How many times have you seen a meme on social media urging you to leave your comfort zone? Or read an article warning you that the magic only happens outside your comfort zone? Apparently, life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Am I the only one who doesn’t buy this?
If you want to be successful and happy (because obviously you have to be successful to be happy, right? Sarcasm intended!), you have to leave your comfort zone. Or so we are led to believe.
I’m going to go against the grain and say I wholeheartedly disagree.
I bought into this idea for a very long time and, let me tell you, it got me no-where. Believing the only way to find success and happiness was to leave the confines of my comfort zone, I operated outside of it for far too long.
And I just felt, well, uncomfortable.
Let me explain.
I am an introvert. Like many introverts, I spent many years setting aside my love of solitude in pursuit of being ‘miss social butterfly’. I acted like an extrovert because I felt as though it was the only way to make friends, make money and make anything really.
When I left home for university, I threw myself out of my comfort zone like a bullet being fired from a gun. My comfort zone of reading, writing, studying, having dinner or drinks with a few friends and going for long walks with my headphones on was sorely neglected. I abandoned it for parties, nightclubs, large social events and gatherings. My door was always open, there were always people with me. I was never alone.
I forced myself to speak to every person I met (though I actually loathe small-talk) and surrounded myself with people 24-7. I believed this shameless abandonment of my comfort zone would do two things. Firstly, I believed if I faked it as an extrovert for long enough I would finally make it as one. Secondly, I though this was the only way to be happy and successful in life.
I was wrong on both counts. I didn’t become an extrovert and I certainly wasn’t happy.
The only way i could handle the crowded social events was to drink to excess. Most of my friendships were superficial and flimsy, though some stuck. By denying myself what I needed – solitude, quiet and a slow pace – my soul was slowly dying.
So what did I achieve from three years outside my comfort zone? Not much. Yeah I got a good degree but it wasn’t actually in what I wanted to do anyway.
This pattern continued into my working life. I chose a job which left me outside my comfort zone daily. It paid well and I hated it.I had to manage people, enforce rules and speak publicly. Don’t get me wrong, I was good at it but I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t wait to leave when I had my daughter.
After many years and much soul searching, I’ve decided to allow myself to just be myself. That means operating, for the most part, within my comfort zone. Since I changed course and allowed myself to be comfortable, wonderful things have happened.
I’d always wanted to work from home and now I do. I write and create and get paid for it (not a whole lot yet but I’m working on that. And I’m loving the process). The funny thing is, in pursuit of this happiness and this lifestyle, I do have to leave my comfort zone at times. But I hop back into its calm waters as soon as I can.
I think it’s a shame we are constantly sold the idea that we need to leave our comfort zones. Happiness can only be found within us. It’s nestled deep within our comfort zones. If we didn’t feel happy there then it wouldn’t be comfort would it?
What makes you happy? I bet whatever it is can be found smack bang in the centre of your comfort zone. Don’t be made to feel like a failure if you loiter there.
External factors such as money, career success and fame can never give us long-term, sustained happiness. We have to find it within ourselves. I’ve long since learned that real happiness does not follow success. On the contrary, if you are happy then you are successful.
And let me tell you, once I gave up being permanently uncomfortable, I’ve never been happier.