I’ve been thinking a lot about comfort zones lately, mostly in the context of trying to get my teenagers to try to expand theirs. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized this isn’t something you outgrow as an adult. I like to think that, as an adult, I have outgrown fear of being judged by others – but if I’m honest with myself, that’s still a big part of my internal narrative.
It occurs to me that a comfort zone is an area where we can operate without fear of “them” noticing us. “What will they think of me?” is basically the border guard at the edge of our comfort zone. Inside the comfort zone is where we feel like we’ve negotiated with “them” that they won’t pay too much attention to is, or – at least won’t criticize us.
Of course “they” didn’t participate in the negotiations at all. Once we realize that we negotiated the location of the boundary, it lets us see that the location is arbitrary. Not only that, but the “penalties” for crossing the boundary aren’t nearly as bad as we have made them out to be.
I’m not sure we can ever completely eliminate comfort zones, but if we will force ourselves to push our comfort zone boundaries a little bit every day – they will certainly expand.
It’s worth it. There’s good stuff to be found out there.