I grew up with a severe stutter. The basic act of speaking that 99% of the population takes for granted was mission impossible to me. I avoided speaking at all cost. Think about a field of mines. If you knew you there were mines, you naturally would avoid it altogether! Well, that field was my life. The mines represented my stutters. Every-time I stepped on a these metaphorical "mines", my sense of self-confidence, self-loved and self-esteem were shattered.
I decided not to speak. It was the safest option. in the short term.
I chose COMFORT. Why engage the world when I could hide in the isolating yet comforting cocoon of my silence? I'm sure most (if not all) of you can think of a few instances in your lives where short-term comfort was chosen over long-term success.
I hated speaking. In my second year of university, my stutter and the anxiety resulting from being "different" had gotten so severe that I asked my university professor to exempt me from all presentations and in-class participation marks. Once again, I chose COMFORT.
Even though I had learned a very effective breathing technique to control my stutter, for many years, I was reluctant to speak. Speaking meant stuttering, and stuttering meant feeling different, weird, and...inferior. I avoided, avoided, avoided. Once again, I chose COMFORT.
Then, everything changed.
I started to understand that COMFORT is like a drug. It numbs us. Comfort looks different for different people - for some it means binge watching on Netflix, for others it means staying in a relationship or career that is wrong for them but that is comfortable/predictable, and for others it means avoiding uncomfortable situations to protect ourselves. Ironically, that protection is ultimately the most destructive as it robs our future self from countless opportunities.
Comfort and growth are mutually exclusive. Comfort by definition means sameness ; growth by definition implies change. So, what did I do?
I started becoming a DISCOMFORT-seeker, and I still am. In the past two years, I've gone from dreading the mere act of uttering one sentence out of a terrifying fear of being different and feeling uncomfortable to delivering a TEDx talk, winning two public speaking competitions, speaking in front of audiences of thousands, and doing stand-up comedy in New York, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal.
Let us diss COMFORT and live in our DISCOMFORT zone instead - believe me, it's where all of life's rewards are hiding.