This post is dedicated to my dear friend Laura, who has been forced way out of her comfort zone but who should know that being comfortable is not weak; in fact, embracing what you really need right now is strong and extraordinary and something to be proud of.
I am all for getting out of your comfort zone.
Leaving the familiar behind has, so far in life, given me countless opportunities. Going to the theatre or cinema on my own, performing my poetry, going on dates, attending weddings solo; all have been fantastic, if rather frightening. I have a lot to be grateful to discomfort for.
But I’m not going to be the first to tell you to get out there and scare the living daylights out of yourself. Sure, it’s great, but it’s not always the right thing to do.
So, although I would advise you to do things that scare you, I also have a soft spot for the Comfort Zone. It has a lot to answer for, and there is nothing wrong with staying in it.
I’ve lived in the same city for ten years now; Southampton is my second home. I often feel a pang of embarrassment when I admit I stayed in my student city – so many of my friends have moved away to the Big Smoke, or to supposedly ‘cooler’ towns and cities (hi, Bristol, Brighton, and Manchester). I’ve toyed with the idea of upping sticks and starting again somewhere new many a time, too. Sticking with the security and familiarity of Southampton seems, sometimes, to be a weakness. I feel bad for not pushing myself further; for not being brave; for not finding out if there’s somewhere better out there for me.
“Oh, you’re still in Southampton?” old coursemates ask.
And I blush.
Or at least, I used to.
Because what’s the point in going through the stress and disruption of starting a new life where you don’t know anyone, for the sake of being different? Just because you think that people pity you?
Why would I do that to myself?
I have countless friends in this city; a creative community who have pushed me and helped me do things I could never have expected; cultural experiences that enrich me on a weekly basis; a good, decent-paying job with lovely colleagues; my very own flat.
Staying in my comfort zone has made me twice the person I might have been if I spent the last five years moving about and pushing myself way beyond my personal limits.
I love it here. And I love the person I’ve been able to become while I’ve had a firm foundation.
There is enough stress in adult life; why add more of it to your life by doing something you feel you should do, that won’t always be the best thing for you?
In a world where everyone is pushing themselves to be more – to be bigger, and better, and more impressive – it’s actually often harder – and braver – to admit you’re ok staying where you are for now.
Sometimes, yes, getting out of your comfort zone in a big way and moving far away, quitting your job spontaneously or going traveling on the spur of the moment can bring amazing things.
Sometimes, however, that scary thing can be small but equally as rewarding: join a crafting group; learn to drive; take yourself on a solo day trip; start running.
And sometimes the most exciting and enriching thing you can do is embrace your comfort zone, tell it you love it, and settle down for a wee while.
It’s called a comfort zone for a reason; it’s cosy, and intimate and personal and designed around you, and you alone. It’s like your favourite sofa, or falling into your bed after a week away, or that pizza you’ve been craving all day, or a hug from your nearest and dearest. You wouldn’t deprive yourself of those, would you?
Like most things in life, it’s all about balance. Sometimes the unfamiliar is the best – without it, life might get a little dull – but there’s no need to terrify yourself if you don’t need to. So long as you’re happy.
Life’s big and scary enough as it is. Often, the familiar is just the thing you need to grow. Contrary to expectations, it isn’t always the easy option, and it’s just as rewarding as taking a risk.
I’m happy where I am, thank you very much. It’s pretty damn snug here; why would I want to leave that behind?