Ah, the comfort zone. We all have one and some of us get stuck in it. The comfort zone is a place you feel comfortable, unchallenged and safe. It has a bad reputation because we are not supposed to stand still; we’re supposed to move forward and keep growing. Here’s what my comfort zone looks like at this moment in my life.
Like most (if not all) people I have a comfort zone. To be honest I think we all have one, some people are just better at breaking out of it than others. My comfort zone changes all the time and to me that in itself is a sign of growth. I’m happy to say I don’t have the same comfort zone as I did 10 years ago. I have grown up and so has my comfort zone.
My comfort zone at 18
When I first moved out and lived on my own I really craved my comfort zone. I missed the familiarity of my family home where my mom took care of me. I didn’t know how to cook and comforted myself with greasy takeaway food and alcohol. I was a little afraid of Dutch people since I had never lived in Holland, so I spent some time hanging out with international students. I was scared of cycling (very un-Dutch) so I took the bus everywhere, or walked. I did everything to get comfortable.
Luckily things are a little different now. I feel at home in the Netherlands, although I still don’t own a bike. I cook healthy meals and I have a job I really enjoy. My comfort zone has changed quite a lot. To me a comfort zone is a place that consists of everything you’ve already conquered in life. It feels normal, safe and familiar. Stepping out of it makes you feel uncomfortable and sometimes even unsafe. Whenever I feel challenged I know I am stepping out of the zone, and that’s a good thing!
My comfort zone right now
A comfort zone has many dimensions; there’s a social dimension and a professional dimension for example and they are very different for me. Socially I am constantly challenging myself. I am not someone who has a big group of friends or a ‘squad’ who I’ve known since I was little. I am comfortable being by myself, but I know meeting new people is good for me. So I step out of the comfort zone by meeting up with people I’ve never met before, for example for vegan dinners or blog events. It’s scary but I never regret it.
Professionally I am lucky to say I still feel challenged almost every day. Teaching lectures is not something I can do with zero nerves, supervising students is never boring and doing research is a hugely challenging process. My comfort zone is constantly shifting to wherever I feel comfortable at that time. If I’ve spent some time doing research with little teaching, that’s where I feel comfortable. If I then suddenly have to teach some lectures I get nervous and uncomfortable again. It really depends on what I’ve been working on. Anything new or different is usually a little uncomfortable for me – and also incredibly rewarding.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsch
I just have to add: I don’t like my comfort zone. I hate it. I don’t like being comfortable for long periods of time, because I get bored and restless. Usually I figure something out and get myself out of my rut, but sometimes I’m lazy and I like to stay in the zone. I realize how easy it is to just stay where I am so I am constantly trying to keep myself focused and moving forward. I always remind myself of what a car mechanic once told me after my car broke down and he couldn’t figure out why. I asked him: but what if it stops working while I’m driving on the highway? He answered: at least you’ll feel alive! And that’s what I want. To feel alive – as much and as often as possible. The only way to do that is to get out of your comfort zone; fall down, get embarrassed, make mistakes, learn, grow, and become a better person. Nothing bad will ever come from breaking out of your comfort zone, only from staying exactly where you are.