The comfort zone – less about comfort, more about fear
“Get out of your comfort zone” is a phrase all of us have been told at one point or another. But what is the comfort zone and why staying in it is so bad?
Staying in your comfort zone means you are not being challenged. It is the place where your abilities are not being tested, where the outcome is predictable and there is no emotional strain or stress.
In other words – the comfort zone is where you experience no anxiety and no fear. Avoiding anxiety and fear is what is keeping you in your comfort zone.
Doing something that is outside of your comfort zone leads to uncomfortable levels of uncertainty. The fear of failure, pain, distress or discomfort is what is keeping you in your comfort zone.
Staying in your comfort zone
Comfort zone is about avoiding discomfort and anxiety. It is where you feel safe and in control. This increases your confidence, encourages composure and calm.
The comfort zone seems like the best place to be. That is if you want to stay right where you are. If you have no desire to move forward, to grow and achieve anything better in life.
Stepping out of your comfort zone
Stepping outside your comfort zone leads to accumulating new experiences. This expands your knowledge, making you better equipped to handle those experiences the next time you encounter them.
The more you expose yourself to the experience, the more familiar you become with it. Your confidence grows and you become comfortable with that experience.
Suddenly you realise you are no longer anxious about it. You have extended your comfort zone.
Pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone is how you grow.
How to comfortably step out of your comfort zone
- Acknowledge the fear
Physiologically, there’s no difference between anxiety and excitement (Smith, Bradley, & Lang, 2005). Both are just a ‘stress response,’ but whether it is perceived as positive or negative is a matter of attitude.
Fear of the unknown is just a physiological response, whose goal is to keep you safe. Recognize your anxiety and remind yourself that you are not in danger.
- Do not overthink
Playing out various scenarios in your mind in which you fail in numerous ways does nothing for you but increase the fear and anxiety. Silence the self-sabotaging mental chatter. From “who do you think you are?” to “you are too old/young/whatever”.
Breath deeply, silence the wild spiral of over-thinking and just do it.
Practise taking on small challenges that make you get used to the feelings of discomfort. Become familiar with the anxiety that is linked to stepping out of your comfort zone. The more accustomed you get to it, the less you will fear it.
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