When I told a friend I was building a puppet to use in my online courses because I felt uncomfortable in front of the camera, they asked why I’m not working on getting comfortable first. For one thing, I’m sure I will get more comfortable the more I film so whatever gets the process started—in my case, using a puppet—is great. For another thing, I don’t think that the point of developing ourselves as creatives is to be fully comfortable in our work.
Discomfort signals to us that we’re touching the edges of something new; it lets us know that we’re being stretched. What’s more, good things, inspired things, can emerge from discomfort. While I understand the benefits of being fully comfortable in ourselves as a concept, in my lived experience, a lot of amazing things have emerged because I’ve been uncomfortable with myself physically, creatively, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally.
Larger than our personal discomfort, is the discomfort that we feel because society/capitalism/the patriarchy wants to keep us in line. One of the reasons I feel so uncomfortable seeing myself on screen and in photos is because I grew up painfully aware of how my body didn’t conform to mainstream beauty standards. It took me decades to clearly see the ways that I had learned to be afraid of my body and hide it whenever possible.
So, despite our best efforts, discomfort seems to be an inevitable part of being human. The challenge then becomes skillfully sourcing discomfort for inspiration and support. In my case, my discomfort brought me back to puppet-making and puppetry. Which is wonderful. On a macro scale, my uncomfortable relationship with money gave me an opportunity to carve out a specific and much-needed niche for myself as a coach.
As a creative, I have no interest in fully erasing my existential angst, emotional volatility, and moments of self-loathing. My goal in life is not to be perfect, it’s to live an interesting life and make art about it. The greater the access we have to all of our humanness—especially the facets of ourselves that cause us discomfort—the more we have to explore in our work. The more opportunities we have to show others how it’s our shadows that bring out our light.
So, what discomfort can you source for inspiration?