This post first appeared as a guest post on the Dream. Act. Inspire. blog. The original article can be found here.
Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.” – Unknown
Most of the time, we all like to play it safe. As adults, we have many ways of keeping ourselves safe. We seek out secure relationships, stable jobs, and safe homes. We pay attention to our bank accounts and seek supports for financial stability. Safety. Stability. Security. They feel good. They keep our stress levels down and our relaxation levels up. But sometimes they can tether us.
Stepping outside of our place of comfort can allow us to grow, to have new experiences, and to encounter things we’ve never known before. It can increase our anxiety and decrease our comfort, but it can also be worth it. Our comfort zone can be our foundation, our place of grounding, but it is not our place to stay forever. We must venture out to try and learn new things, meet new people, and take some risk to reap the rewards.
Secure attachment is seen when a child is able to explore on their own, but looks to their caregiver for comfort when they feel distressed or frightened. One little girl in particular stands out in my mind. We’ll call her Kara.
Kara and her mother came to my office for the initial intake session. Kara had adorable braided pigtails and was sitting as close to her mother as she could with her hand on her mother’s leg. I introduced them to my office and began to talk about what sessions might look like going forward. As I was talking, I notice Kara looking around the room. She looked at me, at her mom, and at some of the toys I have around the office. I saw one ball in particular capture Kara’s eye. Her eyes got a little wider and she stared at the ball, but she didn’t say anything. Mom and I continued talking, and Kara took her hand off of her mother’s lap.
“Kara, I noticed you looking at that ball.” I said. “Would you like to play with it?” Kara smiled sheepishly and shook her head no. As her mother and I talked, Kara looked over at me shyly, then up to her mother. She scooted off the edge of the couch and reached for the ball. She took it, then returned to sit at her mother’s feet.
This is part of secure attachment. Children need to have a source of comfort, but without venturing out, you won’t learn or experience something new. What we can take from this example is being able to venture out from our source of comfort, having people, environments, or tools that will help us to calm or soothe ourselves when we feel distressed or frightened, and then continuing to step back out into the unknown or the area of personal growth. We want to develop this pattern of secure attachment in our life.
What holds us back?
For us as adults, there are a number of things that hold us back from venturing out and taking that step into the unknown. Our need for perfection keeps us from ever writing that blog post. Being unsure of the response keeps us from asking someone out on a date. A desire to avoid conflict can keep us from telling someone how we really feel. What do all of these things have in common? Fear.
Fear is often the tether that keeps us from venturing out. The fear of failure, of rejection, of getting hurt. We shrink back into our comfort zone, unable to overcome ad push past the fear that holds us there. Is that the way you want to live? With fear holding you captive by fear? Or do you want to be free to come and go from your comfort zone as you please. Yes, there will be some discomfort while you are growing. Just like getting growing pains as a kid (ugh, those were the worst!). But its necessary, and even helpful, to endure the discomfort to get to someplace new.
20 seconds of courage
A blog post on one of the fitness websites I follow, Nerd Fitness, introduced me to the idea of 20 seconds of courage. They talked about the movie “We bought a zoo” where the main character talks about drumming up 20 seconds of insane courage. You can view the clip here. (Also, here is a spoiler of it later on in the movie).
But I think what we can take from this is pushing through that discomfort, that anxiety, that fear, for just 20 seconds. Sometimes it is the anticipation that hurts more than the actual event itself. And maybe you will fail. Maybe you will get turned down. Maybe you will get hurt. But maybe not. Maybe you will succeed. Maybe you will be able to feel the love and care of others. And isn’t that worth the risk?
So take it slowly. You can dip your toe in first. Say something in class you wouldn’t normally say. Post a blog post without editing it 10 times. Connect with just one person to talk about their business and potential referrals. Then you can retreat, soothe yourself, and press forward again.
I’d love to hear from you. What are some ways you can step out of your comfort zone today?
Erica K. Cieri, LCSW is a therapist and trainer at Made to Thrive in Williamsville, NY. She specializes in working with kids, teens and college students dealing with anxiety, behavior problems, tough relationships and difficulty managing their emotions. She collaborates with her clients to develop strategies to manage their current issues, but also to discover long term how to find peace. Erica can be reached at email@example.com.