Tuesday, 8 August 2017

In Defence of The Comfort Zone

I’m going to go against conventional advice here. Well, not entirely, but partially. I’ll begin by sharing one of my favourite quotes from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche:

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Booyah! Put that in your embroidery hoop and stich it! Actually… that’s a great idea. I’m so going to do that…but I digress. Let’s just keep that golden nugget of wisdom in mind as we progress.

Today I want to write about the ‘comfort zone.’ Have you noticed that comfort zones are predominantly demonised across the board lately? We hear over and over again that we must keep striving, we must go further, do more, be more, keep forging ahead. We must vigilantly push beyond these comfort zones of ours otherwise we’ll stagnate, go stale and turn into boring, unaccomplished, mouldy pieces of bread that no one wants to toast. Now I am all for stretching ourselves so we can grow but whenever opinions start getting a little kooky, kooky is the word I’m choosing to use today as a synonym for dogmatic, then I call a time out.

Geoffrey says "Sometimes we need to go outside our comfort zones in order to grow. Even if it feels a little uncomfortable."

How is comfort zone defined, exactly? A hangover from my academic writing days means I can’t help but clear this up before I go on. So here we go.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
The level at which one functions with ease and familiarity.
A place, situation, or level where someone feels confident and comfortable.

The Oxford Dictionary:
A situation where one feels safe or at ease.
A settled method of working that requires little effort and yields only barely acceptable results.

The Collins Dictionary:
A situation or position in which a person feels secure, comfortable, or in control.

Notice anything? With the exception of the Oxford Dictionary who changed their mind mid-stream, interestingly enough they’re not all bad. Most of them are actually quite positive. Observe the words ease, confident and safe. We know that it is good to be at ease in life because too much stress is bad for our health. We know that healthy self-confidence helps us shine our light brightly so we can share ourselves with the world. We also know that we deserve to be safe and so we strive to keep ourselves and our loved ones out of harm’s way. Furthermore, we know that in many instances healthy boundaries are necessary. So what happens when we juxtapose all of this good stuff with the current doctrine which tells us to kick comfort zones to the curb at all costs?

Let me personalise this a little.

A hefty neck injury and later the need for a tonsillectomy meant that I couldn’t sing for a very long time. For someone who loves to sing this was extremely difficult to say the least. Fast forward to today, after quite a hiatus, I have finally returned to singing lessons and am strengthening my vocal abilities every day, yay! I stepped beyond my comfort zone, got the ball rolling and it feels wonderful to be do-re-meing once again. A clear win for the push. Yet last week I was practicing a song that I’ll be performing on stage in a couple of weeks and my neck muscles became aggravated. I got to the second verse and then uh-oh… hello tension my old friend. Cue a migraine. Lots of fun. Not. Next lesson my singing teacher was very helpful and told me that it wasn’t necessarily what I was singing it was how I was singing it. We began focusing on altering my technique so it can work for me not against me. What did this reveal? I realised that in order to express my creativity and passion through singing I actually need a comfort zone right now. When my muscles strengthen and my technique improves I’ll definitely move forward but not before that point.

Geoffrey also says: "Other times we need to let ourselves enjoy some time in a comfortable zone where we feel at ease, safe and confident. It's all about balance."

So here comes the newsflash peeps: comfort is not a dirty word! It is okay, even necessary, to rest where we’re at before taking things to the next level. This helps us to consolidate what we’re learning as well as allowing us to feel a sense of accomplishment. If we skip the comfortable part we run the risk of living in a constant state of anxiety and struggle. Lo and behold comfort and drive are actually friends not enemies! So I totally support propelling ourselves beyond our comfort zones but in the same breath I am unabashedly defending them too. I honestly think they have been misunderstood and given a bad rap. True comfort zones, not the lazy, can’t be arsed variety, hold some value.

Is it possible to make room for both in life wherein there is a time for pushing and a time for comfort? Can we allow a little comfort in when it is needed without feeling guilty?

Personally, I think it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate this pervasive, black and white ‘comfort zone bad, pushing good’ approach that many motivational “experts” seem to be promoting lately. Nietzsche reminded us that there are many different paths and options in life if we remember that “the only way…does not exist.”

What are your thoughts?


  1. I'm with Geoffrey in that we need to enjoy that comfort zone at times. It is certainly a matter of a healthy balance. I think we definitely need to step out of our comfort zone in order to grow however need rest too.
    I love your photos with Geoffrey showing and explaining - they're perfect.

  2. Haha! Thanks Kylie. I'm glad you liked my model. Geoffrey totally gets it! :-)

  3. Agreed Michelle! Sometimes I think we hear too much about stepping out of our comfort zone. I think we all do it in different ways and some people need to take smaller steps than others. Doesn't mean we aren't still growing. Love the photos and look forward to reading more.

    1. Thanks heaps Belinda. I'm so with you regarding small steps and growing your own way in your own time. This approach eases all that pressure doesn't it.

  4. i love my comfort zone & i usually go out of in new pursuits in knitting & crocheting (soon to be sewing if I can ever get on top of all the knitting) liking your blog so far very well written. it's true, go too fast or to high into something unfamiliar & one tends to start having anxiety issues & i think this is what is wrong with most of society.
    i do love the slow & steady approach & keeping my comfort zone within reach, that way i don't panic.
    love the saying/quote about the 'right way ... not existing', so true
    thanx for sharing

    1. Thanks for your positive feedback Selina. It's so good to hear that you love your comfort zone too, in addition to stretching yourself when you're ready. I totally agree with you regarding the slow and steady approach. I don't know how some of the more hyperactive people keep such a pace! All the best with your knitting and crocheting this week. It sounds delightful.

  5. An interesting thought. While I agree with you that at times our comfort zones are also our safety zones, in that they keep us safe when we shouldn't be "pushing the boundaries". However, without stepping out of comfort zones, our ancestors would have never travelled from their birthplaces, new inventions would not be made, we would never travel to other places, so personally, I think we need time in each "space". Having said that, I much prefer my comfort zone to rowdy pubs or clubs any day! Cheers Lyndie

  6. I'm right there with you Lynda. Knowing when we need to stay and when we need to expand our horizons is key isn't it.