Life requires a comfort zone.
There I said it and while it may go against every comfort zone related quote I’ve ever seen – I stand behind my words. As there is a basic human need to have a place where we feel safe, comforted and free to be just as we are. A magical place where the masks of the roles we play every day can be discarded, allowing the pure essence of who we are to be free and unencumbered. We must be permitted to let feelings we’ve held in check all day the opportunity to pour down our face if needed or be screamed into pillows we clutch to our chest. I know I require total silence from time to time when the noise of life gets too much for me. I retreat into my comfort zone to rest my soul and see to my needs. It isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.
Doesn’t make you weak. In fact, retreating to your comfort zone will make you stronger in the long run.
I remember as a child playing tag at recess with my friends. Running around harum-scarum while trying to avoid being touched by the one who was “it” and exhausting myself in the process of dodging and weaving through the craziness. There was always a “gools” that one could retreat to catch their breath and center before heading back out into the melee. We all needed that safety zone because sometimes the pressure of not getting caught or having to be on our toes for the entire duration of the game, simply got to be too much.
Life is like that.
While I agree wholeheartedly that living every moment within your comfort zone isn’t the best idea for a healthy and well-rounded life; having one to retreat to is necessary. We can’t be on all the time. We can’t operate at a high level, day in and day out, without recharging our soul. We can’t be expected to push boundaries and take chances when we don’t have a “gool” to touch once and a while to give ourselves a break.
I fully believe that challenging the borders of your comfort zone helps you to reach and evolve, and yet, I’ve found some of my biggest and most profound growth has occurred within it. Because when I felt safe, I could let my mind wander and within those wanderings I discovered dreams that had been drowned out by a world clamoring for my attention. When I was snuggled within my comfort zone, I relaxed and let my guard down, and as time went on, I was less and less apt to take the time to rebuild the walls I always thought I needed. It was within my comfort zone that I got acquainted with the real me and discovered I liked her a whole lot. I liked her so much that after a time, I didn’t need the masks anymore because who I brought out from my comfort zone realized if people didn’t like her as she was, she didn’t need them in her life.
I found myself in the comfort zone.
Looking back over my life to date, I can see all the times I retreated hastily to my comfort zone, filled with fear, self-hatred, sadness and exhaustion. Feelings I would never, ever have allowed the world to see on
my face or within my actions because I never wanted to be thought of as weak or emotional. I would shut the door on the world and lock it with a solid finality. I would snuggle into my corner of the couch, feeling like a failure. Not wanting anyone to see me like this. Eventually, though, the itch to try one more time would become overwhelming, and I would find that after some time touching “gools” I was ready to test my boundaries once again.
Comfort zones can be real, physical places where we go to recharge like home or a special spot where we feel completely safe and loved. For many years my grandmother’s kitchen table was where I would retreat when life got to be too much, sitting with her wisdom and coffee. Now I tuck into my corner of the couch with my soft blankets and leave the world outside my front door when I get home from work or grow weary from dealing with the day to day minutia that is life. Settling into my comfort zone can calm raging emotions or soothe an aching heart. I can relax because I don’t have to fake a smile that I’m not feeling or because I can wear my tattered writing hoodie and fuzzy socks that just make my soul sigh in contentment without shame.
I can lick my wounds if I’ve failed at something. I can regroup if something didn’t quite work out.
The important thing to remember is that while comfort zones are an important facet of our lives, unpacking and living in them will not lead to a happy, content and satisfying existence. If we spend the time to nurture ourselves, we must also take the time to allow new growth. Challenging ourselves to expand the boundaries of our comfort zones may not always work out as intended but we will learn a bit more every time. Eventually, we will get it right.
Life is found in pushing forward AND pulling back with occasional moments of standing completely still. Retreat to your comfort zone to heal, to dream and to gather the courage needed for your next big leap of faith. Just remember to take the leap.