Venturing Out of Comfort Zones: Why Is It So Hard?

Jul 02, 2019   |   Claudine Choo

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For ages, introverts have been labelled as meek and shy people confined to their comfort zones.

As an introvert myself, I can affirm that making awkward conversations with strangers while being stuck somewhere with no escape route for hours is one of the worst possible scenarios an introvert can ever find themselves in.

On the other hand, an extrovert’s comfort zone is not as clearly defined.

In fact, people may even question what exactly an extrovert’s comfort zone entails. Being outgoing and socially confident, it may also put pressure on an extrovert to be apt at adapting to every social situation possible.

Extroverts are not miracle workers and whilst I’m no profile master, I imagine that extroverts may find quiet contemplation nerve-wracking, something that a good number of introverts like to do.

Comfort zones are boundaries set by ourselves and are meant to be challenged on our own. Why exactly is it so hard to step out of them?

Why is it so hard to step out of my comfort zone?

I remember in primary school, I was painfully shy and introverted. When I was given the opportunity to participate in a debate competition, the first thought that popped into my mind was, “No? I don’t want to do this!” The idea of failure in an unfamiliar environment and unchartered territory was simply terrifying.

Being unconfident didn’t help either.

When you step out of your bubble and into a zone with masters of a craft, you might feel foolish for even attempting to start. That was what I felt. Failing at the first try destroyed my already fragile self-confidence. Sometimes, all you need is a leap of faith, and a false bravado to fake it till you make it.

Feeling shy and small in a new kind of world. Image credit: Shutterstock (https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/curious-girl-hiding-hole-prying-editable-545116213)

With a teacher’s encouragement and support, and thank goodness for a sense of shy curiosity to try something new, I discovered an interest in crafting my own content through speeches and writing, and a newfound confidence in public speaking.

It got me thinking that comfort zones are self-defined limits that hold us back from achieving more than we can. Is holding back and staying in a realm of definite safety really worth the sacrifice of discovering and enjoying life, and experiencing more happiness than we currently do?

Stepping out of them would let us see the world in a different perspective and broaden our perception of reality. Breaking these barriers would give us a chance to explore; an amazing way to broaden our horizons and understand both the world around us and ourselves better.

How do I step out of my comfort zone?

Stepping out of our comfort zones does not mean jumping the gun and immediately attempting an activity we would never have imagined ourselves in in a thousand years.

Baby steps are often key and a vital point to understand ourselves and what we are mildly confident in to begin with. From the perspective of an introvert, speaking to a cluster of strangers from a vaguely unfamiliar walk of life may be just as frightening as public speaking.

It’s not easy to speak up in front of people, and appear like you got things under control. Image credit: Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/illustrations/fear-public-speaking-stage-fright-4208702/)

Combining what you are comfortable with what you fear may make stepping out of your comfort zone less daunting and a lot easier. For example, introverts can start with one-on-one interaction with a stranger or deepening a friendship with an aquaintance. Similarly, they can also join external interest groups with a friend to make the initial process of befriending a stranger less terrifying.

I personally find volunteering a great solution when one is having trouble stepping out of their comfort zone.

Most of the time, volunteering has always been centered on helping others, and people tend to forget that they can help themselves too. Aside from the usual lessons of gratitude and generosity, volunteering is more than capable to help us navigate our self-perception and understand our strengths and weaknesses better.

In positions we would never have imagined ourselves in, volunteers are made to challenge deeply-seated prejudices and communicate ideas and hopes with people we did not think of having anything in common.

Likewise, it gives introverts like me a safe space to get to know more people in a comfortable environment while encouraging them to make the first move in befriending someone, and extroverts will be able to reflect on a more personal and intimate level with themselves.

Volunteering gives room for an individual to experience and overcome difficulties within a safe space. Opportunities to test the waters are abundant and there are a wide range of activities you can start and continue with to sustain your interest, while giving that extra challenge to test yourself over and over.

With so much to learn and discover, volunteering, with a sincere heart and genuine desire to help both ourselves and others grow, will be able to play a key role in self-discovery and expanding the comfort zones way more than we ever dreamed of.