Why I’ve learned to never let myself stay in my comfort zone for too long
If someone told you that you could stay somewhere where you’d always feel safe and surrounded by familiar surroundings, it would probably sound like a pretty good deal, right? Four years ago, I definitely would have thought so. Stability, predictability, and a feeling of security—what’s not to love?
That’s exactly the allure of comfort zones. They present themselves as these perfect sanctuaries where you’ll never feel pressured to do anything you’re not sure about or scared of. No risks involved, ever.
Or so it seems. Over the past four years, I’ve come to realize that there is actually a huge risk in staying in your comfort zone for too long—the risk of stifling personal growth.
Let’s set the scene. August 31, 2016: I entered high school as a shy freshman who was used to being quiet and reserved all the time. I never raised my hand in class, rarely talked to new people, and didn’t like any sort of attention. I was the most comfortable with being an unseen part of my community, but I also hated the way that my shyness held me back from trying new things that I was interested in. It was an internal struggle for me to balance out those two opposing feelings, and yet, more often than not, I gave in to the side of myself that told me to just stay within what felt familiar.
However, as high school went on, I slowly decided to venture out and take a few risks. It started off small: things like starting conversations with people in my classes that I didn’t know really well or joining clubs that seemed interesting to me. It definitely wasn’t easy—I was nervous about attending things such as club meetings. Little by little, though, I started realizing that by being willing to go beyond what I was used to doing, I was able to open myself up to so many new rewarding experiences that I wouldn’t have imagined.
At the beginning of my sophomore year, I decided to go one step further and apply for officer positions within clubs I enjoyed. These became my first tastes of leadership, and I still remember how daunting it felt to be given these new roles that held so much responsibility. Never in a million years had I pictured myself in any sort of leadership role, and I was afraid of so many things that could go wrong. Would I mess up important tasks? Was I capable of being responsible for something bigger than myself? The fear of failure was always a lingering thought in the back of my mind, but I tried my best to push it away as I tackled these new opportunities, telling myself that regardless of the results, I was learning from each new experience I put myself through.
By the time junior year rolled around, I’d gained a lot more confidence in myself, and I decided to try something I’d always wanted to do but never had the courage for: joining the Eagle Era. Having been an avid reader of the paper since freshman year, I’d thought a lot about becoming a part of it, but I’d always been hesitant about the large amount of interviewing involved. However, seeing the positive effects of previously pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I decided to finally take the plunge.
Journalism definitely threw me straight into some of the worst nightmares my past self could have had—having to interview strangers, school administrators, and even district board members was something that terrified me at first—but I’m so glad I went through that phase, because without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. At the beginning of my time as a staff writer, I was pretty intimidated. I relied on my need to earn a good grade in journalism as my motivation to force myself to do interviews. However, as I did more and more interviews, I found that I started to truly enjoy the process. I learned far more than just journalistic writing from being in the Eagle Era—I learned about how to talk to people of all sorts of backgrounds and opened my mind to the stories and experiences of so many people that I may not otherwise have been able to learn about.
And now, as senior year comes to a close, I often find myself reflecting on everything I’ve done in the past four years. If I had to sum up my high school experience in one theme, it would have to be all the times I’ve forced myself beyond what felt safe and familiar. Through all those times, I’ve realized that pushing myself to do what I didn’t think I could do has led me to some of the most rewarding opportunities I would ever come across.
I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t constantly told myself to keep moving and keep trying new things. I’ve learned that, ironically enough, I don’t really find the comfort in being comfortable anymore. I no longer want to settle for less when I know that I’m dreaming of something more; I want to latch onto that dream and chase after it, even if I’m terrified by all of the things that could go wrong or all of the new things I’d have to face. The biggest thing that kept me from going outside my comfort zone in the past was my fear of failure, but I’ve realized that failure isn’t the end of the world. Instead, to me, it’s far worse to decide against trying something altogether than to go for it and not succeed.
A new chapter of my life is approaching soon, and there are so many exciting new experiences that await. Am I nervous? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. But this time around, I’m more than ready to take the plunge into pursuing my goals, no matter how daunting they may be. I’ve already started getting involved in extracurricular groups within the college I’m headed to in the fall, and while it’s been slightly nerve-wracking to join all of these activities, the question of “should I go for it?” doesn’t even cross my mind anymore. No more hesitation. That’s so 2016.