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Comfort Zones Are Not Comfortable

Bring meaning to life


by Frances McGonigle, 13 May 2022





It's commonly acknowledged that pushing the boundaries of our comfort zones is a good thing, because new experiences engender growth, learning and change. In a comfort zone, there might be status quo, familiarity and a perceived sense of security, but it's not necessarily true that we're laid back and coping, in some snug, personal space of our own. We may be struggling with fear or low confidence, in a difficult relationship, or conditioned to believe that this is all that life holds. It's the same when lethargy or fatigue prevent action, because these are symptoms of a wellbeing imbalance. In this state of mind, doubt resides, and no energy is expended on growth. But, they’re called comfort zones for a reason, because it can be easier to do nothing, to hide, or ignore rather than face a challenge, dilemma or change. Reframing how we see life and how we value our own is a step away from the limited habits of old. But first, we need to want to change, recognising that there's something better out there, even if we can't yet visualise what that is.  


It should be noted that there's a difference between being 'in the zone' - referring to a Zen-like focus with an ability to accept things and move on - and being trapped within the invisible walls of a limited state of mind. 


Whether sitting on a couch, the fence or your laurels, there are pros and cons to moving out of your comfort zone. Perhaps the future seems daunting, or starting something new or starting again is beyond your means or how you see your abilities. It can take an appropriate role model, an unexpected occurrence, a wake-up call or rock-bottom feeling that things can't go on, with an urge one day when you wake up that now is a good time for change. Take your time, take a walk, mull things over, and reframe that old mindset to apply to the present. Trust your intuition as much as you can, remembering that negative thoughts are your ego, so a symptom of an unrealised self. Also use your creative imagination to come up with ideas, thinking outside the box of your comfort zone and the limited scope of its boundaries. Remember also that if early humans hadn't thought 'outside the cave', we may never have progressed and evolved. We easily forget what incredible beings we are, what we've accomplished and the positive things we can do. So, don't say "One day" to your dreams any longer or to that nagging discontentment inside.


Nurture the life that your true self demands and do it for you, not for anyone else.


Asserting yourself... to your Self… can be hard, especially if you've spent years pleasing others or putting yourself last. Wanting to belong and keep in with the 'pack' is part and parcel of how we're socially conditioned, but awareness of where our traits, beliefs and feelings originate can help us move on from the ones holding us back. Ask simple questions of yourself each time a block or trigger comes up, such as "Did my caregivers instil this belief?" or "Is this really me or to please someone else?". In other words, can the perspective you've been holding onto be changed? Did someone else plant the seed that grew into a tree with gnarly branches and no flowers or fruit? Did they cut into your roots, so that you felt unsupported and stopped supporting and nurturing yourself? Rather than allowing the past to continually influence the present, you might start to recognise that life is a test. Willing to learn and then sit the exams, you are free until the next one presents.


Dr Dain Heer's "How can it get better than this?", is  another great question to ask when a challenge comes up. A new life may be out there, which is more purposeful and rewarding, although not necessarily the one we've been conditioned to seek. But, life is determined by choices and one simple change can reap huge rewards. Like in the film 'Sliding Doors', chance encounters and choices lead to awareness, opportunities, even love. And in 'The Truman Show', also, all the world is a stage: inauthentic, until the true self breaks free of the mold. 


Breaking the ties of fear and conditioning


It was never in my own nature to speak up, despite having ideas and questions to ask. Coming to my own defence was additionally hard. But, upon reaching the understanding that my beliefs were conditioned, the veil of uncertainty fell. How we label ourselves, as shy, incapable, less good, etc., and how we prefer to be seen, as modest, easy-going, a victim… reflects poor experiences in past relationships. Being prevented from expressing ourselves or put down as children, for example, can lead to a lack of trust and the suppression of our true selves for years or even for the rest of our lives. What we then think is our nature, may actually have been nurtured (socially conditioned), so isn't the real us at all. Not to blame parents, siblings, peers, teachers, partners, colleagues... however, because we're all involved in the unconscious passing on of what was given to us. Philip Larkin, the poet, had it right when he said that our parents "f" us up without realising, and that "man's inhumanity to man" runs wide and deep. For this reason, if we self-question, we might be surprised to discover that we've been playing a part, as well as our own part in things. 


Know why you would want to break free


What's the key motivation (yours alone) for change, weighed up against the factors against leaving your comfort zone? Visualise what life could look like, trying to be as positive as possible, to encourage a greater chance of success. But, also have more than one option (being ready for different eventualities reduces stress). Then think of ways of getting there, the driving force that will transport you from the A to the B of your dreams. Next, make a decision, starting with one tiny step to commence the momentum, when you feel time is right. If other people are involved, then things are more complex, of course, (having to manage their fears with your own). Be clear, fair and open, unless making ready to have something positive to show, or you're in fear for your life or wellbeing. All of us are capable of adapting to change, particularly to outcomes that are good in the long run, so, under normal circumstances, refrain from using others as an excuse, if you know in your heart that things have to change. Be confident and believe in your choices, because you only have one shot at life. Courage, humour, imagination and enthusiasm are helpful, but also go easy on yourself and others in the process, building up gently to change, if you can.


If you don't know where to go or feel frightened or trapped, then it could be time to seek help. Confide in someone you trust, who won't judge: a good listener, with ample experience in life. If you're alone, there are support lines to help you: 


Samaritans: phone: 116123, email: jo@samaritans.org

Spiritual Crisis Network: https://spiritualcrisisnetwork.uk/


Or contact your local Council or Citizens Advice for services, assistance or guidance. 

A conversation with the right person could change your whole life.


Tools: Be okay with making time for self-love and self-care, recognising that it's not selfish or vain to want to be the best you that you can; practise speaking your truth (in words and behaviour), working on one small thing at a time (e.g. speak up in a group, raise your hand, read from notes, take a stand for the things you believe in); join a club or a course at your particular level, to feel supported by like-minded peers; force yourself to confront a fear on a regular basis (not a danger, but a personal challenge), then shake off setbacks, learn and retry once again.


The more we do things, the more we program the brain, which works in both negative and positive directions. The brain is hardwired by repetitive behaviours, such as when we learn a language, or continually say "Tomorrow" or "I can't". Our actions are also part of a great matrix of influence, of unconscious cause and effect. Awareness is key here, to see the bigger picture at work, and see that things we once feared can turn out differently, with a different set of 'cause and effects'.


In the end, what is meant for you will keep calling and nagging until you step out of your comfort zone into a more purposeful space, embarking upon your next life adventure, as though from darkness, so the real you can emerge.


(c) Frances McGonigle, May 2022

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