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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


Give me back my comfort zone!

comfort zone

No, really, don’t make me leave my comfort zone.

For some reason, all sorts of people seem determined to push you out of where you’re comfortable to where you’re …. well … uncomfortable. Which is bizarre enough that it’s worthwhile to find out why.

Just so you know, I personally have zero patience with the whole “you have to leave your comfort zone if you want to make changes” thing.

Not just because it’s a tired cliche of the “think out of the box” sort. Not just because it’s an annoying self-help-ey trend. But because it’s a seriously bad idea. Also, not true. In fact, I’d call it a potentially dangerous misconception.

True story (file under: don’t try this at home)

My friend David had a girlfriend once who had a whole mess of complicated issues. Without going into the details, let’s just say she’d had a really rough life in a lot of ways and was now dealing with some of the scars and aftermath of her childhood.

Someone — her therapist or a relative, I can’t remember, but some kind-hearted, well-intentioned person who probably doesn’t at all think of himself as a sadist — had the bright idea that she should leave her comfort zone and face her fears.

In fact, if she could just leave her comfort zone once and jump out of a plane, that would be facing her fears instead of hiding from them. Yeah. THAT should cure her fear of leaving the house, fear of intimacy, fear of abandonment, etc.

No one thought she’d actually do it, but she was desperate for something that could shift things for her. She went up into that plane and she jumped. It was the scariest thing she had ever done and the experience, as she described it, was sheer terror.

I’d like to tell you that the combination of adrenaline, exhilaration and good old I-did-it-ness cured her, but of course they didn’t. This experience just became just one more awful thing that she’d suffered through — another bit of proof confirming her dread of everything.

My friend asked her if she could do it again now that she knew she could fall and be okay. And she said that theoretically she could. She could do it every day for the rest of her life. But it wouldn’t get any less terrifying. Her pain was just as painful every time she jumped back into it.

Every time I think about this I want to give this woman a hug. Actually, if everyone reading this could send this woman a mental hug offer right now, I’d appreciate it.

Watch out for people who want you to be somewhere else

We all have issues, stucknesses (I know, not a word) and stuff. Maybe not as severe as hers. Maybe not enough to warrant someone wanting to throw us out of planes. But there are all sorts of well-meaning people who think it’s in your best interest to force you to do some fear-facing, when actually the thing you are needing most is comfort.

I can’t even tell you how many eager beaver coaches I meet at business events who can’t wait to meet people just like you, so they can drag you kicking and screaming from your comfort zone. They think they’re doing you a favor. They’re not.

They’re not doing it out of meanness, of course. They sincerely want to help. They think that if you can leave the place where you’re comfortable and try this new, scary thing, you’ll get over it already. The problem is that sometimes what you need in order to grow is more comfort. And this kind of work needs to happen where you feel safe; where you’re most comfortable.

That’s why there’s a zone for it.

In the future your grandchildren will look back on this age of insisting on people leaving their comfort zones with shock, horror and a sad shake of the head. The way we do now when we think about things like electric shock therapy and lobotomies. The atrocities of good intentions.

And with any luck this shift will happen in our own generation and we won’t have to wait for your grandkids.

Please, don’t get up. Really, where you are is fine.

If you don’t want out of your comfort zone, that’s a sign that you are being compassionate with yourself. Seriously. Hello, it’s the place where you’re comfortable. It’s where you are. It’s okay that you’re there. And guess what?

As far as I can tell, it’s my job as an educator, teacher, coach, healing person, whatever you want to call it, to get in there with you (if I’m invited and it’s comfortable for you, etc) and meet you there. In fact, this kind of mindful compassion is what you should expect and receive from any wellness professional.

Sure, you might not want to be where you are. Sure, the reason you’re working on your stuff, being in the process and hanging out on my blog (oh, hi!) is that some part of you wants to help you work through the stuck and move forward. The good news is, you can also do that work in a way that’s comfortable for you where you are right now.

The idea should not be “jump out jump out jump out”. Instead, your whole process can be about working on your stuff where you are. The funny part is that gradually the things you are comfortable with will grow and expand until the whole world is your comfort zone. Bigger comfort zone = more stuff you’re comfortable with. It’s a good thing.

Instead of leaving your comfort zone, let it grow with you

Stretching is good. Gently. Learning new skills is good. Gradually.

Learning new things doesn’t have to mean leaving the comfort zone. You actually want to be growing your comfort zone. And you can do it with as much comfort as possible. At a pace and speed that are comfortable, with support from people who adore you, and adding tricks and techniques as you go.

Your comfort zone is your friend. So you have my permission to stop trying to break your way out of it and start trying to cultivate it, nourish it, grow it and be nice to it. Hey, I’m waving to you from mine — squeaky duck in hand — right now.

19 Responses to Give me back my comfort zone!

  1. Uh-oh, I had already sent her a mental hug when I reread that part and saw that I was supposed to send a mental hug *offer*. What is the etiquette here? Are random unsolicited mental hugs as inappropriate as random unsolicited physical hugs?

    Oh, and I recognize that book in the sidebar–The Design of Everyday Things. It was one of our “textbooks” in Randy Pausch’s class, but it was a fun book.

    Hunter Nuttalls last blog post..The Monty Hall Paradox (And The Real Answer)

  2. […] been hiding in my closet. I’m not necessarily re-engaging them (I learned that from Havi), but they’re there all the same. Some of it is stuff that’s hard to realize and hard […]

  3. […] experts all talk about “getting out of your comfort zone” but I’m with Havi on this one. You have a comfort zone for a reason – because its comfortable, and safe, and known. […]

  4. Tammy says:

    Thank you. Just…thank you.

  5. […] So I stopped going to S.A.M.E.’s organizing meetings and in the near the future (I’ll keep checking in with myself on this one) I’ve stopped going to marches because it got to be so scary that it was hurting me. I wasn’t rising above my fear, I was sinking in it and gritting my teeth and slogging through it while coughing on the quicksand. This is a phenomenon I believe Havi would explain much less verbosely as being forced to leave your comfort zone rather than growing your comfort zone. […]

  6. ache says:

    Wow, loved this. Thanks for making my day. Hahaha… My life was always good, but now it is better. Thanks to me not trying to cultivate someone else, nourish someone else, but me…

  7. Nix says:

    Thx Havi, really like your approach and way of thinking. Your 2 articles that I’ve just read are practically a word for word of what I’m feeling/experiencing.

    Have been in this stuckiness zone for a few months now with a couple of fears keeping me company to top it off. I’ve finally decided that I can’t go on like this, got to stop avoiding life, even though I’m so scared – I know something’s got to change.

    There’s also this internal tug-of-war conflict that I’m battling with – the need to express myself (which has been drummed into me, ‘just doesn’t pay’ financially) warring away with the need and the pressure of having to make a ‘decent successful’ financial living.

    So thanks again, how lucky we all are to have someone like you out there who cares :)

  8. Yogamanas says:

    Yay, just increase the good.

    I know this isn’t a recent post Havi, but I’ll comment ’cause that’s my feeling. I’m a beginner on Haviblog.

  9. Carrie says:

    Thank you for posting this.

    I’ve noticed that it’s much easier for me to warm up to new experiences and things if I am READY to do so. I do not like it when anyone tries to push me into stuff. If I WANT to do it, then I’ll go for it.

  10. Konrad says:

    I know that it is rather late reply, but… let me disagree with you and rehabilitate “breaking the comfort zone” a little ;)

    Probably it’s about words – “breaking” can be understood like “crushing”, “destroying” (like it was in your example). But also like “making a very little step out, still under control”.
    When I read the motto: “breaking the comfort zone” it sounded very familiar for me. But definitely not with the picture of me jumping from the plane when in fact I am really scared to go out from my home.

    Of course, if you try to “crush” your comfort zone to deal with your fear, maybe it is not wisest option.
    But in my opinion, to be able to meet with your fear you have to call this fear, somehow.
    It never worked for me when I tried to deal with my fears, sitting on the couch and feeling 100% comfortable. I couldn’t “meet my fear” in that kind of situation, because simply there was no fear anymore.
    I had to call it to me, and the best way was usually to move a little from my “comfort zone”. Just a little, enough to make the fear appearing, but still having enough comfort to look at my fear with patience and try to find out why it is appearing.

    In some way it is “breaking” comfort zone (because it needs to lose it a little), but in other way it is “expanding” it – because as a result the comfort zone is growing up, step by step.

    I heard a story about rock climber who had a fear of height.
    So he tried to deal with that in controlled situations, giving himself maximum possible comfort, but continuously moving the border forward.
    At the beginning he found a place on the top of the mountain, surrounded by precipices.
    He started by just sitting there. Then, when he became familiar with that, he tried to stand up. Then stay with just one leg…
    Step by step, he was moving the border farther, trying to be always just on the edge of that border

    Was he “breaking” or just “expanding” his comfort zone?

  11. […] and re-experiencing pain and terror is regressive and personally harmful. She thinks we develop comfort zones for a reason and you don’t need to jump out of the […]

  12. […] –“Give me back my comfort zone” by Havi Brooks, which I discovered through “In concert with fear” by Kelly Diels. […]

  13. Ailbhe
    Twitter: artbyailbhe

    Oh, I needed to read this.

    Possibly daily for a week or two.
    Ailbhe recently posted… Four seasons revisited

  14. Genevieve says:

    Thank you so much for this. People have been telling me to ‘get out of my comfort zone’ my whole life, and it’s never stopped bugging me. They don’t realise that when you’re scared of so many ‘normal’ and ‘every day’ things as I am, you don’t get through a single day without leaving your comfort zone – but it hasn’t stopped me from being scared of these things.

    I completely understand what you mean by expanding your comfort zone from the inside; I finally started doing this a year ago instead of constantly trying to break out of it and then hating myself for not feeling any better, and it genuinely works. I’ve managed to expand my comfort zone just by doing the things that perhaps cause me to feel slightly uneasy but in a constructive and comforting way so that my comfort zone can grow and gradually incorporate these new experiences.

    It’s great to know that there’s someone else out there who can see through this ridiculous cliche and realises that there is another way of progressing through life without constantly forcing yourself to endure pointless, terrifying experiences :)

  15. Vallin says:

    I sent this to my chorus of PUA/Attraction gurus (my court jesters) who have been unanimously on this now-worn path lately. And I posted it on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pintrest. My comment as follows:

    Submitted for your consideration…
    [and I’m old enough to remember who said that]
    your url here
    Bearing in mind that Amazon and Target have made billions supplying
    Our Comfort Zone [cue KUUL guitar riff]

  16. Vallin says:

    But on Twitter I said: “My Moon-in-Taurus compels you!”

  17. Paul M says:

    After Googling the the term “comfort zone” and the word “annoying” I came across this site. Havi thanks for posting this – this was exactly what I needed to read.
    My issues having a to do with a very busy ad agency work environment as a 30 year professional graphic artist/retoucher (whose younger department manager believes he is some sort of mystical walk-on-water “fearless” ObiWan Jedi master type) who is big on this “get out of your comfort zone” and face your fears clap-trap by insisting “his” (?) department do things differently – his latest suggestion being that we create our artwork by using or opposite hand (I am right handed). This he claims “will allow your mind to perhaps discover things you might not ever have thought of”. The problem I had was he wanted me to try this during an intense project with very unforgiving deadlines.
    To his disappointment I refused and did it the way I normally would do it. Everything turned out fine – just as usual. I know what will work for me and know it will make the deadline.
    I know how to please the art director. So why change the routine? My “comfort zone” I told him is whatever it takes me to complete the task correctly by knowing (again by my experience) what works. Period.
    It is this insistence by some on doing things different just for the sake of doing things different when you don’t need to I find strange.

    Thanks again Havi for the vindication!

  18. George says:

    Thank you! Thank you for writing this. You saved me.

  19. anonymous says:

    I’m so glad that I’m not the only who’s against telling other people to leave their comfort zones. Who the hell do they think that they are, the owners of those comfort lovers? Why, I remember some jerkass posting “Fuck your comfort zone,” online. Well, I say to him or her (most likely, him) “Fuck you for disrespecting other people’s comfort zones! If they want to stay in their all they want, let them!”

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