The Uncomfortable Truth About Comfort Zones
By Candace Plattor, M.A.
I will admit it – I am a creature of comfort. I love soft, fuzzy things. I love soft blankets and comfortable clothes, like my favorite jeans and tee shirts. I love to sit in cushioned chairs and drink hot jasmine tea, with the temperature in the room being just right. I really don’t like feeling uncomfortable.
But that is all about physical comfort. And as important as that is to me, what is equally important is for me to allow myself to be emotionally uncomfortable at times. “What??” you may be asking yourself. “Why would Candace want to feel emotional discomfort? Isn’t that what we all strive to avoid, at almost any cost??”
I can understand your confusion and I will answer that excellent question.
What is a comfort zone?
Because Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is something that many people don’t ever think about, the concept of a ‘comfort zone’ – or even what to do about it – remains out of their consciousness as well. Comfort zones usually develop in childhood, when we discover a dysfunctional belief or behavior that somehow helps us feel safe, even when it isn’t good for us. And we often bring this into adulthood where it can keep us company for a very long period of time. The problem is that comfort zones generally keep us stuck in ways we’re often not aware of, limiting how we see both ourselves and our world.
Sometimes a comfort zone is like a self-fulfilling prophesy. A great example of this is when we decide that we aren’t good enough – and certainly not worthy of having a good life. Our role in our family of origin might have been that of the scapegoat, where we were blamed and shamed for things that weren’t our fault at all. But because this happened so often we came to believe that this was true. We also may have gotten some attention for this role – and for some children, negative attention feels better than no attention at all. As we grow up, we find ourselves acting out and getting punished at home, in school, and even in our relationships with our friends – which further compounds the belief about ourselves that we are unworthy of anything good in our lives. This can affect who we choose for a mate, how we dress, what kind of work we decide to do, and so on.
But our comfort zones eventually devolve into dictating ways of living that, although they may feel ‘safe’ or comfortable to us, they are actually based on faulty core beliefs. One of my own comfort zones that started for me in childhood was that I had to be a ‘good girl’ and please other people. In my family of origin, my needs were relegated to the back burner most of the time. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of frustration and resentment this caused for me over the years. I made terrible choices about so many things, so many times. My body finally got tired of living with that kind of stress – which turned itself into Crohn’s Disease at the age of 23, adding to it a 15-year opioid addiction due to the many addictive prescriptions my doctors kept refilling – and refilling and refilling.
Are we having fun yet?
Regardless of the name “comfort zones,” these self-placating beliefs are anything but comfortable or healthy for us. Let’s circle back to the EQ that I talked about earlier and the emotional discomfort we need to allow ourselves to experience. The fact is that we can only heal what we allow ourselves to become aware of – so it’s imperative that we let ourselves feel even our darkest feelings, so that we can heal them and live our BEST lives, instead of the difficult lives we have mistakenly come to believe we deserve. As a spiritual teacher of mine likes to say, “A belief is only a thought you keep thinking.” We give these thoughts the power to derail us and create comfort zones that really don’t serve us – that is, not if we want a better life – one filled with ease and joy.
What if we decided, right now today, that we are going to stop shaming and sliming ourselves –even though that’s what we’re so used to doing? What if we decide that we are going to develop our all-important self-respect by treating ourselves better, by talking to ourselves in more positive ways, and by not choosing toxic relationships? What if we decide to learn how to set boundaries with people who believe they have the right to treat us badly?
The wonderful truth is that we CAN come out of our comfort zones and live a holistically healthier life. It’s a choice – and that choice is yours to make.
Are you ready to feel better?
Candace Plattor, M.A., is an Addictions Therapist specializing in working with the family of people who are struggling with addiction. As a former addict with 35 years clean and sober, Candace knows that overcoming addiction is a family condition: everyone in the family is affected by addiction and everyone needs to heal. Learn more about Candace here: https://lovewithboundaries.com/