What if your perceived comfort is actually the very thing that creates the discomfort in your life?
The notion of stepping 'out of your comfort zone' is nothing new - but for many making this move is often easier said than done. It feels like a safe place of walls and barriers - but it’s actually a self-made prison. I call them discomfort zones and only by finding the thresholds to go beyond, to the version of you who you will become, can you cross those barriers. It's time to burst that (over)protective 'bubble'.
Despite its name, your 'Comfort Zone' isn't necessarily a comfortable or happy place. Think about this... how many people do you know who are actually surprisingly comfortable residing in a space of intolerance, anger, or self-pity - and refuse to leave such spaces despite being miserable. Also, how about those who seek out and thrive in high stress environments.
So, why does recognising the boundaries of our comfort zones matter? Because this is the delicate space where Self-esteem grows. You see, we are not born with self-esteem, we grow it throughout our lives in a series of gains and losses through positive risk-taking.
As babies, children, and young adults we need to be nurtured - 'encouraged to grow'. We need to be encouraged to take those risks to receive the rewards of our own courage - think back to how you felt when you first managed to ride your bike, take part in a sports competition, acted on stage or nervously took a flight abroad. The 'win' is equal to the perceived risk and you learn to do something magical... trust.
It is no different for us adults - we too need peer and familial support and... opportunity to take up new positive risk-taking adventures.
When we are not actively encouraged to try, and nurtured to try again and especially for those who refuse to be nurtured at all - barriers and 'defences' go up to protect us from the hurt of failure and we end up bricked in - into a comfort zone of fear. We think the walls protect us but they simply keep us captive to our own demons.
So why do we do this? It's a psychological defence mechanism where we hold on to our comfort zones because the provide familiarity and predictability, and thus allow us to avoid anxiety. The bizarre thing is that we do this even when the familiar and predictable is truly uncomfortable - because we have a built in preference for it. Anyone who has been 'stuck' in an abusive marriage for years will tell you exactly that... they were 'stuck'. Better with the devil you know than the devil you don't, right?
So what to do... Well, it's surprisingly simple - at least on paper. Become 'un-stuck'.
The tricky bit is in finding the force is needed, and it's inertia to overcome the stuck-ness. This is why the decision to take a risk is crucial. RISK is the force that is required and the inertia is the desire for change.
Everything and everyone we love changes or leaves at some point or at many points, and so do we. From leaving a job, town, or relationship to changes of career, lifestyle, or mindset. So why stay 'stuck' expecting things to remain familiar? It may seem like the preferable familiar, the 'comfortable' discomfort but it can only lead to a growing pressure cookers of anxiety and resentment.
There is a difference between being uncomfortable and being in discomfort.
Being uncomfortable suggests we are sitting awkwardly or we are unsupported in our posture - that we need to change our position. When we are in discomfort it's a little different, it suggests that something other than ourselves is the cause - something poking at or harming us in some way. In either case it is one of the many absurdities that we seek to remain in this status quo as a form of comfort. Ironically, they both hold space for the illusion of a comfort zone, under the misdirecting guidance of 'well at least I know where I stand/sit'.
Until we learn to notice that comfort without growth is an illusion, and begin to trust in risk, we will never see what's beyond our self-imposed boundaries. It's time to recognise your own agency, get off that uncomfortable seat and become our own saviours - otherwise, we continue to be our own captors.
Psi for now Ψ
Kirsty L Allan