We start off in warm comfort. Safe and protected, with those who have promised to love and look after us, to provide for us, shielding us from danger too great for our tiny infant selves. As we grow and learn, we do so in (mainly) safe environments, with those who teach us quick to help, correct, encourage. We form opinions, we create dialogue in a safe and comfortable environment.
With age comes questions, expectations, realities we’d rather not face and some decisions we’d rather not make. We develop a space, secure and cosy, that we’re comfortable in. Four metaphorical walls that protect us, tell us that we’re safe and that anything that falls in this area we can do. A zone of things that we are sure of. A zone of comfort.
They are necessary for us to create, a benchmark for our assessment of new experiences, a sanctuary to return to, an area where you know the rules to the game and most of the players. They’re reliable, familiar.
But sometimes it is necessary to step outside of them.
Comfort zones, for all their safety and reliability, can be incredibly restrictive. In perceived safety, there is very little risk or need to adapt or grow or learn; the challenge has to be sought out, and why would you seek out an unknown? In this reluctance the ability to adjust to change is lost, almost, and the ease of turning away from the challenge, back to the security of mentally constructed walls is far more appealing.
Little instances that challenge us are good, for these walls of soft, padded comfort and security that we put up when something we’re unsure of comes knocking. Often, we forget that these walls are fairly malleable; we can mold them around experiences we’ve had, elastic runs through them to partially accommodate the new thing, try it out, snap back if we don’t like it. They’re a protectorate, but they can be flexible with their borders, sometimes even expand to include experiences we found successful.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be the smallest of things. For me, recently (and the inspiration for this post) I bought a bodysuit from missguided as a treat (to me, from me) for my first paycheck. The work the paycheck was for was also a massive step outside my comfort zone, but also something I wasn’t really given much choice about. The bodysuit was a choice, a conscious act that challenged my perceptions of myself. I posted on instagram, captioning that I was unsure whether I’d keep it or not, since it’s so far out of my comfort zone – clothes wise – would I even wear it? Everyone was supportive in saying that it should be for keepsies. So it is.
It also got me thinking about how academically I’m entirely and consistently out of my comfort zone this year. The dissertation is a constant unknown, a constant, low-key stress in the background, unless it’s a focus when it’s a very obvious thing. It’s something that’s challenging me daily, sometimes overwhelmingly so that a lot of the time right now I just want to sleep. Sleep and ignore everything. But as each supervision comes and passes, and I get a little bit more of it green ticked as good to go, it becomes marginally more manageable. Marginally more comfortable.
On a larger scale, stepping outside your comfort zone, whether it be the you, specific you reading this right now, or the larger collective, can help influence, or even bring about a direct change in our societies. By fighting for something, or lending a voice of support for something you believe in, it helps highlight areas that need amending.
It happens a lot in blogging, too, these marginal steps in and out of comfort zones with the covering of topics in an effort to educate and remove stigma. And as a reader too, it’s interesting to make marginal adjustments to the malleable walls of our comfort zones so that we can be educated on issues that we may not have been aware of. Afterall, education is one of the great uses of the internet.
Comfort zones are fabulous, in knowing when to say no to things (because saying yes all the time is sometimes as dangerous as avoiding all the change), in knowing how to assess the way to handle things, and in knowing when to pull back – but putting yourself outside of yours, and then expanding those walls to fit and suit and accommodate is also necessary. Whether it be buying clothing that you’re not exactly sure of, or fighting to change the way society sees things.
I’m not entirely sure this makes a lot of sense tbh, but I felt now was a good time to write about it, since I’m clearly very removed from comfort with dissi stuff right now. Anyone else ever had recurring dreams/nightmares that they don’t hand theirs in??? Or is that just me…