An essay on why being uncomfortable is good for building character
I live in the Northeastern part of the United States. We have Winter Nor’easters, ‘muggy’ Summers, but awesome Spring and Autumn weather. The weather changes a lot but I love the change of seasons. I like Spring and Autumn the best. Winter is ok, I get sad because of the low amount of daylight, and I swelter in Summer.
Swelter, melt, cook. It’s not because I’m always feeling hot but because we have no working air conditioning in the house. Our AC broke a year ago. We looked into getting it fixed but found out that the compressor units had leaks and needed freon to work. Unfortunately for us, freon is no longer available so we’d need to switch out both compressors. That means the air handlers in the attic need replacement too. All this comes with a hefty price tag to replace so we ‘sucked it up’ and dealt with sweltering sleeping nights.
Being uncomfortable is to be human.
Sleeping in the middle of the heatwave is terrible, uncomfortable at best. I toss and turn and sleep in my underwear. I move from my upstairs bedroom to the downstairs couch where the fan is on and continue to toss and turn all night. Morning comes fast and I’m left groggy and sweaty.
As I lay in a semi-state of sleep I start to think about how wonderful it is to be uncomfortable. I also wonder if I’m crazy because I’m yearning for a cool room to fall asleep in. Why is being uncomfortable something wonderful?
I console myself with the fact that I’m ‘building character.’
Being uncomfortable is to be human. It is because of this that the human race as moved forward into a safe and comfortable existence. We’ve built so many creature comforts that a whole generation of humans don’t know what it’s like to sweat. New houses come equipped with central air and I even remember a time when AC was an option in cars, now it’s the default.
All this comfort comes with a price. Yes, there is a cost to pay for this luxury but what is it? What’s the true price? Central air conditioning uses electricity that’s often generated from fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels warms our climate creating a negative feedback loop, forcing us to cool our homes. We drive more in our cars with the AC on, thereby burning more gasoline and generating more emissions. The effects of our desire for comfort is killing us and the Earth.
More damaging to our physical nature is the insidious attack of our mental stability.
Granted, I’m not against our creature comforts. They do have a positive effect on the elderly and infirm for without them their life might be shorter. Yet, it might be good to be uncomfortable at times. It helps us reconnect with what our ancestors had to endure.
Being uncomfortable teaches us patience, a great trait that’s lost in a world of instant gratification. It teaches to be novel, innovative, and thrifty — three great character traits. Our generation is the most educated but most insulated from these uncomfortable experiences. It’s affecting our very core of who we are. We can’t adjust when faced with uncomfortable situations.
More damaging to our physical nature is the insidious attack of our mental stability. We live in a world of Instagram personalities and crafted perfect lives. We have a fear of missing out (FOMO) and click ‘likes’ to give ourselves a dopamine rush. I am guilty of it too, it can be a very seductive siren call.
While we all fall prey to it at one time or another, there is a hidden price to pay for it all. We suffer from self-doubt, self-confidence, and mental stability issues. It’s so bad that we’re losing the ability to determine what is fact from fiction. Our mental stability is under serious attack, and our defenses are weakening.
To be uncomfortable lets us cut through the bullshit that so many people cover themselves in every day.
What to do? We’ve spent two decades in the ‘thick’ of the Internet creating this monster, how do we kill it? This monster won’t die easily because it makes money for the companies, but must do it ourselves. We must save ourselves and it starts with an uncomfortable decision.
First, I propose exchanging personalities for people of character. Ask yourself, do those Instagram celebrities you follow exhibit a strong code of ethics or moral fiber? If not, cut them loose. Do your Facebook friends lift you up and work to build a better world, inclusive to all? Keep them.
The problem is that we focus too much on a person’s personality traits that we forget to see what makes them real. If you strip away the money, their awesome life, or how beautiful they are, are they pieces of shit?
Make the uncomfortable choice to cut out the bad and keep the good. Start small and start today. Don’t become comfortable with bad personalities and bad character traits. Become uncomfortable with the culture and lives we are create with every ‘like’ or tweet. We must kill this monster and get in touch with our core values and beliefs. To be uncomfortable lets us cut through the bullshit that so many people cover themselves in every day. It forces us to discern what is important and what is not, especially if you’re lying in your pool of sweat on a hot night.
Originally published at https://thomasott.io on July 31, 2020.