The Hidden Benefits of Being Incredibly Uncomfortable
Women do a lot of incredibly uncomfortable things: have periods, give birth, cry, try to get promotions, endure seventh grade with big boobs while each male counterpart discovers their first perverted side effects of puberty…the list goes on.
I looked up “uncomfortable” in the thesaurus and it gave: annoying, bitter, difficult, agonizing, hard, troublesome, thorny, irritating, ill-fitting, and cramped. Women, in the past, were not allowed to be any of these things, against their own benefit of living a faulty, strewn, and beautiful life.
And just think – it hasn’t been that long since women can actually talk about being physically uncomfortable. I realized this while watching Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in under 48 hours (weird flex, I know). In one of the scenes during the show, she was pulled off stage for talking about pregnancy in her act because “pregnancy is a private topic only for women to hear.” Ugh, yuck. The transformation to allow acceptable prickliness in women didn’t take a turn there, either. Able and acceptable lady-angriness took decades of fruition after the fifties.
In the nineties, Alanis Morissette was one of the first women to sing about being uncomfortable (and angry with a bittersweet twist) in her song, “Hand in My Pocket,” released with her third studio album in 1995. The song opens with:
I’m broke but I’m happy, I’m poor but I’m kind
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high but I’m grounded, I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful, baby
What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine
The song, initially about a bad breakup, praises the notion of being angry. Morissette said in a 2018 Marie Claire article, “If there were to be any quality for which I become a poster child, I’ll take anger. Because as a woman, two of the main emotions that we are ‘not allowed’ to feel are anger and sadness. [Yet] anger is such a powerful life force, and I think it can move worlds.”
Morissette admits to wrongdoings, being uncomfortable in self, and shared the inevitable truth that pain and all that comes with it, is okay. She was one of the first to weigh the negative with the positive, give shape to women and showcase dissatisfaction shoulder to shoulder with happiness. Her music wasn’t just about anger, it was about life, and how it’s important for women of all kinds to experience that life and express every single raunchy part of it. According to Morissette, pain and joy dance in pairs, a waltz maybe – a waltz with bad tennis shoes.
“Jagged Little Pill” was released only twenty-five years ago.
Before then, women were encouraged to be private about their trials and tribulations. Even during the eighties, when music and Madonna were more about sexy entertainment than violating the **women have perfect feelings** norm, discomfort for women in the past was ugly, unfit, and a private/quiet practice.
In the seventies, the shushing of discomfort was very apparent among mothers. After getting married and having children, a lot of women felt at a dead end. They’d already “done it all.” Discomfort propels people forward. But they couldn’t express their discomfort, so they were encouraged to be quiet and remain docile and unmoving. In May Sarton’s book, published in 1974, A Journal of A Solitude she wrote, “A woman has managed to bring up three children, keep her marriage much alive and happy. Yet she told me three of her married friends, women with children, have committed suicide because each felt her life was a dead end, because she did not feel used or needed.” Sarton goes on writing that a good friend of hers, Carol, also a professor and mother, “tries to be cool, discriminating, humorous, but never unfeeling,” a notion that creativity and feeling things loudly are the tiny keys to survival.
Men (and women as of late) have been encouraged to be uncomfortable for years. They’ve been encouraged to take risks professionally, immerse themselves out of their safe space because discomfort contributes to growth. So as long as you’re not standing in front of a moving garbage truck (sorry, I just saw Bird Box), being physically/emotionally uncomfortable and failing and failing again and again, is what motions people into success.
Ahh [insert tiny virtual idea lightbulb] maybe I’m starting to see now why women being uncomfortable, and talking about it, had been such a shameful practice in the past. Talking about what makes us feel discomfort is always a crucial aid in propelling forward, so it makes sense that women have only recently been given the chance to do so. Women have been seemingly hushed over the years because being uncomfortable was a man’s job. The men moved forward. Things have changed. Now, we women shall catapult into the world. Head first, feet first, tits first. However we please.
Being uncomfortable instantly brings me to the very honest and raw relationship with my girlfriends, specifically. We tell stories about being uncomfortable all the time because we are comfortable with one another. And we owe it to every relationship to be our whole selves in them. It’s okay to talk about how uncomfortable sex can be, how tired and uncomfortable you were pulling your tights out of your butt in that business meeting, how weird it is to ask for a promotion, how awfully painful it is to breastfeed, or how no one tells you what it’s going to be like and how painful it is going to be after you have a baby. Or a miscarriage.
We need to treat the world this way, as we do our fellow girlfriends. And tell the truth in an exasperated and jaunty fashion. We can be pissed off, sad and lonely and put it out into the world. It’s good for us. That is what life is. It’s not always an empty sink with no dishes and having children at **that perfect age** (Writer’s Note: never to be defined). Life is about messing up, dealing with a bad breakup, quitting a good job, moving into your parent’s basement. Life is not beautiful excruciatingly charmed. Above all, it’s not realistic.
It’s damn powerful to be uncomfortable. We can hurt deeply and yell pain out, scream words into the world so we can feel the struck match of healing burn down our spines. We should talk about being uncomfortable. Understand how being uncomfortable feels. Write it down. Examine it. Share with our girlfriends. Tell our mothers. Because it’s okay to not be right.
Because, eventually, we will evaluate what is happening with our lives and realize we are all fine, fine, fine.
Brittany Chaffee is an avid storyteller, professional empath, and author. On the daily, she gets paid to strategize and create content for brands. Off work hours, it’s all about a well-lit place, warm bread, and good company. She lives in St.Paul with her 80-year-old cat, Butch. Read more about her latest book, Borderline, and go hug your mother.