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Fear Of Improving

____marcell profile image Marcell Cruz Updated on ・6 min read

"Because pain is the universal constant of life, the opportunities to grow from pain are constant in life, All that is required is that we don't numb it, that we don't look away, All that is required is that we engage it and find the value and meaning in it." - Mark Manson

You think about doing something, and then a voice appears in your mind telling you why you shouldn't do it, how this is not important, how you have better things to do right now and so on. There is some truth in weighting what you should do. But you should always be aware of a natural mechanism that kicks in every time you think about doing something uncomfortable.
We all have this feeling, there is even an extreme case called algophobia or "fear of pain", but why do we feel it?

Why do we feel fear?

There're two reasons why we feel fear. One is pretty obvious and most people know about it. We feel fear to avoid harm. This is an evolutionary mechanism to preserve our well being.
But there's also another type of fear, the fear of discomfort, the fear of feeling pain. Every time you're in a difficult situation, you spend more energy than normal. You have to think harder. You have to deal with the unknown and be prepared. You can't simply turn on your autopilot and deal with everything like you normally do. This extra energy being used makes you uncomfortable because your body wants to conserve energy to keep you alive. Through most of our history, this was also a survival mechanism. We didn't know how much food we were able to get in the future. So the extra energy being spent could mean our death.
But in modern society this fear is unfounded. You have plenty of food to go around regardless, but you still feel this fear.

The two types of discomfort

One brings no benefit to you and happens unwillingly. Think of diseases, an accident, etc..
The other type you do willingly with a clear objective. It's a situation that you put yourself in because you know it will bring you some benefit. You feel discomfort in this case because your body is changing. You're spending more energy than normal. A lot of people don't think about this but when you're solving a problem that you never solved or doing exercises, you're changing your body, you're breaking old connections and creating new ones, you're burning fat, breaking old muscle cells and building new stronger ones, so a good signal that you're improving is if you're feeling uncomfortable, after some time doing the same exercises, solving the same problems, you stop feeling discomfort, because your body and your brain already adapted to do that, so you just turn on your autopilot and stop spending extra energy which caused the discomfort in the first place, but do you see the problem? comfort is cheap but it'll cost you. It will cost your improvement, new opportunities, and experiences.

Embrace your discomfort, actively search for discomfort

Safe and comfortable things, are the things that got you where you're right now, You can't improve by keep doing them otherwise you would already have. You need to take the next step. The things that are comfortable to you now should serve as a stepping stone to the uncomfortable things that will make you better in the future.
Discomfort is your body changing to deal with the situation and permanently improving itself, this is where all that motivational phrases comes from "If it’s worth doing it will be hard" "Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone" There's an infinite source of joy to be gained by putting yourself in a difficult situation and getting out of it, and you will always get to the other side better prepared.

The thing that you most fear is the thing that you're least capable of dealing with, to me, this was one of them, writing, let my thoughts be heard, put into words what I was thinking, a lot of that mechanism that I've mentioned before kicked in when I thought about writing this, "I just don't know enough about this" "I don't wanna look like I'm trying to coach people" "I'm not a native English speaker" all these impediments on the way of the thing I knew I should do, and I knew it would make me uncomfortable.

Don't waste your time in mindless tasks

There's a big difference between doing something and doing something that matters, the things that matters are hard, that's why you and others didn't do it before, don't waste your time being in the autopilot all day, put yourself on the line.

Identified what you fear and do exactly that

Maybe you don't wanna learn about compilers because you think it's too hard, maybe you don't wanna start working on the project that you always wanted to work because if you think you don't have the time, whatever your fear is, identified it and do exactly that

I can't guarantee you success but I can guarantee you improvement, no matter what happens, you'll be better off than when you start it.
Good goals do not have permanent failure conditions, but permanent success conditions.
Don't do it for what you gonna receive, do it for who you gonna become, external rewards are ephemeral, your improvement is permanent.

The thing about fear

The thing about this type of fear is that it's always unfounded and disproportional, it's not the same fear as running from an animal in the wild, but we feel as if it was the same thing, But we quickly discover that it isn't as soon as we start doing it. The "start doing it" is the key point, and you can see this in motivational phrases about fear.
“Do the thing that you fear and the death of fear is certain.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
"What's on the other side of fear? Nothing - Jamie Foxx"

Fear grows larger and larger the more time you give, so just do it, don't talk your way out of improving yourself, out of having new experiences. Challenge yourself every day, put yourself in that uncomfortable situation that will make you grow. You can't be a master if you're not willing to be a fool.

What actually "Learning to love" means?

Just because you feel discomfort doing something now, doesn't mean you won't enjoy it in the future. Most people spend all their lives doing a very small amount of activities because every time they've tried to do something else they felt uncomfortable and they confuse this discomfort with not liking it.
Everything worth doing it in life has the potential to make you uncomfortable, but there's a lot of enjoyment to be gain afterward. Maybe you say you don't like to dance but that's because you suck at it, you feel uncomfortable doing it because you don't know how to do it.
You have to move out of the initial discomfort to have a fair look at most things in life. There's a lot we love and we just don't know.

Expand your life by expanding your comfort zone.

If you avoid discomfort at all the times you'll quickly be boxed in, doing just a few things that you're already comfortable doing. By deliberately choosing to do high-value activities that make you uncomfortable, you're expanding the things that you can do, and eventually, it'll become more comfortable. You'll then expand your possibilities and opportunities. Remember that one-day writing a very simple code was uncomfortable for you, but now you do it all the time without even thinking too much about it. Because coding now is part of your comfort zone, and because of it a lot of opportunities opened up to you. Now imagine all the things that you're missing out because you're not willing to move out of your comfort zone.

Expanding your comfort zone is life-changing. Imagine what you would be doing today if you didn't know how to code. Don't let your mind rationalize the things that you fear.

Have a great day 😄

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Marcell Cruz

@____marcell

Software Developer. Learning algorithms, redux and compilers atm.

Discussion

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I dont know about you, but I fear interviews. Being forced to answer a question on a topic that either:
a). I haven't heard since college (Ex. What are the 4 tenants of object oriented programming)
b). I don't knowingly use day in and day out (Ex. Explain the difference between of delegates: Action, Func, Predicate). With Linq, I use delegates everyday i just didn't realize it.

So what do I do, I interview now to face this fear. Do I have a job that I like? yep. Well, what do you do if you receive an offer? Unless its a huge improvement, I politely turn it down.

 

Totally agree with everything said here 👏
Quite often too much comfort means staleness. It's possible to grow and improve only by diving into experiences that we fear most because these experiences are also usually the most rewarding ones.

 

This is very true, to realize your potential you need to get good at being bad and feeling discomfort, else, why get off the bed in the morning? Also helps with ego, by keeping it small.