of Increasing Your Uncomfortability

Why would you want to be uncomfortable on purpose? I’m not saying you should make yourself uncomfortable simply for the sake of it. I’m suggesting that you do things you’d like to do but that you’re uncomfortable doing. Here are five great reasons why you should!

1. Embracing Uncomfortability Fosters Physical Flexibility

One thing I remember from my Personal Trainer certification classes is that muscle flexibility is related to pain tolerance. Although you should never stretch far enough to cause pain, the more you can endure the discomfort of stretching the more flexible you can become.

I’ve always stretched. I can’t truthfully say that I enjoy the discomfort. However, I  relish my flexibility. In Taekwondo, I almost made it into the Full Splits Club. Not bad for a dude in his 40s. Other than our school’s Master, I was the most flexible male over 16 or so.

Likewise the more discomfort you can tolerate, the harder you can work out.

You can work a little harder to increase your fitness capacity or work a little longer to increase your endurance. That’s a slight oversimplification for fitness purposes, but a great example for gaining an understanding of the benefits of uncomfortability.

2. Increasing Uncomfortability Molds Mental Flexibility

Pain tolerance is often a mental barrier rather than a physical one.

Master Croft at our Taekwondo school always encouraged us to keep going, to not give up. He reminded us our minds would give up before our bodies would. That mental flexibility or mental toughness helps you keep going when others give up.

Whether in exercise, writing, or coding, the willingness to keep going even when the circumstances are unpleasant is key to progress. Furthermore, the resilience you build from knowing you can persevere if you keep trying will foster your happiness.

3. Improved Uncomfortability Builds Resilience

A flexible tree will survive a strong wind. Conversely, a strong wind will snap or uproot a tree that won’t bend. Flexibility increases recoverability. The ability to recover from a challenge or setback is called resilience.

In a qz.com article, Ephrat Livni states***:

“So, to be happy, you have to first learn how to be strong; to pick yourself up after a fall, detach from sadness when you don’t succeed, and find the will to persist instead of getting depressed when things go awry, which they often will.”

– Ephrat Livni

An important phrase there is “when things go awry, which they often will.” Expecting things to always go well demoralizes you when things go awry. Realizing that life often challenges you and deciding in advance to fight through it builds the resilience that fosters happiness.

Here are a few similar quotes on the subject.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“A setback isn’t a detour from her path. It is her path.”

– Rachel Simmons, Enough as She Is

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.”

– Dan Millman

The article later states, “Psychologists say resilience is a developed skill…” To clarify, resilience is not something reserved for a few lucky ones born with it or given it. Resilience can be learned.

The best thing you can do for your happiness is to build resilience. In short, you can fortify your happiness by increasing your uncomfortability!

4. Playing Outside Your Comfort Zone Makes Your Comfort Zone Bigger!

When you get more comfortable in a situation that was previously uncomfortable, your comfort zone broadened!

Author Stephen Guise makes this brilliant point in his post Why It’s So Important to Seek discomfort ****:

“The whole point of expanding your comfort zone is to be more comfortable in more situations.”

– Stephen Guise

Although it might seem backward or a little Bizarro World, the best way to feel more comfortable is to spend more time being uncomfortable.

5. Discomfort Supports Confidence

Every time you choose uncomfortable over easy, you build confidence. After you endure the situation you get to say, “look what I did!”

Even if you only get to say it to yourself, you earn feeling proud. You learn that you can not only complete that difficult task again, but you’re capable of accomplishing something even more difficult.

Enduring even the tiniest discomfort confirms you can do more than you previously thought possible.

How to Boost Your Uncomfortability

I’m not saying you should try to be uncomfortable. However, frequent, planned, periods of controlled discomfort will help you boost your uncomfortability.

Have you seen the movie Kung Fu Panda 2?  The Fab 5 are hunted by a villain with a weapon that overpowers kung fu?

“How can kung fu stop something that stops kung fu?”

– Po, Kung Fu Panda 2

Getting comfortable being uncomfortable reminds me of that. How do you get comfortable doing what it is uncomfortable to do?

Unlock Uncomfortability in Baby Steps

I’m not saying you should try to be uncomfortable. However, frequent, planned, periods of controlled discomfort will help you boost your uncomfortability.

Like most other results of habits, getting comfortable being uncomfortable will happen gradually, then suddenly. Check out that post for more valuable insight into how you can do this.

Unleash Uncomfortability With Self-Awareness

in his article, How Uncomfortability is a Strong Opportunity for Personal Growth, high-performance mindset coach Dr. Jay Cavanaugh explains how our uncomfortable feelings have helped our species survive. He also writes recommended self-awareness as means to embracing discomfort. To begin a path to self-awareness, he suggests asking yourself these questions:

  1. Where have I been placing most of my attention this week?
  2. Do the thoughts I’m having serve me or do they not serve me?
  3. What’s been my vibe lately?
  4. What thoughts are eliciting the feelings I’ve been having?
  5. What stories about myself do I tend to play in my mind?”

It makes perfect sense. To know where to begin stepping into the realm of the uncomfortable you must first know where you are comfortable and where you are uncomfortable.

Embrace Discomfort

Many of our pursuits are targeted at increasing comfort and convenience. For understandable reasons, we’ve associated pleasure with happiness. Consequently, we are unpracticed for when things don’t go as planned. And how often do things go as planned? It seems like never. Like the Styx song:

“You’re so together
You act so civilized
But every time that things go wrong
You’re still surprised.

Nothing ever goes as planned.”

– Styx, Nothing Ever Goes as Planned

Although it seems that way, things go as planned about as often as they don’t. Enough that our expectations are often unmet.

Learn to embrace discomfort. Not only will you be more prepared for life’s little (and big) surprises, but you’ll more thoroughly enjoy the growth of overcoming the challenges you face.

Think basic training. The Armed Forces make basic training brutally tough to get soldiers ready for battle, to make them comfortable with discomfort. The training makes the soldiers more tough and resilient.

Embracing Uncomfortability Makes Life More Comfortable

As I stated above, avoiding discomfort is uncomfortable. Not only do life’s constant curveballs frustrate you, but you also never develop the toughness to be at peace with adversity. Your tolerance for discomfort will contract. Avoiding discomfort makes you uncomfortable more often.

“Avoiding discomfort only causes more discomfort. Growing comfortable being uncomfortable creates more comfort.”

– Shayne Seymour

Make Uncomfortable FUNcomfortable

Make a game out of uncomfortability. Give yourself little challenges to try. Pick some actions that are uncomfortable, a little scary, but not frightening or dangerous. Here are a few ideas:

  • Greet strangers or ask them for the time
  • Make conversations with cashiers
  • Put your phone away in waiting areas
  • Ride amusement park rides
  • Meditate
  • Exercise (or shake up your current exercise routine)
  • Stretch (it’s excellent practice for life)
  • Take a cold shower
  • Take a Class
  • Go to a Meetup
  • Learn a Foreign Language
  • Learn to Play an Instrument
  • Practice saying, “No.”

Are You Interested in an Uncomfortability Challenge?

If you’re interested in enjoying an uncomfortability challenge click here to let me know. If there’s enough interest, I’ll set up a challenge so a group of us can have fun getting comfortable with uncomfortable. If/when we do it, I’ll let you know as soon as we start.

Question: Where do you wish you were more comfortable being uncomfortable?

Ready to Boost Your Uncomfortability?

Check out these other articles:

  • While most creatives search endlessly for ways to avoid resistance, weight trainers appreciate the benefits of creating resistance on purpose
  • The fear of trying new things robs from us the opportunity to really live. Variety is too important to not try new things. I’m not saying you have to, but what if you try new things? try new things?
  • If you enjoyed the quotes above check out the growing list of inspiring happiness quotes.


* https://www.cougarboard.com/board/message.html?id=18532464

** https://neologisms.rice.edu/index.php?a=term&d=1&t=9075

*** https://qz.com/1289236/resilience-is-the-new-happiness

**** https://stephenguise.com/why-its-so-important-to-seek-discomfort

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