September 11, 2020

A Pinch of Discomfort is Good: 3 Life Lessons from a Hermit Crab.

We all know the story of the hermit crab and his shell, right?  

Hermit crabs reside full-time in discarded seashells, bouncing from one to another as they outgrow their found abodes. When the hermit crab leaves its shell due to its noticeable growth, it is exceptionally vulnerable. The longer the crab is without a shell, the more opportunity for it to be harmed in its vulnerable state.

The crab often perseveres, nonetheless, and finds a new shell that fits its growth; it becomes safe and comfortable yet again. 

I just recently transitioned to working from home. I went to my office daily throughout the pandemic and performed my duties as a Peer Support Specialist. My job entailed meeting individuals where they were and supporting them through tough life decisions.

When we are limited to only phone and video interactions, this support becomes less effective. Many of my peers stopped calling. Many of the peers who used and abused our services called more. Supervisors disappeared, and I found myself unable to cope with the stressors of my job any longer.  

I began to lack empathy. I began to feel irritated and frustrated when on the phone with individuals. My tone of voice shifted from soft and friendly to blunt and disconnected. I had lost my professional edge.

Was I no longer able to perform this job? It had been a dream for me, and I was devastated at the way my mental state was curbing my enthusiasm for it.  

But I took a look at those adaptable little hermit crabs, and reminded myself:

As a hermit crab grows, they outgrow their shell.

They are forced to leave their “cocoon.”

I left my coveted position and accepted a position at home with the Department of Mental Health. This is where I currently spend my workdays—in the comfort of my home office, in the comfort of various pajamas. But I still felt less than. My mind was still cloudy, and I was unable to fully relax most days. I lived in a constant state of high anxiety 

When the hermit crab leaves its shell, it is exceptionally vulnerable.

And so, I did the only thing I know to do when I’m in that state. I began to write.  

I have been writing my entire life, but never for more than fun and personal expression. It was beaten into me as a child that writing was a hobby, not a job. Whether parents or partners, I have always been told writing isn’t more than something one does in their spare time. It can’t possibly sustain an individual financially while also providing them with the skills they need to stay successful.  

People suck sometimes, I think a professional of sorts said this once or twice.  

So, the last few months have consisted of me beginning to spread my wings in the writing world. Every spare moment I have, at home and on the clock, I have spent pouring out my heart and soul like an overfilled cup. Each time an idea came about, I dripped just a bit more liquid on the pages.  

And then all my writing became best-sellers and I lived happily ever after.

Just kidding.

The longer a crab is without a shell, the more opportunity there is for it to be harmed. 

I began to share my writing with various websites and publications. These were stories of my experiences, knowledge I felt I needed to share and points of view I was sure no one else had heard of.  

Denied. Denied. Denied 

I spent weeks combing through emails of individuals who politely told me my writing was sh*t. The content was there, but my technical skills were not up to par. The content was too personal, or not personal enough, didn’t flow, had inconsistent sentences and phrases, etcetera.  

I wanted to crawl back into my proverbial shell but, much like the crab, that shell no longer fit.  

The crab perseveres.

I decided to not run from the criticism. Instead, I listened and learned and grew.

I began editing my writing at a slower pace. I started writing for my audience, and not myself, while also putting my own personal tone and voice in my piecesI found a niche for myself. I began writing only about topics that burned inside me with passion and fury. My writing began to write itself.  

The newfound shell, after all the discomfort and vulnerability of leaving the old, fits the crab’s new growth.

Last week I accepted my first formal writing offer. I became the author of a reputable blog involving topics that my own personal experience can feed off of. After six months of opening my mind and eyes to the idea of becoming a writer full-time, I have achieved a small piece of this dream.  

Three additional growth-centered lessons that I learned from the hermit crab:

1. It will not begin until you are good and uncomfortable.

We seem to try so hard to put ourselves in situations where we are comfortable. If we only stay within the realm of comfortability, we will never grow into the beings we strive to be. We need that poke of discomfort in order to take the leap into the unknown.

2. Growth is painful.

While it is admirable to take the leap into risk and begin growing, do not do so thinking you will go from uncomfortable to comfortable based on that decision.

Expanding our minds and lives is messy, painful, saddening, and uncomfortable. It is also eye-opening, breathtaking, soul-shaking, and worth it. To grow means we need to shed our past selves and open our hearts to new beginnings. The good, the bad, the ugly—never being discriminate against the new beginnings that come our way.  

3. Growth looks different for everyone.

Every shell is unique, and so are we; don’t compare yourself.

Remember as you are growing that your growth is all yours. It can’t be compared to those on social media or on the street.

If you are making strides toward something that fills your heart with joy, you won’t find a comparison to that online.  

While I am not fully moved into my new shell, I am testing it out for comfortability, and am happy thus far with the results.

I hope you crawl out of that shell you have outgrown and venture out to find your own new, shiny shell.

What does your transformation look like? 


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