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Unsafe vs. Uncomfortable: Understanding the Difference

Do you ever feel uncomfortable in new social situations, during difficult conversations, or in moments of vulnerability? You’re not alone. Our brains are wired to react emotionally when we feel uncomfortable, often triggering our defensive processes and making us feel like we’re in danger.

But what if I told you that discomfort can actually lead to growth, if you know how to tolerate it?

I’m Caroline King, a therapist at Silver River Counseling, and in this article we’ll talk about understanding the difference between feeling unsafe and feeling uncomfortable.

Oftentimes, our brains mistake the two, leading to unnecessary emotional reactions.

Feeling unsafe means that you are in real danger and need to protect yourself.

Feeling uncomfortable, on the other hand, is a sign that you are stepping outside of your comfort zone and can be a catalyst for growth.

So, how can you tell the difference between feeling unsafe and feeling uncomfortable? Rather than reacting quickly, check in with yourself and ask if you are truly in danger.

If you are, then it’s important to let your defensive processes kick in and protect yourself. But if you’re just uncomfortable, it’s time to lean in, think critically, and evolve.

Discomfort is a sign that you’re growing and challenging yourself. It’s an opportunity to learn new things and expand your horizons. But it’s important to know how to handle discomfort in a healthy way.

Some examples of uncomfortable situations worth leaning into might include taking a new class, entering a new social setting, or having a difficult conversation with someone whose beliefs do not align with your own.

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So what do you do when you’re in an uncomfortable situation? Here are seven tactics to help you overcome the discomfort of new situations:


1. Acknowledge your discomfort. Don’t try to ignore or suppress it. Recognize that it’s a sign that you’re growing and that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable.

2. Take deep breaths. Deep breathing can help calm your nervous system and reduce anxiety.

3. Practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. Remember that discomfort is a normal part of the growth process.

4. Focus on the positive. Instead of dwelling on your discomfort, focus on the positive aspects of the situation. What can you learn from it? How can you grow from it?

5. Take small steps. Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Break it down into smaller, manageable steps and take it one day at a time.

6. Seek support. Talk to someone you trust about your discomfort. Sometimes just talking about it can help alleviate some of the stress.

7. Celebrate your progress. When you overcome your discomfort and grow, celebrate your progress. Recognize the hard work you put in and be proud of yourself.

So, those are seven different tips to overcome the discomfort of new situations. I would focus on choosing one or two of these to keep in your back-pocket.

Remember, discomfort is a sign of growth. It’s an opportunity to learn new things, expand your horizons, and challenge yourself.

With the right mindset and tools, you can overcome the discomfort of new situations and come out stronger on the other side.

The next time you feel uncomfortable, remember that you’re growing and embrace the discomfort. You’ve got this!

And if you need additional support working through uncomfortable situations or you find yourself getting stuck, schedule an appointment today. We’re here to help.