The real reason you are facing intellectual discomfort and how to kick it away?

Have you ever faced times when you are given tasks or assignments that at first glance look extremely difficult? When you’re aware that there is a deadline to meet but don’t even know where to start. That’s what I want to talk about – Intellectual Discomfort.


What is Intellectual discomfort?

To begin its that “Ouch!!  this looks hard” feeling.

It’s those butterflies you feel in the pit of your stomach when the boss hands you a tough sounding assignment with a tight deadline on a topic you know very little about. That feeling where your knowledge feels challenged and perhaps questioned. Some perceive it as that uncomfortable feeling like you’re being tested and evaluated by an invisible presence and leads you to feel quasi-insecure.

Why do we have it?


Sometimes, we envision what needs to be done, but are unnerved by our previous failures or of people we know that caused intellectual discomfort in the past. It stems from a latent insecurity on feeling judged by others on what output you produce or if you meet those expectations people have from you?


How to kick off Intellectual Discomfort?


What must we do to succeed when all odds are against us or at least seem like they are?  The key is to find comfort, in the discomfort. Not knowing what to do is alright. Being overwhelmed by our seeming lack of knowledge is not.


Let’s discuss some reasons on why we feel intellectually insecure and how we can get rid of it.

1. Basic lack of knowledge on the subject

In cases such as these, try and consider the task as a great learning experience. Challenge is good. You might not be able to start off with the task right away. Take some time to read up and talk to people to expand your knowledge in the given time. Understand that more often than not, the task wouldn’t be assigned to you if you weren’t thought to be capable of delivering a result.

2. High pre-written standards

The paradox of perfectionism is its ability to cause frequent procrastination. When we have extremely high standards for the quality of work or the time it must be accomplished in, we are increasingly blinded by how much we want to do that we cannot focus on how we want to go about it or even set realistic standards for the accomplishment. Check if your goals are a result of your obsessive need to be perfect or from objective targets.

3. Fear of failure

In times of stress or adversity, fearing our capacities is not uncommon. Recognize if your discomfort stems from a fear of failing at the task and take it one step at a time. Exactly when you feel like you want a break or that you’ve stretched yourself, ensure you extend the time you work at it, by just a bit. It’s a way to show your mind that you are capable of endurance. Showing yourself that you have extended what you thought you could have in the past will help you stretch your capacities in the future.

4. Pervasive sense of purposelessness

We might project the discomfort we feel on the difficulty of the task onto the pointlessness of achieving such a goal itself. Giving yourself positive affirmations and reminding yourself of why you need to complete the task can be useful. This could be a financial gain, a professional or a personal one. Think of what is at stake if you don’t learn to move through such difficult tasks.


Overall, find comfort in the discomfort. Recognize the learning it provides and the purpose it serves instead of being overwhelmed by your lack of knowledge. Feeling intellectual discomfort is normal, it’s a sign that there are many new things to be learnt. Channelize your energies into fighting this and extracting new learning. Push yourself to do things you haven’t done so far. You never know it might just lead to a new hobby, passion or calling.


I’d love to hear back on how you fight intellectual discomfort and ways that work for you. Drop in a comment below or mail me at and share your thoughts on this !

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