While trying to help someone the other day on his difficulty shaking his comfort zone, I realized that there was a pattern common to many people I know, myself included, which held us back.
You see, at some point in my life, I felt so broken, malfunctioning in every possible way. I had generalized anxiety that would never leave me, to an almost debilitating degree. I sought for professional help, and then became obsessed with personal development, in a quest to improve and eventually cure myself. I’d finally “be OK” and start moving forward. Things evolved pretty organically for me, and I’m far from fixed. But neither do I continue to expect that to ever happen. Here’s why.
For young and broken people, happiness may sometimes look like a kind of constant bliss. Or maybe an absence of pain, of “problem” or malfunctioning. I mean, no one teaches us what happiness is, so how would you know? For what it’s worth, it sure feels joyful when you’re sitting with your friends in a bar, away from your everyday problems.
I believe the mistake here, is to consider that there is a point where, after having worked on yourself, you’ll be cured and enjoy everlasting happiness. For one thing, it means that in order to be fine, you must not be experiencing any kind of miserable moments. If you turn the problem this way, what solution should your brain come up with? Well, it’s very simple, you simply have to diligently remain in your comfort zone, and therefore avoid any kind of conflict. Presto, happiness!
The other, more subtle, is that you will consider every one of your quirks as an “issue” to fix. In itself, it is not so serious, but it connects with a very nasty behavior, which is comparison. By believing that you need to be cured, you are actually comparing yourself to that ideal “healthy, normal, functioning, Freud-approved human being”. You may want to shape yourself like that idol, and that can be dangerous (and never-ending).
Now, let’s go further and say that you are lucky enough to reach the point where you feel finally “fixed”. Then you will realize something: your bliss only stays for as long as you avoid undertaking any kind of challenging action. Sure, your therapy has made you stronger, more aware and gave you tools, but once you step outside of your comfort zone, it is still going to be hard. You are going to confront your greatest fears, you are going to have doubts, difficulties, backslashes and these are going to be painful. Many times you will feel that you may have gone down the pit again. These moments will make you feel unhappy, at least for a moment. And it is the case for anything that truly matters, which requires you to go “beyond yourself”. Discomfort and pain are just a part of growing. If you want to get used to talking with strangers as a shy introvert, the first conversations, or even putting yourself out, will feel awkward. Rejection will make you feel miserable. No way around that.
Sadly, what I observe in the people who say that they are fixed but haven’t undergone real self development, is that they choose a life that carefully avoids triggering their insecurities. They sometimes altered their calling to fit it. They may still take on challenges, but it tends to be short-term and narrow-scoped exercises, as the bigger ones have more chance of pushing them outside the comfort zone.
On the other hand, people who have big plans (a dream, a calling, a vision, however you call it — I prefer vision, because you are consciously responsible for it, but that’ll be another article) tend to not get away from their deeper issues for too long. If you are close enough to them, you may know it: behind their successful looks, they have stressful, miserable moments too, and they may even feel like shipwrecks sometimes. They do have a lot of issues, they are certainly not this kind of blissful soul, always feeling light, free and laughing. They are just optimist, they know where they want to go, and while the path may be paved with various problems, none is truly blocking, because they visualize themselves as coming out winning. Problems are therefore not such a big deal. They cannot be.
They later manage to resolve these issues, which gives them confidence, helping them in turn to solve more problems. But the problems will continue to be added to their everyday mental life as they progress through life. New, bigger and more complex problems. And what previous successes have given to them is merely a kind of faith that validates their optimism. They will still be shipwrecks at times. At the very least, they are no model in terms of mental stability, but it is fine. Because the ones who try to live without problems can only go where they’ll never be worried.
Note: we are talking about reasonable problems here. It can feel overwhelming at times, but if you don’t feel great even after taking challenging action, or if the fear of going out of your comfort zone is debilitating, then you are not in this category. Don’t try to be a hero, consult a professional specialist in case of doubt.
I hope that you enjoyed this article. I’m still adjusting my style, feel free to give any feedback!