The Uncomfortable Comfort Zone

OK, so I’ve got a feeling you’re wondering how a comfort zone can be uncomfortable – ‘surely that’s a contradiction in terms Bethany’ I hear you say. Well, when written down in black and white on a piece of paper then logically it is, but emotionally it definitely isn’t, and I’m often talking about this in my work as a counsellor. Let me explain….

Have you ever been in a situation… a job, a relationship, an arrangement etc… where you’re not particularly happy, but the idea of changing it doesn’t feel easy or good, so you just put up with it? You may have thought, or even spent ages daydreaming, of being in a different place in your life: doing a different job, in a relationship with someone else, having a better social life, spending time with nicer people, ____________ (you fill in the blank) but you think that you’ve no choice but to tolerate the hand you’ve been dealt. 

Uncomfortable comfort zone

There can be many reasons for this. Perhaps you believe that your situation is normal, that everyone works in jobs they hate, that everyone’s partner regularly criticises and humiliates them, that life is rubbish for most people.  You may even think that you don’t deserve any better, or that you’ve brought the situation on yourself and you’ve made your bed so you have to lie in it. Perhaps the changes required to get you to that better place feel too much for you, or you’ve no idea how on earth to make it happen, so you just proverbially stiffen that upper lip and keep calm and carry on.  Well that is what I call being in an uncomfortable comfort zone …. You’re not happy with something but it’s just how it is, or the idea of change feels more uncomfortable than the discomfort you’re currently experiencing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m very aware that there are some things in life we can’t change, so must move towards acceptance, and adapting our lives accordingly. That’s not what I’m addressing in this blog, I’m talking about the things we could change if we didn’t feel so afraid to… of doing the hard work of giving up a certain level of income to re-train for a different career, of risking applying for a new job and hoping that your new boss / colleagues / workload will be better, of risking making yourself single again and facing the dating scene, of overcoming your nerves to talk to strangers when joining a new club in the hope of making some new friends. Whilst change can feel exciting, it can also feel anxiety-provoking, to the point where we think ‘forget it, I’ll just stick to the devil I know.’

Have you ever heard of the Serenity Prayer (by Reinhold Niebuhr)? It’s quite profound so worth a mention at this point:

‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’

Whether you consider yourself a religious / spiritual person or not, the prayer holds some profound wisdom anyone can make use of, and I’d like to highlight the words ‘courage to change the things I can.’ Because it takes a heck of a lot of courage to change a situation at times, especially when the outcome of the change can’t be cast-iron guaranteed. What if we give up our job only to find that the new job is even worse? What if we end a relationship only to find that we don’t meet anyone new? There are lots of risks in life, some of which just don’t feel worth taking.

Now I’m not going to say that I can promise a great outcome if you take the risk, but what I can be confident of is that if you don’t take the risk you could easily end up looking back on your life in the years to come and wonder what good might have happened if you’d been more courageous? Or that what you’re tolerating now could gradually worsen to the point where you have no choice but to change it, and who knows what that situation could look like and what damage it could do to all those involved.

I recently watched a video that had randomly appeared on Facebook as I scrolled down reading various posts and something grabbed my attention. A video started playing and a young lady, Deshauna Barber (a Captain in the US Army Reserve and Winner of Miss USA) was giving a speech and within it she talked about perseverance, despite setbacks, and this was her piece of wisdom that I felt compelled to share in this blog, she said ‘Do not fear failure, but please feel terrified of regret.’ Another quote I heard a long time ago and is still true today is: ‘If you don’t change anything, what will change?’

So, what’s your uncomfortable comfort zone? And what does the boundary of that zone look like that keeps you there? What are the reasons that keep you stuck? If this blog has touched on a sore point and you’d like some help in working out the difference between the things you can’t change and the things you can, if you’d dearly love to muster the courage to change something but can’t on your own, then maybe it’s time to seek some help from someone impartial, someone who has no agenda but to help you think things through so you can make your own decision about what’s right for you, no pressure to change but with the space to peruse the options available and consider what the blockages are, and discover some strategies to overcome them.

If that sounds good then feel free to contact me, it may well be the first step in a journey to a much more comfortable comfort zone.

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