The Comfort of Feeling Uncomfortable
Oh, comfort. It’s actually quite a versatile word. The number of things and situations it can be applied to is almost limitless: in terms of fashion (leave it to Allyn to come up with a metaphor involving sweater weather and your comfort zone), being around people, your position in life, how much of yourself you put out into the world, etc. The phrase “stepping out of your comfort zone” is so overused and cliche at this point that it’s easy to dismiss as useless rhetoric. But it’s not.
If I’m being honest, I think it’s some of the best advice a person could ever receive. Why? Because, as humans, it’s in our nature to get comfortable and stay put. Can I blame anyone for feeling that way? Absolutely not. I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. As a general example, I love to come home and immediately slip into sweats, or gym shorts, and a hoodie: more commonly referred to as “comfy clothes”, I believe. The reason for that is because I know the feeling I’m going to get as soon as I put that ensemble on: relief, relaxation, and satisfaction. Think about it, isn’t that why we develop any sort of comfort zone? It’s an area we can slip into at any time to get any combination of those three feelings. It’s a sort of safety net.
So, what happens when we’re asked to perform that high wire act without a safety net? We say, “Hell no!”, of course! The thought of taking just one step outside of a comfort zone we’ve created can be utterly terrifying. Sometimes the reality is just as terrifying, but often times, it’s not. We psych ourselves out before we can even make a move. To throw another cliche on the flames: you’ll never know if you don’t try, right?
The thing about comfort zones is that they can be awfully similar to prisons if we let them. What was once a zone created for comfort and safety, over time, can quietly transform into a cell that traps and restricts freedom. The worst part about it? We usually don’t realize it. At least not for awhile. We become so accustomed to slithering our way back to these zones that it almost becomes an instinct, and we don’t consciously think about the damage we could actually be doing.
What finally alerts our senses and breaks us from this vicious cycle? I honestly don’t know. I believe it’s probably different for everyone. Personally, I remember sitting at home one night feeling like my entire life had hit a wall. Nothing was progressing, and some areas were moving in reverse. I began picking apart all of my actions and habits in an attempt to figure out what was wrong with me. Unfortunately, there’s a lot wrong with me, BUT, I found one of the biggest culprits to be my beloved comfort zones. It broke my heart. How could these comfort zones seduce me with their promises of safety, while all along they secretly only wanted to keep me from the rest of the world?
Like the end of any lengthy, serious relationship, it was difficult to digest. I had a hard time moving on. However, my initial cravings for revenge were rather quickly overcome by rationale. This breakup was for the better, and I was beginning to understand that. While the thought of stepping outside of and moving on with life without those comfort zones was still terrifying, I was now consciously aware of how dangerous they were.
My first steps were baby steps. I had to test these new waters carefully, because I no longer had my floaties on. There were some instances where stepping into these uncharted waters resulted in disaster. For example, the first time I released music on iTunes as a solo artist. Now, I had released albums in the past when I was a member of bands, and had a decent amount of success considering our popularity at the time. Even with that experience, however, I was very hesitant and nervous to release anything as a solo artist because I didn’t have other member of a band to help promote, and overall, I just didn’t think I had enough of a following to make it worth it. Even though I wasn’t comfortable with it, I decided to release my first single, “Midnight”, after being urged by a few people that it would be worth it. I’m not going to get into specifics, but let’s just say the numbers were bad, and statistically, no one could possibly justify that it was actually worth it for me to release the song. However, I was okay with it. While I want to succeed and immediately adapt at everything I do, I was just proud of myself for breaking out of the prison I had created for myself and living life in new, exciting ways. The restraints I once wore were no longer there, and I was now free to explore the world, whether I was comfortable or not.
Related Read: Athleisure Is Here to Stay Supporting Our Comfort
Don’t get me wrong, I still love changing into my comfy clothes at lightning fast speed when I get home. Not all comfort zones are bad, but we all need take a step back once in awhile to evaluate which ones are necessary, and which ones are hindering us. Lucky for all of us, some fellow Gems were generous enough to provide with a few ways they step out of their comfort zone and/or why stepping out of your comfort zone is beneficial. Check them out below!
Katie Maynes, PR Coach:
I’m a PR & Life Coach who works with clients who are ‘spotlight shy’ nudging them into the spotlight to speak up and share their stories. This means I’m encouraging my clients daily to step out of their comfort zones so they can connect with the people who need to hear from them most – their audience.
Many of my clients don’t feel comfortable talking to the media, public speaking or doing a podcast interview due to limiting beliefs that are holding them back. These beliefs include perfectionism, the imposter syndrome and the fear of being seen. After we work through these barriers I encourage them to take a leap and put their hand up for opportunities that may come their way or search out opportunities that are on their wish list.
It has been amazing to watch the experiences that have presented themselves when they have been open to navigating their way through unchartered territory and the incredible connections that have been a consequence of this.
Like all business owners I personally know the unfathomable benefits of stepping outside my comfort zone. There is no way I would have found myself doing a job that I absolutely love if I hadn’t taken the leap at the start of this year. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing but the rocky ride has been more than worth it!
Taylor Brooke Berman, Code Love Creative:
Everybody has a desire to be seen, heard and appreciated. It’s scary to go beyond our comfort zone and truly put ourselves out into the world. There are very real fears associated with being our authentic selves. There’s the fear of not being liked. Then there’s the fear of not being successful at our attempts. Or maybe the worst fear is not even being noticed at all.
The truth is, none of these fears are real. They’re all stories we tell ourselves to protect our ego from distress. Take a moment to ask yourself what would happen if you never left your comfort zone; if you never tried that new thing or sent that email or asked for that opportunity. The real thing to be scared of is never knowing all of the amazing things that could happen if you admitted to yourself what you dream of doing.
Amanda Beilke, Life Design Coach:
What is something you would love to do even if you failed? What would be worth stepping out, taking a risk on, and going after the unknown?
Think about it for a minute, if you aren’t out there growing, you are actually dying and losing more of who you are each day! That’s a hard reality to grasp initially! But it proves a powerful point on the importance of trying new things, getting out of your comfort zone, and even failing.
We have all had the fear of failure in moments throughout our life. But what if we decided to embrace failure as simple roadblocks in our journey. Each “failure” is a sign telling us to turn or pivot into the direction we are meant to go. And if you take the time to learn and grow from each failure or risk you took, can it even be considered a failure?
What I know for sure is that if you are open and willing to step out on a limb and take a chance, you may fall, but if you are willing to learn from each of those challenges, that is the difference between succeeding and getting stuck.
Sue Henry, Coach. Speaker. Author:
I wanted to step out in a big way but my own insecurities and fears held me back. While looking through photos of Princess Diana, I thought, “What could I accomplish if I had a tiara? People would support me and cheer me on because I had the tiara, right?”. So I purchased an inexpensive tiara. I would put it on and work on my goals. I sat up taller, felt more confident, and found joy in how I could help others because I couldn’t fail… I had the tiara! It made a huge difference and allowed me to achieve many of my goals.
I’d love to hear about the comfort zones you have, or had, and why you think they work or don’t work for you! Have you ever taken the time to think about them, or has this post opened your eyes? Join the conversation in the Facebook Group and tell us all of your comfort zone thoughts!