A little comfort never hurt anyone
If something feels easy to us it’s said that means we’re in a comfort zone, and when things feel tough we’re approaching the edge, our limits.
We’re bombarded with a lot of stuff (particularly online) about getting out of comfort zones, in psychology, self-improvement, fitness, work, relationships, that somehow that’s what we need to keep doing in order to achieve, be successful, live a full life and be happy. It’s almost as though comfort zones get a bad rep. That they’re no good for us, something we need to constantly escape from or avoid.
I’m all for pushing myself, stepping out of my comfort zones, because I know from experience that is a big part of how we grow and get to know ourselves as humans. By taking chances, being vulnerable, embracing change, pushing our limits, facing our fears etc.
That’s all well and good, but our comfort zones are just as important to step into as stepping out of them is.
A lot of growth, recognition of our achievements, self-care, fulfilment and inner strength happens in those places. When our minds can relax. I don’t buy into the idea that we should always be pushing, always ignoring our inner voice and powering through pain and mental barriers. There’s a time and place for that of course, and that pain is growth in action. But to believe that rest, breaks, peace and comfort means we’re not growing, not living, not doing enough. That they’re weakness, failure or invaluable to us adds unnecessary pressure and the potential to disconnect us from self, emphasising our feelings of not being or doing enough. Making it easy to miss the fact that we are.
I’m of the church that it’s part of the same thing – personal development. The gaps (or comfort zone) in-between our extended, more obvious physical or mental effort in motivation, actioning, positive thinking, doing well at stuff is actually what prevents burnout, protects us, heals pain, processes our day to day emotions, opinions and experiences in life, re-charges and re-centres our ‘self’. Forming a major part of ‘doing well at stuff’. Without those in-between moments we can easily be distracted from what’s actually important to us; self-care, loved ones, our true passions.
Without those moments of calm, without times of rest, switching-off from whatever it is we’re striving for in our day to day lives whether thats work, relationships, beating our personal best, trying to resolve problems, trying to figure out what to do, getting that promotion, battling self-doubt, anxiety or any other challenges we face. Without our comfort zone to fall back on we actually just become robotic in our pursuit of what’s deemed to be ‘what we need’ without really knowing what that need actually is. Comfort zones allow us the time we need to reflect on what that is.
What we all need is balance. To know when to push and when to take comfort, rest up and recharge.
‘It’s easier said than done’. Something we hear all the time, usually when describing something that seems out of reach, outside of our comfort zone. It’s these things we put so much importance on, give so much weight to in our idea of what we need to do, who we need to be. But why? Why do I think that way when I do? How much of that is actually me and how much of it is my environment telling me what’s right for me, what I need to do to be better. To be happy and fulfilled.
The cold hard reality is that everything is easier said than done if we’re not already doing it. That’s obvious and inevitable. All it really means is that we see in others what we think we want or need for ourselves. Who we want to be. In a way this is a complete detachment from self. Filling a void. Something being driven by dissatisfaction, a way of harming the image we have of ourselves. The more we feel the need to aspire to be something, the more we push, the more we focus on what others are doing, on what others have, the more we lose a bit of ourselves. It amplifies those harmful voices in our heads, blinds us of our own self-worth, of understanding who we are and makes us feel like we’re not enough. When in actual fact we’re fucking awesome.
Failure is rarely a physical outcome, but rather a perceived one. We perceive failure. It’s this perception that creates so much hardship for us, breeds self-doubt. It’s why there are so many self-help gurus out there. I’m not knocking self-help gurus by the way, not all of them, the ones who constantly post “quotes” that someone else has said (more often than not hundreds of years ago), or pointing out the obvious stuff we already know, they’re a waste of time, it’s not helpful, if anything it just pulls on our self-doubt and reminds us of how shit we feel – the opposite desired affect of ‘self-help’ and path to inner peace. Which self-help is actually all about and what we all secretly want.
For me, a large part of that road to inner peace lies in our comfort zone, that space and time we give ourselves to pause, rest, feel comfortable, feel calm, switch-off and reflect. This place we’re made to feel is bad for us. It’s here we have the opportunity to truly get to know ourselves. It’s here where we feel good about what we achieved that day, how we went that extra mile, both literally and figuratively. How we pushed ourselves. Where we take care of ourselves. It’s here we truly get to know who we are and feel proud of ourselves. It’s here where we care about and look after ourselves. Which is something only we know how to do. So why listen to how others tell us to do that? Why buy-in to the abandonment of comfort zones so readily?
It’s a strange thought that popped in my head this one. Because I’m all for pushing self, I do that in many ways, more emotionally than physically because I have no desire to be a beef cake or be consumed by fitness regimes. That’s just me. But I’m also an advocate of chill the fuck out, let go, have some fun, eat that block of cheese, don’t take everything so seriously ya know. Be happy with what you’ve got, who you are. It’s when I find myself thinking differently to this that things go a bit mental.
It often feels like the pursuit of better is often the creator of many of the things we perceive negatively about ourselves. What takes us away from actually knowing who we are, accepting who we are, living as who we are, even liking who we are. Perhaps it’s avoidance, perhaps we avoid resting, doing nothing, because in our downtime is where we hear those intrusive self-doubting thoughts more than ever, and actually the pursuit, the ‘doing’ is a way for us to escape facing those things. And in fact it’s that avoidance that holds us back.
Whether it’s outside influence in the likes of media, magazines, celebrity, other peoples opinions or the inside influence of past experiences and self-doubt weighted around our necks. It seems that we’re told one way or another to get out of our comfort zone if we want to be a better person, improve ourselves. The difficulty comes because there is some truth in that, we shouldn’t rest on past glories, we should challenge ourselves and continue learning. But it’s not the complete picture.
To rest, do nothing, to not give in to the peer pressures of society or our own demons and feel no guilt in doing so is where we can do a lot of growth too, in really getting to know ourselves. So there’s power in comfort zones, they’re not a bad thing, something to constantly try and escape from. They’re less about safety, more about self-care and the route to inner peace, self-actualisation and happiness. Where our dreams are born and contentment blossoms.
So take some time. Feel no shame or guilt for pressing pause on the grind of life. For feeling comfortable for a while. For saying no not today, but perhaps, yes to tomorrow.
Just try not to leave ‘yes to tomorrow’ for too long. Tomorrow comes and goes, being comfortable is great, but stay there too long and that’s when things get harder, when we stop moving forward, when dissatisfaction and self-doubt sets in. The best advice in many cases is ‘little and often’, it’s rarely about the bigger picture of our lives, our job, relationships, our home, our lifestyle…sometimes it is, sometimes a big change is what we need, but more often than not it’s just about tiny little tweaks, readjusting our balance, pausing, taking a step back to analyse rather than taking on or changing the world. Reconnecting with and being grateful for ourselves.
It’s about being present. Sometimes that means pushing, sometimes it means pausing. But it’s always about the here and now, not the past or the future.
We all have our comfort zones, they’re there for very good reason, for me it’s about resisting the idea that they’re a bad thing. That is so often the narrative we find externally and internally.
A little comfort never hurt anyone.