“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.” ~Voltaire
“Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer.” ~Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
So here’s the truth about comfort zones: They’re usually not all that comfortable.
More than anything, comfort zones are about familiarity. And we have this tendency to confuse what’s familiar with what’s comfortable, not stopping to ask ourselves if this thought we’re used to having or this habit we’re used to perpetuating or this place we’re used to being is bringing us any amount of actual comfort.
Throughout my 20s, my comfort zone was wall-papered in projected infallibility and complete emotional independence and the desire to never show weakness and the belief that I had to do everything myself always and perfectly, amen.
And it was littered with sadness and the belief that I was less-than and the sense that I would perpetually exist on the fringes of legitimate success – in work, in love, in life as a whole.
And while I’ve spent much of the past few years working tirelessly to let go of my need to be flawless and totally on my own, learning how to believe I am worthy and capable of achieving success in all aspects of life, I will fully admit to occasionally falling back into old habits.
Because perfection-seeking and feeling inferior and refusing to reach out might not be particularly comfortable – or comforting – but they are still totally familiar and seemingly safe ways to cope.
For me, at least.
And sometimes it seems as though their pull gets stronger in direct proportion to how far away from them I am able to travel.
Because doing things differently than you have always done them is difficult. And it requires you to shift your frame of reference, to get comfortable with uncertainty, and to embrace the unfamiliar.
None of which are easy tasks to accomplish. And all of which require ongoing effort.
One thing I’ve learned about my own comfort zone is this: It’s just an excuse to stay small.
Because telling yourself you’re not capable or worthy of love or professional success or sustained physical and emotional health lets you off the hook in a variety of ways. And gives you plenty of reasons to stay exactly where you are already.
And come on. You can do better than that.
We all can.
I had this post planned with a lovely story about how I was riding high at the beginning of last week and work was going well and I met a man I really liked for the first time in what feels like forever and I was happy and excited and optimistic about everything and then I couldn’t handle the goodness and fell deep down into my comfort/not-comfort zone and spent the better part of four days in bed with so much sadness and doubt and fear, and also an awful virus that had me barely surviving on a diet of sleep, cold water, and copious application of ice packs.
But here’s the thing, you guys. That story doesn’t really matter. Because, truthfully, it’s kind of boring.
What isn’t boring? Doing things that scare the shit out of you.
Things that maybe make your palms sweat or your heart race a tiny bit faster or maybe just maybe have you actually peeing your pants a little bit with excitement and terror.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” That Eleanor Roosevelt was a smart, smart lady.
What’s uncomfortable at first becomes more comfortable with practice and repetition. And the more you embrace the discomfort, well, the better.
Because that’s how really awesome and unexpected and life-altering things happen.
Or really fun things, if all else fails.
And also, some things will just never not be uncomfortable, will never not push your boundaries, will never not leave you anxious and fearful and doubtful and petrified. The trick is to do them anyway.
So, what did you do today that scared you?
I’m seriously asking. And I’d love you to leave your answer in the comments – either here or on the Facebook. Because hearing how other people scare themselves in the best of ways with their bravery is a pretty inspiring thing, indeed.
Also, the thing that scared you can be small. Like super small. I mean, my brave thing Tuesday was sending a text message to a boy I like. In the grand scheme of things? Not that scary. In my mind and body while I did it? Effing terrifying.
Because you can be almost 32 years old and still get nervous about letting a boy know you like him, right?
Oh, hi there, vulnerability.
Sigh. Life is so funny sometimes.