Be comfortable with others’ uncomfortable feelings.
I both love and hate this thought. When you decide to be authentic and chase meaningful dreams and ideas that challenge the status quo — that, my friends, makes others uncomfortable.
I think about women who have impacted history through upending societal expectations, and I wonder how much of their lives was spent learning to be comfortable when others were uncomfortable. The women who decided they had the right to vote when other men and women thought it was a ridiculous idea…outrageous. Girls who run against the mainstream even today — how much of their lives is filled placating the discomfort of those who judge their desire to swim upstream?
How many women and girls have to redefine their relationships when they swim the opposite way of the current? When we decide to be authentic and say what is on our minds, we make people uncomfortable. Former friends start to disappear into the shadows of the past. We can either be bitter, or, we can take the gritty — yet graceful — approach and painfully whisper, “It’s okay to walk away.”
Here is the thing, when you decide to become real with people you go against the current, you disrupt others’ comfort zones, even those who are closest to you. I have often told my husband, I will forever sit at the uncomfor-table. That is my spot in life. There are a lot of people who have decided to sit with me. However, there are those who just stand there looking at this uncomfor-table and decide they can’t sit with me anymore.
When I quit my 9-5 and started on my female empowerment mission, I quit living in the world’s expectation of me as a female, and I didn’t even know it- I never once thought I would have to redefine relationships. As I redefined my work, the shifting of my personal life was an unexpected and unwelcome side effect. I still wanted to please everyone, make everyone feel good about themselves, but people talk, and look and judge. It made me feel less, until I realized this was on them and not me. But for our girls, our girls who reject the expectations of others, for our girls who want to set their own expectations for life but are still in that precious stage of life when friendships are everything — for them to be rejected by others is a deep hurt. Adults forget this, but for girls rejection can cause life-altering hurt. The kind of hurt that could stop them from rocking the boat and going against the status quo again.
This is hard stuff.
But we are grown ups. We get to say to fearful people intolerant of those of who swim upstream:
Sometimes we don’t mean to create turbulence, but we just do. It is just in our blood to question life. We just see a different way, we do not live in black and white, but constant grey. We see a different path to navigate, one that means truth, freedom and self-acceptance. In the end, we, all of us, have to value self-acceptance more than society’s acceptance.
You like me when I am not my true self — when I make you comfortable. You do not like to be uncomfortable. You like me to be uncomfortable. You do not want better for me, but status quo for you.
Also, leave our girls alone. Ok, I just tagged that part on. To them, we get to say:
Keep going, keep questioning, and keep searching for that other path. There are others who are cheering you on who have gone before you, who are watching you fight the tide and are bursting with pride. You, my dear, are on a journey to freedom, freedom from the expectations of others. You must traverse the rocky, jagged feelings of judgement and discomfort from others, but the sweet bliss of freedom is well worth it, dear one.
When you make it through and find your spot at the uncomfor-table, make sure to see who you are walking with. Chances are a friend or two has come with you — they followed you and admired your grit. You aren’t alone; you are in good company, sitting with history making women. Harriet Tubman, Anne Sullivan, Sacagawea, Amelia Earhart are all at this table with you. Women who stay in the comfort zones don’t make history. But you, brave one, you will.