The Comfort Zone. Yes, it is a proper noun. I’ve found myself thinking about this place for quite some time now.
The Comfort Zone is a wonderful place, really, despite its reputation. Without it, we would be in a constant state of stress. Yet when we think of the Comfort Zone, we are reminded of the constant pressure to “get out of it.” We are often told to leave it behind, as if it’s an unhealthy relationship.
This is not how I see it. To me, the Comfort Zone is more comparable to a cozy, steaming cup of coffee, tailored to your specific taste, on a rainy autumn day. Comforting, that’s for sure, but drink too much and you will have caffeine coursing through your veins giving you an indescribable feeling of anxiety and tiredness and the willingness to run a marathon all at the same time.
You know, a “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” sort of thing.
While the Comfort Zone is a nice place to rest, relax, recharge, and be 100% yourself, one can only stay there for so long without going a tad insane.
If you stay in the Comfort Zone for too long, you either A) get bored and start itching to leave and actually do something other than what you’re used to, or B) don’t realize you are stuck in the Comfort Zone, nor how much better life could be if you tried stepping out of it.
Someone may not want to admit or even fully realize that they are trapped in the Comfort Zone, but deep down they know it’s true and we’ve all been there. The jealousy that arises when looking at someone who took a risk and succeeded. The envious feeling we get when watching someone do something incredibly brave, and then thinking how we could never. Leaving the Comfort Zone can range anywhere from speaking out against something to trying a new activity to simply wearing a piece of clothing that’s a little more “out there.”
The Comfort Zone is not a “one size fits all.” It’s highly unique to the individual, and each has the power to control the size of their comfort zone. While all comfort zones look different, they all have one thing in common:
They become claustrophobic over time. We need to expand them.
There is really no limit to how much one can expand their comfort zone, and it can happen at any rate. The steps taken can be of any size. In fact, there are sub-comfort zones within the one big Comfort Zone! But I won’t go there.
It all comes down to our willingness to continually step out of it.
Don’t get me wrong, leaving the Comfort Zone behind is no easy task. No one likes leaving their comfort zone. No one. It’s difficult. It’s awkward. It’s new. It’s scary. It’s risky. It feels weird. It’s uncomfortable (duh). Stepping out of the Comfort Zone is a lot of things, but most importantly, it’s a continual process.
Something I find funny about the good ‘ole Comfort Zone is that you can never truly escape it. Leave it once you’ll find yourself right back in it again. But don’t be discouraged. This is not because you regressed, rather because the thing that once freaked you out is now your new norm. How cool is that?!
Growth is not what causes us to step out of our comfort zone. Stepping out of our comfort zone spurs growth. We do not wait around until we feel brave enough to leave the Comfort Zone, leaving the Comfort Zone is brave in and of itself (I believe bravery is more of a choice rather than something we acquire).
I know I’m acting like I’m an expert on the Comfort Zone. I am not. These are just some of my thoughts. I have just as much trouble as the next person when it comes to leaving the Comfort Zone. The whole reason I felt compelled to write this was because I spent a whole 5 days nestled in my comfort zone while visiting my mother’s side of the family in Murska Sobota.
I had plenty of opportunities to practice speaking Slovene while I was there, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Like I mentioned earlier, I was itching to leave my comfort zone behind, but struggled immensely to do so. I felt trapped by own fears, and I still do. It’s incredibly frustrating. I am also very hard on myself and a natural born perfectionist, so you can only imagine how my self esteem was those five days (hint: not at its highest).
If only there was a way around the most difficult part of leaving the Comfort Zone, what I refer to as “the first step.” But sadly, there is not. You just have to do it. No thinking, just doing. This is hard. This will always be hard (especially if you’re an over-thinker like me). It’s a choice we have to make every day. It’s something we have to be very intentional about. And we will not always succeed, and that’s okay.
What’s important is that we don’t beat ourselves up, and try again the next day. Always keep trying, don’t become stagnant. Expanding the boundaries of your comfort zone is rewarding. One of the ways I’ve experienced this is through the very blog you are reading.
I write all this in hopes that you would be encouraged and that I myself will be encouraged to take that first step each and every day, because boy do I need it!
A piece of art that helped inspire this writing topic is titled “Outgrowing the Comfort Zone” by Kathrin Honesta if you want to check it out! (: