When Your Comfort Zone Becomes Your Dead Zone

Nov 01, 2016

Life Self-Improvement Fear Self-Awareness
woman standing on top of rock near a lake

I want so badly to tell you a more interesting story, but for now, all I have is the one of a girl who is terrified to step outside her comfort zone and yet at the same time, is desperately longing to.

See, I know a thing or two about comfort zones. Actually I know too much. More than I’d like to admit. I could lie and call myself a late bloomer, but when I force myself to face the truth, it comes down to this — I have not stepped outside of my comfort zone. And I am learning the hard way what the consequences of inaction are.

There is a point at which it’s no longer about fearing risk and pain. It becomes an ingrained habit. When you spend as long as I have in the comfort zones of your life, something begins to rot from the inside out. The stench of stagnation begins to expose itself wherever you go. This is when your comfort zone has descended into a dead zone, full of corroded dreams, rotting possibilities, and potential that has gone rancid. Whatever talents were laying dormant, waiting for the right time and place to manifest, have withered. This is no place to live from. No seed will flourish here.

What is it that pushes people outside their comfort zones, aside from being forced to for whatever reason? I think ultimately it comes down to this — we fear staying the same more than changing. Staying the same, staying inside our comfort zones, begins to feel foreign, and contrived. We no longer recognize ourselves, knowing the “real” me is somewhere outside of this. What once protected us begins to constrict us. What once was meant to shelter us has now endangered our growth.

Martha Beck puts it beautifully in this oprah.com post:

Little by little, you’ll feel and see that the worst consequences of living in the light are less oppressive than the best advantages of hiding in the shadows.

The universe is indifferent to our fear of expansion. It continually pushes us in the direction of growth, whether we ask for it or not. 

Comfort zones essentially only serve one purpose — to show us where we need to stretch ourselves.

At the periphery of the shells we hide inside lies the beginning of our evolution. There is an invitation waiting at the fringe of my comfort zone and yours that summons us into an unrestrained way of life, free from the burden of resistance and angst. All we have to do is accept it and step out in courage, daring to go where we have not gone before.

I cannot tell you I have done this and succeeded. There are miles upon miles of uncharted territory I have not stepped on. But I have known the pain of letting fear break you. I have tasted the bitterness of regret with every opportunity I passed by to choose growth over comfort. We must honor where we are in our journey. But we must also charge toward the things that will push us into uncomfortable places. Or else we risk not living up to our full potential and seeing what we are capable of.

As scary as it is to be with discomfort, isn’t that where all the interesting stories are born?