Back in the early 1800’s, a French sociologist came to America and wrote a paper called, “Democracy in America,” where he contents American “minds are universally preoccupied with meeting the body’s every need and attending to life’s little comforts.” I learned about this paper through a very interesting Boston Globe article which continues to explore the idea of American’s need for comfort. The article talks about how “The frontier spirit may be part of the national psyche, but Americans are still lounging in “athleisure” outfits and choosing vehicles for their cupholders.” This well-written article asks what the end game of the search for comfort is. What happens when we can’t handle a modicum of discomfort? When life happens, do we have the tools to handle adversity? And, as I have noticed, when we don’t first learn from a lesson, they become harder and hard. Therefore, as we cling to comfort, will life get harder and harder until we wake up?
In light of this article, my question is what is the price of comfort? What are we losing as individuals by not allowing ourselves to experience the difficult parts of life? Are losing the chance to grow because we never step outside our comfort zone? Are we losing our sense of self and personal power because we can’t handle a little adversity?
I read this Boston Globe article months before my recent visit to the States. In the States, I was surrounded by comfort I have not experience in over a year, and I’m not going to lie, I really enjoyed taking a long hot shower without the worry of running out of water. But viewing all the advertisements about comfort and seeing those around me constantly obsessed with having zero discomfort was a bit unnerving. Is it really an inconvenience to drive one extra block to buy overpriced coffee? Can we not change our eating habits so we don’t need twenty medications to deal with an upset stomach? What does it solve to honk your horn when traffic is backed up for miles?
Mexico has been a great educator in dealing with discomfort. City water may not be delivered for weeks. Grocery stores often do not have the fresh vegetable for which I was looking. Brand-name products I have used for years can not be found. Mail arrives weekly and needs to be picked up elsewhere instead of being delivered daily to our home. These are not major things, except maybe the water, yet I notice a lot of sunbirds who find these inconveniences debilitating. To them it is a catastrophe. To Mexicans and those who have learned to accept, it is just a way of life.
What I notice most about those who can not handle discomfort is their anger, fear, and desire to blame. Whether they are living in the vacation paradise of Cabo San Lucas or the comfort at every corner convenience of the United States, so many people can’t enjoy any of it because they are consumed by dissatisfaction. I honestly worry about how many are headed toward heart attacks or are simply not enjoying life because their comfort is disrupted. The article also poses that those seeking comfort has led to loneliness, anxiety, and an inability to accept responsibility. As we become more comfortable, we become less accountable, less happy, less connected, and less empowered.
I recently wrote a post about choosing to get out of my comfort zone and how the act actually empowered me to do things I never would have believed possible. Getting out of my comfort zone in little ways helps me to face new fears with strength and courage. Outside my comfort zone I take responsibility for my life, my words, my actions, and my happiness. I don’t need a truffle and avocado mac ‘n cheese to make me feel good. I make myself feel good by not staying complacent.
What comfort are you clinging to? How do you face adversity? What is the price of being constantly comfortable? How are you stifling yourself by not facing what is hard? How is being too comfortable right now going to affect how you handle life’s challenges in the future?