Being comfortable with being uncomfortable*

*Titled borrowed from TED Talk Get comfortable with being uncomfortable by Nigerian author/speaker Luvvie Ajayi, although the talk is not completely related to this reflection.

Were I an inanimate object, I bet I’d make a great label maker. The fact that a personal hand-held label maker is on my all-time wish list certainly doesn’t alleviate the comicality.

I suppose when you are a first child, being organised and self-dependent comes intrinsically. I delve into the categorisation of all things. An alphabetically arranged bookshelf speaks to me on a spiritual level, a computer drive systematically divided into folders and files during my entire university studies is my epitome of having my life together, and a comprehensive master checklist of meticulously titled mini-checklists for a long trip excites me more than the prospects of the journey itself.

The flip side to such an organised mindset is that I grew up almost always confused about people. I had assumed, from reading literary descriptions of characters in my favourite books, that you should be able to sum a person up in only a few choice words, and to do that to yourself also. Not that I like putting people into boxes, it’s just that I needed to pinpoint the characteristics of every person I come by.

I ended up getting uncomfortable all the time, since the moment I thought I’d had someone laid out, they’d show another, sometimes shocking, facet in their personality. So, psychometric tests (personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators), to me, were a pat on my back for when I’m unsure of my authentic self or can’t ‘read’ a person.

Comfort Zone, a genius comic by Sarah Anderson at Sarah’s Scribbles

Still, I had some tingling sense that these tests are the horoscope of professionalism and workplace culture and the team-building hype. I looked up people labelled INFJ like myself and wondered why we all seemed so unlike each other, sometimes so different that we cannot possibly be put into the same box no matter which tests we take.

For a small task at uni, we were requested to each ask three people—one family member, one close friend, and one colleague/fellow student—for a word they thought best describe us. All three people I asked gave me more than one word. Each of them said it was too hard to pick just one single word to encapsulate the entire me. I myself struggled no less. I initially thought the one word I’d give myself was organised. But through a ‘small step exercise’, recalling small choices I made that reflect one value I uphold, I saw I was wrong about myself. What I truly value is courage.

“Face your fears, and they’ll disappear”—me to myself on a daily basis.

That little mantra is what I live by. Through pushing myself out of my comfort zone, a bit every day, I’ve learnt to appreciate the discomfort of the awareness that no two people are the same, that I could dig as deep as I want to, yet would not be able to know a person entirely. For now, I understand that is because we human beings are not to be categorised. We are diverse, and novel, and that is why we should see each other as mesmerising constellations of interwoven stories.

Mia (Minh-Anh)


Anderson, S 2018, Comfort Zone, comic, Sarah’s Scribbles, viewed 30 July 2018, <>.

Author: Minh-Anh Mia Do

book-smart and sugar-addicted || the written word & all things linguistics || email:

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