'Honestly, you'll get nowhere in life if you don't get over it' and other lies...
You can literally google the term ‘comfort zone’ and the first few search results will be articles from motivational sites and blogs titled things like ‘Your comfort zone is holding you back’, ‘Why stepping out of your comfort zone is a must if you want more satisfying lifestyles/relationships/jobs!’, and ‘You need to push out of your comfort zone immediately if you want to live a life that’s a fraction more invigorating than painfully stagnant. The prospect of stepping outside your comfort zone promises an abundance of growth, opportunity, and self-awareness. But… is that really what it’s all set up to be?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that those things don’t lie beyond your comfort zone, they are, but they aren’t exclusive to it, they’re also sat there with you.
Don’t escape your comfort zone, expand it. Use it as a space to breathe and to feel and to grow, by your own means.
As cliché as the term might be, life truly is short. Pushing yourself through discomfort and pressure for the sake of being ‘successful’ or ‘happy’ by today’s standards (and not your own) and in the eyes of other people seems like a pretty miserable way to spend it. And by ‘today’s standards’, I mean feeling the pressure to go to university, to go travelling, getting a top-end job that serves your ego more than your happiness, having 2.5 children, a partner, and a dog before your 30, living by yourself, living for the weekend, running on caffeine, and spending 90 minutes on a bus or tube every day to feel like part of the rat race because that’s what everyone else does.
Before pushing yourself, you need to ask yourself, ‘will doing so add value to my life’, and ‘do I really want to do this, or am I doing it because I feel expected to?’. It’s a real Marie-Kondo-esque ‘does this spark joy’ type of assessment. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing – tailor your life and your comfort zone to the needs of you as your own person.
If you enjoy pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, then power to ya, sister! That’s certainly a quality to cherish and to harness in your everyday life as long as it serves you. But understand that your CZ isn’t a bad place to be, it’s not somewhere to run from. I’ve spoken to so many people who haven’t gone for a job they wanted to, decided not to go to university, or haven’t gone for something that they feel expected to by their peers, family, teachers, or society in general, and have regretted it – not because they wish they had done the opposite, but because they feel like a failure or an underachiever in the eyes of others.
In her book, The Unspeakable, and Other Subjects of Discussion, Meghan Daum writes that ‘The key to contentment is to live life to the fullest within the confines of your comfort zone […] Stay in safe waters but plunge as deeply into them as possible. If you’re good at something, do it a lot’.
Is there really any wonder why we, as human beings, are experiencing more anxiety and stress in our everyday lives now more than ever, when we’re taught that being ‘comfortable’ is negative, lazy, or unambitious? We’re constantly hounded with targets at work, needing to reach milestones before we’re a certain age, and trying to make out like we’re all go-getters, goal-achievers, and CEO’s in the making.
The idea that your comfort zone is a dangerous and monotonous place to be has been born out of a society that is constantly (and exhaustingly) striving for more, to experience the extremes of life in order to fulfil a need to be more. How many times do we have to be told that success and happiness are journeys to be experienced and not end game? Happiness isn’t a conquest.