Stop Telling People to Get Out of Their Comfort Zone

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Numerous people told me to “step out of my comfort zone”. You can feel the passion when they talked about it. They said great things happen when you’re out of your comfort zone. Life begins at the end of the of your comfort zone.

I often nodded to show my respect, but at the end of the day, that kind of advice quickly evaporated into thin air. But when I was feeling a little feisty, I usually questioned them back these two things:

1. Why do you assume that I’m in the so-called “comfort zone”?

2. What does “comfort zone” really mean?

Their answer for these two questions were pretty much intertwined. Their comfort zone assumption is based on the thought that “I’m capable for so much more”, that my current condition (mainly refers to professional and academic life) does not reflect my truest and highest potential. That kind of assumption didn’t resonate with me at that moment, especially when I’ve reached that phase in my life where I fully realized that constantly comparing yourself to others is not healthy, and in the end, the thing that matters is that voice within you, your internal well-being. So when I asked myself then, ‘how are you ?’, the truthful answer that came out was ‘I’m happy, I love what I do, won’t change anything at this very moment’, and that’s all that matters.

Still bothered by the lingering obsession to define what comfort zone is, I literally Googled ‘what is comfort zone’ a few days ago. Here are some interesting results that caught my eyes:

“The comfort zone is a psychological state in which a person feels familiar, at ease, in control and experiences low anxiety and stress”

“Methodologically, getting out of your comfort zone entails doing whatever it is that makes you uncomfortable. This means doing things that you resist, hate, or even fear. As long as you do that, you will naturally expand your comfort zone.”

I don’t know about you about I am totally feeling that definition of comfort zone! Contrary to popular belief, I really think that someone can grow, develop, and even find challenges inside this zone. And also…doing things that make you uncomfortable? Doing things that you hate? If those are the definitions of stepping out of the comfort zone, well, no thanks! Life’s too damn short.

So why does this happen? Why there is such a negative connotation that surrounds the word “comfort zone”? What is up with people keep pushing other people to move out from the comfort zone?

For me, I believe that this negative association rooted from the the continuously reinforced idea that you have to suffer first before you can achieve the ultimate happiness and comfort. “Bersakit-sakit dahulu, bersenang-senang kemudian”, sounds familiar? If the happiness or comfort you feel is not a product or a result of some form of adversity, then it’s not the kind of happiness or comfort you should feel good about. These kind of sayings glamorize struggling and suffering as the first step to reach the end goal, and I’d say fuck that. You can be happy in every step of the way. You should be. I personally don’t want to be the part of the society that entertains this masochist notion. (And by the way do people realize that when someone found their comfort zone, most probably that person has gone through a long self discovery process that also demands an enormous effort?)

How do you define “comfort zone” and how you feel about this word should be a personal thing. If you think that comfort zone is a bad thing, you just can’t assume that someone is in the comfort zone because his/her life looks extremely comfortable. From the moment I post this article, you can bet that I won’t be that person in the group telling his friends to get out of their comfort zone. Because you know what? On top of my belief that the decision regarding staying/leaving the comfort zone is a super personal thing, I also believe that every single advice you give contains responsibility. I don’t want to carry a huge burden to guarantee their happiness and fulfillment when they finally decided to oblige and step out of the zone. Especially, when I’m not even 100% sure that all the struggle, all the hard-times that they might face, it all will be worth it. All that I encourage in the end are happiness, doing things that you love, and listening to yourself. That’s it.

Maybe now you are all wondering, have I ever stepped out of the comfort zone myself? The answer is yes, and my experience with it has been a hit and miss. What I learned from the experience is …not listening to my gut and my heart, surrender into what people think is best for me, it just didn’t work. So for those people who tell me to step out of my comfort zone, I want to say thank you. I know those words come from a very good place.

But, now, at this very moment, I’m choosing to be happy and comfortable.

Living and growing in the present moment.

*shout-out to Ms. Farina J. Situmorang, this article is heavily inspired by our One-on-One convo

Ayip Fahmi is an analyst at Catalyst Strategy, the happiest workplace in Indonesia. His passion includes media, pop culture, qualitative research, and good Italian dinner.

Ayip Fahmi Faturochman

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Analyst at Catalyst Strategy. Media and pop culture enthusiast.

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