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Your comfort zone is not necessarily comfortable.

Picture of an old armchair in a poor state of repair
Image by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

Comfortable vs Comforting 

For me, the phrase “comfort zone” has always conjured up an image of a cosy little haven with inviting sofas and armchairs. A place where the world cannot intrude unless invited (which, frankly, seems extremely unlikely) and then only on my terms, a place where I feel safe and secure, and don’t have to do anything I don’t want to. A place where I can breathe a happy sigh of relief, curl up with a book, yarn-related activity, tea and biscuits, and not move for a very long time.


In short, a comfort zone should be comfortable, right?


But the thing is, when you stay snuggled up in one place for too long, you’re eventually going to end up with a numb bum, a dead leg, a seat spring digging into you, a very unhappy bladder…


What started out as comfortable does not necessarily remain comfortable indefinitely.


But it remains familiar, and familiar discomfort can be weirdly comforting.


For instance, feeling that you’re not good enough is not exactly comfortable, but when you’ve been feeling that way for a long time, it can become a comfort zone: you know what to expect, you’re used to dealing with it, it provides a framework for your behaviour and relationships…it means you don’t have to make choices or take action that scares you…


Familiar discomfort vs unknown discomfort vs potential comfort

To change what we don’t like about our situation, we have to step away from what is familiar – we have to leave our comfort zones. And that’s where we find ourselves balancing the certainty of known discomfort against the risk of unknown discomfort.


Leaving the comfort zone to try something different could lead to embarrassment, criticism, judgement, ridicule. You might have to deal with failure. You’ll certainly have to deal with other people’s reactions to what happens. Relationships might be damaged, friendships broken. In short, it could all go royally tits up.


And the numb bum can suddenly seem preferable to the whole tits up thing.


(I worry about my use of metaphor sometimes. If you’re only here because you googled bums and tits, then I fear you’re going to be sadly disappointed – unless, of course, you feel that a spot of mindset work and coaching could be beneficial for you…).


I think that, very often, caught between the rock of familiar discomfort and the hard place of unfamiliar discomfort, we overlook the third and most important possibility: actually feeling comfortable…maybe even feeling a whole host of good feelings!


Of course, if we knew that stepping out of our comfort zone would automatically and immediately create a new and better comfort zone, then we’d all be hurling ourselves out of our comfort zones with gay abandon and whoops of joy. In fact, if it were that simple, comfort zones wouldn’t even be A Thing, would they?


Spoiler alert: stepping away from the familiar discomfort in search of something new and better does not come with any guaranteed outcome, and even the best possible outcome is likely to involve a degree of new and unfamiliar discomfort en route. Which may sound horribly depressing, but needn’t be – honest.


Staying vs Leaving

I don’t think there’s actually anything wrong with staying in your comfort zone, if that’s what you choose to do: we don't all have to be dreaming big, taking massive action, sky-rocketing ourselves to success, facing the fear and doing it anyway, blah, blah, blah. We're allowed to find happiness and fulfilment right where we are. And if that's what you're doing, then all power to you!


However...speaking from personal experience, hunkering down in our comfort zones can be very much linked to a victim mindset: we don’t want to be where we are, but we’re afraid to leave, and, rather than face the fear, we insist that things can only get better for us if other people/circumstances change, thus absolving ourselves of any responsibility for taking action.


If staying in your zone of known discomfort genuinely seems like a better option than leaving it, then by all means curl up in the reassuringly familiar lumpiness of your old armchair, but take responsibility for that choice and recognise the benefits of it, rather than becoming bitter and resentful that external forces haven’t swooped down and miraculously made your chair more comfortable and sorted out your dead leg without you having to move.


However, if the prospect of enduring the same familiar discomfort indefinitely seems mind (and bum) numbingly depressing rather than safe, then the only way to guarantee something different is to step out of the comfort zone – to Do Something Different.


Worst case scenario? More discomfort – and you know you can deal with discomfort because you already are, so is this worst case scenario actually that bad? (Comfort zones aren’t comfortable; worst case scenarios aren’t actually bad; random guest appearances by bums and tits…? I may need a lie down in a dark room…).


Best case scenario? A gloriously upgraded comfort zone which actually feels comfortable!


Most likely scenario? Some discomfort leading to a more comfortable comfort zone.

  Overthinking vs Overcoming

And yet even with this understanding, there can still be an obstacle. What has often stopped me venturing out of my current comfort zone is quite simply not knowing exactly how to do it. I keep going to the door and looking out, but then overthinking and overwhelm kick in…I don’t know what to take, am not sure I have what I need, can’t decide the best way to go, or when’s the best time to leave, etc, etc…Meanwhile, my bum has had chance to un-numb itself and I’ve shaken off the dead leg with my little walk to the door, so I retreat back inside and begin the cycle all over again.


Here's what helps me:


👉Focusing on the upgrade I want to my comfort zone – the more I think about that, the more I’m going to see opportunities to make it happen. Where focus goes, energy flows, to quote Tony Robbins.


👉Committing to one small action – doing something different or doing something differently or not doing something I usually do. It doesn’t have to achieve anything beyond showing me that I can take action without the world ending, and then work out what to do next.


👉Journaling - I can get all the shit out of my head, which not only gives me a bit of respite from it, but also allows me to look at it in a different light, and allows me to better understand myself, my conditioning, my blocks and what I want.


👉Coaching – well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?! But it’s true. My coach helps me to explore what’s keeping me stuck and how I can move forward. She asks questions that I might avoid asking myself, or not think to ask myself, and she points out things I say without truly hearing for myself - connections, inconsistencies and insights that are emerging from my subconscious but not registering consciously.


If you’re not sitting as comfortably as you’d like, maybe it’s time to begin…


For a chat about how I can support you in leaving your comfort zone,

- no charge, no pressure, no obligation.


Just potential ✨


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