Posted by: VoiceinRecovery | February 20, 2010

Challenging my Comfort Zone

Do one thing every day that scares you

Eleanor Roosevelt

I was recently thinking about how I felt my life was very “straight” and “linear”. I had a hard time explaining this on Twitter, probably because I hadn’t really thought through what I meant. As I continued to tweet, what I thought changed. See – I thought I was bored by the consistency in life, having a job, coming home, going to school, paying my bills, watching tv, etc. I THOUGHT I missed some of the excitement from my past. Again I believe delusional thinking when remembering my past in a positive light, versus the reality. I was focusing on the going out, partying, never knowing what would come of tomorrow, etc. That was only part of the truth of my past. I also was a mess, falling apart, unable to pay bill, rarely leaving the house, rarely sober, and rarely eating. It still amazes me how in reflection of the past our head can sometimes have selective memory. I had to really process what I felt is missing in my life now, because it definitely is NOT that I want a reincarnation of my past. Definitely NOT.

I believe my uncomfortableness in the consistency in my life isn’t because my life is straight edged and not wild, crazy, never consistent, etc. I believe I am not feeling challenged. I don’t feel like I am living outside MY comfort zone.

I have experiences where I challenged myself and gotten outside my comfort zone. When I was 18 I went skydiving with a group from my College dorm. I was terrified of flying, and had to sign all these death waivers. The way I got through it was by NOT telling my parents, who would have tried to talk me out of it, and probably would have called me crazy for wanting to do it. I also found a way to deal with my fear of flying. To me – it made absolute common sense that since I have a fear of planes – jumping out of one was rational. I would have a person attached to me who had something like 8k jumps, a parachute; and for me, I wanted out of the small airplane as soon as possible. When I was on the plane with my best friend from High School, I do not think I was scared any longer – you see fear plays tricks in your brain, and the fight or flight plus adrenaline rush from my amygdala and hypothalamus communications, I was too overwhelmed with excitement to be scared. That experience was literally one of the best experiences of my life. Flying through the air is impossible to share with someone who has never done this. I realized how small I was in the world looking down at nature, the beach, the mountains, and the flat fields. When I landed I was so full of a rush I thought I was on a euphoric high that would never stop. I think this rush is better than ANY drug, alcohol, addiction, disorder I have struggled with.

I think the problem with the skydiving experience is that I thought all experiences that would challenge and scare me had to be to the extreme. I thought I had to do these HUGE monumental activities to feel I was living life to the fullest. I think that is why for the next 10 years of my life, I sought extremes in everything. I also am an impulsive person by nature – and lately I have felt all my choices in life are not impulsive. I think this is also why I fell into substance abuse, and eating disorders, extremes were always chosen in life.

This is where my black and white thinking has come into play. I couldn’t see the grey area – that living outside of my comfort zone doesn’t have to be only through impulsive, life threatening, and dangerous activities or choices. I think I am also different from some people in temperament and personality; things within my comfort zone are probably well outside other peoples comfort zones. I moved across the country in a car, sold all my stuff in a garage sale, put the rest in a storage unit, and went on a road trip with my guy not knowing 1) the path we would take 2) where we would stay every night 3) with no place to live in Boston (which my guy says I have to share – is something that I INSISTED upon) 4) had no job to go to 5) had limited insurance with Cobra 6) having no friends or family to use as an ally in a foreign city. I have been told that while a lot of people like road trips – what we did was scary to them, and may be something people want to do, but never follow through with. I am fortunately good with follow through once I make a decision!

I am not sure I want to do something every day, or once a week, something that scares me. I honestly don’t think my brain understands the word “scare.” I don’t scare easily, and currently don’t have a very long fear list anymore. The definition of “scare” is to frighten, cause fear in. The definition of “fear” is an emotional response to a perceived threat, a basic survival mechanism occurring in a response to a specific stimulus. I think my brain understands fear more as a physical reaction to a potential situation or threat, and since I know it is physical and understand the science of the fight or flight response, I think that is why I do not really feel fear very much. The only time recently where I have felt fear was when I got my first panic attack in years. My fear was chemically driven and fortunately I talked to the fear by explaining the science of the response going on in my body.

I think this is why I have an issue with Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote. I don’t think fear is the correct word for what I feel is missing in my life. I want to challenge myself, and grow. I want to understand what things are within my comfort zone and what things are outside my comfort zone. I want to write a list of what would feel uncomfortable, different, and outside my comfort zone. I want to go through them and check them off. I want to push the limits in my life. When I read the quote, saying do things we fear or that scare us – it made me miss the point that living outside our comfort zone doesn’t have to have anything to do with large monumental, life altering decisions or actions.

I don’t think I realized I was living only in my comfort zone until I kept getting bored, unsettled, and just generally feeling life was too easy. I am so used to life being challenging, difficult, bad, stressful, hard, etc. I think I really needed to face the reality that life now isn’t “easier” necessarily, but different. I needed to find a new way to challenge myself, without seeking behaviors to destroy myself. I no longer want a life that is exciting, dangerous, and in fear of death. I do want a life that is dynamic, changing, and gives me a chance to always grow. I do need to find a way to just BE. I get uncomfortable without action, and BEing is a huge part of what I feel is outside my comfort zone after a life of living a crazy, unsettled, and unhealthy past.
For me, in life, to live outside my comfort zone has to do with what seem simple, and I would assume easy for others.

Here is a list of things I currently believe are OUTSIDE my comfort zone:

– Going to the Movies alone
– Going to eat alone
– Going to a party with people I do not know
– Being a team player
– Being committed/married/having kids (I do NOT know my path in this but it is definitely outside my comfort zone)
– Karaoke
– Yoga
– Just BE-ing and not DO-ing
– Feeling relaxed/calm
– making new real close friends
– Honest communication with those I love about what I am feeling
– Talking “with” people
– Acting
– Accepting less than Perfection
– Going to bed early/getting up early

Things I know to be WITHIN my comfort zone:

– Road trips
– Quitting a job and getting a new one in a different field
– Going to the Mall alone
– Working alone
– Moving across country
– Traveling to new cities and talking to strangers
– Taking a dance class with strangers
– Always being busy, always doing something, multi-tasking
– Feeling overwhelmed and stressed
– keeping people at a distance
– arguing/fighting with people
– “reacting” in life, versus being present and mindful
– Talking “AT” people
– Being stubborn
– Mediocrity

In the end, I am aware that there is a pattern in things I feel are outside my comfort zone. They have to do with being anywhere and just BEing or being social with new people. I constantly worry and think that for life to be challenging, where I don’t feel bored, and am growing, there has to be these large moments. I struggle in the reality that in every moment there can be things to do to challenge myself outside my comfort zone. I like to BE in my house. But I do struggle with this idea that I have to be DOING something at every moment, and BEing in public.

I have read a lot of websites where it says it is helpful to know people who push ourselves to try new things, get out of our consistency, our rut. I personally do not think I need a person to push me, but I do find others who are close to me to be a TRUE resource to come up with ideas to challenge myself. I forget how well people know me, until they give me an idea of something to do and I say “uh yah thats not something I do easily.” I know this list will change daily, will grow and be crossed off. I hope to never stop pushing myself.

In the end I like this quote more:

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” Brian Tracy

What do you feel are things OUTSIDE of your COMFORT zone? Do you challenge yourself to do/try new things?


  1. Great post, my dear! I’m so glad you said it- that quote from E.R. has always bothered me too. In my opinion, it’s ridiculous.
    I’m also proud of you for listing what was within your comfort zone. I’m sure you stepped OUT of it to make the list for all to see. Especially the last 6? Bravo!

    • I didn’t even connect that!!! I know!!! Thanks hun!!!

  2. This is a great post and an inspiration to everyone who’s embracing the opportunity to learn more about themselves and keep moving forwards.
    I can really relate to some of these experiences, especially getting used to just being and accepting that the lows and highs of normal life are very different to those created through a more disordered existence.
    For me, the flatness that came after stopping my eating disorder behaviours nearly sent me spiralling back; however, as this post highlights, you can find new and healthier ways of challenging yourself.
    My life is gradually becoming more challenging but in very different ways, and in ways that may well be easy for other people but are stretching me; and, therefore, adding interest, and variety, and a kind of satisfaction that I think I was using food to find. Each time I do something new, I feel that the walls of my comfort zone become less constrictive – and I wish you all the best on your journey!

  3. I love your lists – the comfort and the non-comfort. I agree with you that the only way we grow is by pushing ourselves and no one else can do it for us. I love your honesty – and that you’re not afraid to jump out of airplanes but are to share honest feelings with those you love. Because if you know it, you’re that much closer to doing it. In my comfort zone: addressing conflict with others. Not in my comfort zone: Letting go of seriousness and sadness and just having light hearted fun.

  4. That was great !!! your WITHIN comfort zone, seems similar to mine… great piece

  5. If I did one thing every day that scared me I am quite sure I would have had a heart attack years ago or put plainly – be a simpering mess. I agree with your thoughts that it is good to challenge ourselves and push outside our comfort zone every now and again, but even to do this every year sounds really taxing to me. Sometimes we do just need to be where we are comfortable – and at least for me – those are the times I relax and just breathe for awhile

    So nice to read another of your posts!

  6. Oops – that’s a slip! I meant to say day not year.

    • I think that is part of my realization….that just being and relaxing is outside my comfort zone 🙂 It is an interesting realization that I need to push myself to be more calm 🙂

  7. Thanks for this blog! Sounds like you live a full life with lots of passion.

  8. Beautiful post, poem, and photo. Beautiful web site. A brave and beautiful person you are for sharing your journey — no holds barred. I’m 46 years old and have struggled and muddled through alone, mostly, out of fear of stigma and mostly fear of being perceived as WEAK. Reminds me of a quote about how people can become “STRONG AT THE BROKEN PLACES.” (or something like that).
    Well done on all fronts. You have broken a path through a wilderness and marked it for others to follow. (Also, I’m a writer and am most impressed with your use of Twitter. Writing effectively for social media is an emerging discipline that people should teach classes about!)

    • Thank you very much! I don’t nearly write as much as I would like to with my busy schedule. I also LOVE twitter and really enjoy the interaction and connection within social media. A hard balance between social media networks at times! Thank you for reading and commenting – I really get VERY excited when I have new comments! 🙂

  9. We were just chatting on Twitter, and I wanted to tell you how great this post is. 🙂 Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable. It takes a lot of self-reflection and courage to admit to ourselves what we’re uncomfortable about and to try those things. It’s funny that my list of things that make me uncomfortable resemble yours too. 🙂

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