Is stepping outside of your comfort zone a luxury?

3ff3f9fd5ff3e9ddcbb837c4ee803140Ah, the comfort zone. The place you are not supposed to hang out much of the time if you want to be happy, or so internet quotes and motivational articles claim. You are supposed to take risks and explore new territory, not sit at home and keep on doing the same things you’ve been doing since forever.
I feel very ambivalent towards this notion of stepping outside of your comfort zone. First, it implies that you actually have a comfort zone, meaning you live in a country where there is peace, financial security and food enough for everyone. Second, that this comfort zone has become so tedious and permanent that you now need to step outside of it or die of boredom and stagnation. Which makes the whole concept a motivational speech for spoiled people. Yes, I said it. We all need to think more about how much we have to be grateful for, because the majority of the world population wish they could be in your place, in your boring and oh-so-routine comfort zone with the I-phone and cable tv.
Not only that, but if you’ve been a victim of any kind of trauma, suffer anxiety attacks, are highly sensitive or feel profoundly unsafe in the world for whatever reason, you might actually welcome the idea of an anxiety-neutral place where you feel completely at home, where nothing changes and “where your uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized” (definition of Brené Brown). Why can’t we have that place to go to and take shelter? Why are we almost shamed into having to go outside of it and live an extraordinary life? What if I want to be ordinary and justwell, safe? What if my ordinary life is already more than I ever expected to have?

I realise it’s probably a question of how you define your comfort zone. But if we use a bit of logic here, the moment your comfort zone becomes uncomfortable, for example by staying in an abusive relationship or a job you absolutely despise because you think the unknown might be worse, is the place you are at still your comfort zone or does your comfort zone actually lie outside the life you are currently living? Surely these situations would give anyone a lot of anxiety and other painful emotions which are usually not included in the definition of what a comfort zone is.

I’m most certainly not against people challenging themselves or working hard to achieve a certain goal. But do you really need to quit your job to write that novel? Do you really have to burn all your bridges in order to start a new business? Do you really have to invest all your money and take such a big risk? You can have your passion, but not that dangerous sense of entitlement. In a world where people get cancer, die of starvation, are violently tortured, murdered, bullied and enslaved (and not because they are thinking negative thoughts) you are not owed success or an income to live on just by taking a huge risk. It might happen, yes. And if it does, good for you. But be smart and have a safety net, that seems like the most loving thing to do for yourself to me. And above all, remember that if you are safe, healthy, have enough food and clean water and a roof over your head, you are already blessed beyond measure. Never, ever forget that.


5 thoughts on “Is stepping outside of your comfort zone a luxury?

  1. Walter Esposito says:

    Nowadays, the real luxury is to have your own home, a satisfying work in line with your skills, to have someone who takes an interest in you and proves it with the facts. The real luxury is to have sincere friends, who attend you to the delight of stay by your side, and not to get something in return. The real luxury is to live a serene life, which allows you to plan for the future. The real luxury is to be yourself, preserving dignity and awareness. There can be no comfort zone without all this, an authentic luxury today. W.

  2. Sparrowgrass says:

    Your post made me think a lot.
    I would define a comfort zone as a pattern of behaviour or thought that makes you feel safer. That is why I do not see it as a luxury. Even in a hostile situation you can practice comfort zone behaviours even if they are as basic as trying not to rock the boat or only going to places you are familiar with. In a bad situation sticking in your comfort zone may save your life. We’re wired so a comfort zone will keep us alive if it can, but the downside is that way of thinking can overreact and lead people to restrict themselves unnecessarily when they’re not in a crisis.
    I guess to me the luxury is both in having a life in which you are not constantly in crisis, and also the strength of mental health to understand when it is safe to venture out of your comfort zone and act on that understanding. An agoraphobic may well understand they’re not actually likely to be harmed by leaving their house, but still be unable to make themselves go through with it.

    • Milena says:

      Hi Sparrowgrass! 🙂
      I agree with everything you said. Having a comfort zone is definitely not a luxury. I’m not against change or taking steps to overcome fear or trauma. I think that is healthy and necessary, as long as you are not shamed into doing it, because wanting to feel safe is somehow bad or boring. Healing from trauma can be quite complex, multi-layered and time-consuming and having a comfortzone to which you can return and where you can rest can be lifesaving. It’s ok to take babysteps and not have to risk everything because otherwise you wouldn’t be really living. So my post was mainly a critique of this cultural message that safety equals stagnation and that you need to take big risks in order to be happy and completely fulfilled. Perhaps for some people this is so, but life is often much more complex than that and not everyone might feel called to do that, and that is just fine. 🙂

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