What Is Your Comfort Zone Costing You?

comfortzone

So, last week, in “How To Stop Allowing Your Struggles To Define You,” I talked about my struggle with how my lack of feeling significant has affected me for most of my life.

I also asked you to think about what you’ve been struggling with, and what this struggle has been costing you in your life.

That’s SUCH a loaded question, right?

Well, it is and it isn’t.

Stay with me.

Let’s take a step back here and talk a bit more in depth about the correlation between what you’re struggling with and how that struggle is SERVING your basic needs.

Yes, your STRUGGLE is meeting your needs and that’s why you can’t (or won’t) let go of it.

Let’s take a  look at my own struggles with anxiety and bulimia.

How my struggles (bulimia and anxiety) met my needs

  • My bulimia and anxiety were consistent and comfortable.  
  • My bulimia and anxiety provided me with numerous additional problems that left me distracted and kept me busy trying to fix everybody else around me, whilst totally ignoring my own issues.
  • My bulimia and anxiety made me feel significant! Hooray!  I had to contend with something emotionally, mentally and physically challenging, and believe me, everybody knew it.  All day.  
  • My bulimia and anxiety made me feel connected.  When you’re not well, people pay attention to you.  When you’re not well, people worry about you.  Attention and worry made me feel connected to myself as well. 
  • My bulimia and anxiety helped me to grow.  Or at least, I thought those problems helped me grow,  The truth is, I was pedalling like crazy, but not getting anywhere.  I was Sisyphus and these struggles were my rock.   

My struggles felt safe to me because my needs were being met and they gave me a sense of purpose and focus. I was in my comfort zone.

What Is Your Comfort Zone Costing You?

We’ve examined some ways in which my struggles with anxiety and bulimia were meeting my needs but let’s now take a look at the expense those needs being met had on my overall well being.

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That quote, from the awe-inspiring Brene Brown, really sums up what I’m about to say.  As many of us know (perhaps just deep down rather than readily-available) is this:

  1. Comfort promotes stagnancy.
  2. Stagnancy prohibits change.
  3. Change is necessary to overcome adversity.

Consequently, our adversity cannot be overcome while we’re in a state of comfort.

Don’t believe the previous statement to be true?  Let’s say you’re someone like me, who has struggled with bulimia.

Bulimia is certainly an uncomfortable disease physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  However, even with all of the ways bulimia is uncomfortable, it can also provide a tremendous amount of comfort:

  • Certainty — it’s consistent and reliable — in other words, it’s a crutch.
  • Significance — it’s challenging — in other words, it keeps creating drama to deflect attention from bigger issues.
  • Connection — it provides attention and sympathy — in other words, it creates a “dysfunctional” identity.
  • “Growth” — I placed this word in quotations because it provides coping mechanisms — in other words, it provides ways to allow for adaption without any solution. 

This is the same across many, many struggles.  If what you’re struggling with is a crutch, deflects attention from bigger issues, creates a dysfunctional identity, or enables you to adapt your struggle to your day-to-day life without any solution in sight, it’s costing you.  

No matter how big or small your struggle is, you can be sure of one thing:   It is keeping you from living the life you deserve.

I believe when Brene Brown says, “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot have both,”  she is talking about stepping away from how our struggles are meeting our needs and costing us our dreams, relationships and so much more.  She is talking about embracing our struggles in a way which challenges our comfort zones so that we can find the courage to live a life where our needs are met in productive and progressive ways.

Questions that evoke lasting change

I wish I could say that beyond identifying your struggle and coming to terms with how it’s meeting your needs, it would be easy to make the changes you need to.

Nothing worthwhile comes easily, does it?

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t helpful ways to move forward, however.  There are four important questions you can ask yourself and when you answer them with total honesty, I believe, you can get yourself through whatever it is that has been challenging you.

  1. If your struggle disappeared, what would you want next for yourself?  Dig deep.
  2. If this problem belonged to someone you care about, what would you be willing and determined to do to solve it? We often sacrifice our own happiness for others, but if we’ve been sacrificing it for ourselves all along, it’s harder to know how far we will push ourselves.  Give yourself that same effort!
  3. If this problem is impeding your courage, how uncomfortable are you willing to become in order to make your next move?  Make a list of all of the things you have wanted to do that your struggle has kept you from doing and give yourself 30 days to take on one of those things.  Document your discomfort or talk about it with someone you trust, but whatever you do, work through it and get it done!
  4. Who else’s life could be improved by seeing you happy, healthy, and making progress?  Those who love us cannot live without suffering while we suffer.  Think of how you can improve your relationships whilst you improve yourself.  Remember, we are all connected in this universe and our actions affect everything (and everyone) we touch.

I hope that these posts have been helpful for those of you who are currently facing struggles or challenges in your life.  As I work through my Life Coaching program, I am continuing to learn so much about myself and the how and why of the choices I’ve made in my life up until now.

I’m not suggesting that there may have never been anything positive to come out of the challenges you have faced. Just think about something you have come out to the other side from in your life already.  We all have the power to cultivate a life with meaning and purpose, and in order to do that we have to be equipped with the right amount of insight and compassion.

[Tweet “What Is Your Comfort Zone Costing You? #SelfHelp #MentalHealth #Happiness via @BeetsPerMinute”]

Do you know how you’re going to approach your struggles?  Do you believe we cannot have both courage and comfort?  Has this helped you identify an area (or areas) in your life that you want to improve upon?

*********I’m linking up with Amanda at Running with Spoons for Thinking Out Loud!**********

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Erin
Healthy living for the mind and body by NASM certified personal trainer, nutritional therapist, and life coach, Erin Campbell Thompson.

27 Comments

    1. Thanks, Morgan! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with some comfort. It’s just that complacency danger zone that most of us fall into. I really hope that this post helps people really think about what they are struggling with and how to challenge themselves to grow! I’m glad it spoke to you! 🙂

  1. I feel like I have daily struggles with anxiety. Getting my stress levels under control helps, but it’s a daily battle. I have learned that I need to prioritize some things and let other things go.
    I was also bulimic for a while. It felt so good to be able to control that when I couldn’t control anything else.
    Thank you for sharing this!

    1. I’m so sorry that you’ve had struggles with anxiety and bulimia too, Heather! I just know that it’s made you a stronger and a much more insightful person in spite of it. I still struggle with my anxiety, but it’s definitely something that is manageable once you can recognize the patterns and how to prioritize — just as you said! Control is something we all long for because it’s really the one thing we can have a say over. People who suffer from anxiety often suffer from other things like eating disorders and addictions. It’s our way of finding control in a chaotic world! I’m glad you now focus on balance, family, and things that have you on the right track! 🙂

  2. this definitely gives a person a lot to think about and cross references personal and professional situations. I do believe life begins outside your comfort zone- that is were I think we can truly find ourselves 🙂 great post!

    1. You’re very right, Mary Beth! Life does really begin when we get outside of our comfort zone. I’ve learned this over and over again these past few years. It’s tough at first, but it goes on to make us feel and KNOW we can take on whatever comes our way! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  3. Such a thought provoking post Erin. 🙂

    It made me think back to times I made excuses for going nowhere in life and not making any effort to change and to come out of my comfort zone. I look back on those times and wish I had had the foresight I have now.

    Whilst I don’t wish to sound like I’m Mr Perfect (because I’m definitely not 😉 ), and I still do get overly “comfortable” sometimes, I think now I’m more included to push myself out of a comfort zone as I know as we get older, time is a limiting factor. Does that make sense? 😮

    1. Thanks, Neil! 🙂 That totally makes sense. I don’t feel like we should never get comfortable in life. I think we should feel comfortable and accepting of what is, but at the same time keep ourselves questioning what we do and why we do it. When our comfort zone keeps us from taking chances that could improve our lives and broaden our horizons is where we lose out on opportunities for even more happiness and connection. I think you’ve got a wonderful balance of embracing change and experiencing new things. 🙂

  4. I should really be reading your posts once I’ve had a few cups of coffee! I feel like I’d give better responses. Ha! Anyway, I love your writing, and you are such a smart woman. For me, my struggle with anxiety will probably never disappear, but I will manage it. Having anxiety is definitely not my comfort zone, and I don’t let it define me because you’re right–I keep facing it head-on. Avoidance breeds anxiety, so whenever I get panicky about something, I force myself to face it, and trudge through it. Sometimes even speaking my fear out loud to somebody is enough to detonate its power.

    1. Haha! You give great responses! I love your writing so much too Suzy — some weeks I think we’re on the same wavelength! I still suffer from my anxiety too at times, but it’s so much easier for me to manage now than it ever was. I can breathe and talk myself out of a panic attack within seconds now! I know you face it and don’t let it define you. That’s all any of us can do. We live in a place that can complicate how we process the events around us, but that doesn’t mean we’re any less equipped to handle it and live happy lives. And yes, talking out the anxiety does shut down the power it used to have over me. I will tell Luke when I feel anxious and speak it and it’s amazing how quickly it just starts to fade away! <3

  5. I freaking want to HUG you so hard right now!!! You said it well, sometimes we keep our shit a live because it’s how we get people’s attention or when they will stop and show us love/concern/compassion. Another awesome post

    1. Awww thanks so much, Amanda! It’s true that sometimes we don’t even know it, but we’re holding on to dysfunction so that we can be validated. Really all this does is make the person validating us hurt too. Insight and awareness are such powerful tools and my life focus right now is on helping myself and the people in my life realize their potential and live their best life! <3

  6. You always have such great thought provoking posts. My ED was a huge source of comfort and security for me as well, which was part of the reason that it was so difficult to let go of. I didn’t know how to deal with all of the uncomfortable things that life threw my way, so I shifted my focus to my body and things I could control, like diet and exercise. It worked — sure — but it also introduced a whole host of other problems that took me years to recover from. And as uncomfortable as recovery was, it was easily the best thing I’ve ever done.

    1. Thanks, Amanda! I can so relate to what you’re saying. It’s amazing how much an ED can be used as a way to control other chaos in our lives. It’s amazing that you’ve been able to focus on recovery and put your energy into being an amazing blogger and health coach with such a wonderful balance in your life! You definitely inspire me and so many others! <3

    1. I’m so glad that these posts are helping you challenge what you’ve been struggling with, Julie. There will surely be more of these posts to come in the near future! <3

  7. GIRL THIS SERIOUSLY HITS HOME!!!! I lived in my “comfort zone” for about 10 years after my schools in high school closed down and I got sick… I got into comfortable routines and then I got EXTREMELY SCARED at ever living another life… But……. As of the past 4 + years (and more so for the past year and a half thanks to a certain someone), I have broken out of my comfort zone substantially and you know what? It’s NOT ALL THAT SCARY!! In fact, I kind of crave it now! 😉 It definitely takes one day at a time, and I still have some comforts that I need every so often (like right now, drinking my tea, blog commenting and watching Full House – LOL) but for the most part, I have been able to adapt to change quite well these days!

    1. Once you get a taste of that opportunity to succeed outside of your protective bubble it’s amazing GiGi! I’m so glad you’ve been able to realize that! I’m with you, it’s definitely a one day at a time sort of thing, but we don’t have to never allow ourselves any comfort — just enough so that we don’t become complacent! And, also, Full House is ALWAYS a good idea! I’m totally looking forward to Fuller House. Haha!

  8. Wow, thank you for sharing all of this! I totally agree with you that it’s easy to get stuck in your comfort zone, and it is very limiting… when I decided to move across the country with no job and no plan, I was DEFINITELY getting out of my comfort zone. I just had to throw that “hail mary” pass and hope that it all worked out. And it did! 🙂

    While I’m definitely not going to pretend that what I did was heroic (in fact it was sort of selfish, haha).. I agree with you that sometimes your challenges can turn into opportunities. xo!

    1. Thanks, Emily! I think it’s so brave to move away from the familiar (okay, I live overseas so OF COURSE I would say that, but seriously, yes!). We need to create opportunities for growth. Some people can achieve that in the same place and some benefit from making a change like moving to a new city or starting a new career, but there are very few times that things just fall into our lap that require us to make no change — so we NEED to never stop taking those leaps of faith!

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