Therapist Darcie Brown On How to Go Beyond Your Comfort Zone to Grow Both Personally and Professionally
An Interview With Maria Angelova
People around you may not be in favor of or even discourage your growth. Change is uncomfortable for you, yes, but it can also be uncomfortable for people in your life. This may come from a place of projecting their own fears onto you, or from a fear of how your change might impact them.
It feels most comfortable to stick with what we are familiar with. But anyone who has achieved great success will tell you that true growth comes from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. What are some ways that influential people have pushed themselves out of their comfort zone to grow both personally and professionally? As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Darcie Brown.
Darcie Brown, JD, MA, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in San Diego, CA. Darcie is passionate about living an authentic and purposeful life and supporting her clients in understanding themselves on a deeper level and creating a life that makes them feel content and fulfilled. Darcie has been quoted as a mental health expert in Women’s Health, Bustle, Better by Today, and Best Life and has contributed articles to media outlets including Medium, Elite Daily, and U.S. News & World Report.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My parents were educators who became business owners just after I was born. With a mortgage and two young children, my mom stayed at home with my sister and me while my dad spearheaded getting licensed as a CFP and starting a financial planning business. Together they created an incredibly successful business while living off their savings initially. They taught me the value of hard work, commitment, and going after what you want even when the safer choice is calling you to stay the same. They have pushed each other to take risks and step outside their comfort zones which has been incredibly inspiring to me as I’ve worked through my professional career path.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s impossible to choose just one, but a current favorite is “Our mindset can either propel us forward into our dream life and keep us in a state of happiness and gratitude or it can keep us in negativity and a paralyzed state of spinning our wheels. The choice is yours.” (Author unknown.) I love how empowering this quote is. Each one of us has the power and agency to make choices in our lives. When we start to realize that there’s always a choice, even if we don’t love any of the choices, we start to see and take opportunities to change when we feel stuck.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The Yes Brain by Dr. Dan Siegel. I became a parent last year and have prioritized gaining knowledge about how to raise a strong, kind, and resilient human. During my graduate school education, I heard Dan Siegel’s name often and have read several of his books. Not only do they provide research-backed tools for how to raise good humans, but they provide invaluable tools for adults. This particular book focuses on how to develop balance, resilience, insight, and empathy in a child. I love that Siegel shares how to support kids’ inherent curiosity as well as how to develop crucial life skills that so many children aren’t taught in school. I would highly recommend this book to every parent.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s start with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. What does “getting outside of your comfort zone” mean?
Getting out of your comfort zone means doing things that are unfamiliar and feel uncomfortable because they are new and different.
Can you help articulate a few reasons why it is important to get out of your comfort zone?
The most important reason is this: Humans are meant to grow and change. This is how we are built. Life events, circumstances, and new ideas influence us, and it’s our job to lean into the discomfort that comes from shifting from the person we are now to the next version of ourselves.
Is it possible to grow without leaving your comfort zone? Can you explain what you mean?
Yes then no. I believe that the start of the growth process often takes place in our comfort zone. We feel the pull to change and might start to reflect on and consider what change might look like. We might even feel uncomfortable as we resist the ways that we feel called to change. Once we accept that change is coming and start to lean into it, that’s when we step out of our comfort zones to fully embrace change and make the adjustments to really grow.
Can you share some anecdotes from your personal experience? Can you share a story about a time when you stepped out of your comfort zone and how it helped you grow? How does it feel to take those first difficult steps?
Before I became a licensed therapist, I was an attorney. After several years in practice, I was really unhappy but didn’t know where to turn. I’d invested over a $100 grand into my education, studied for 3 years, and passed arguably the hardest bar exam in the country. Whew! It was no small feat to say the least. It felt mentally impossible to “give it all up” after working so hard and so long to achieve this goal. I had many people telling me that I could “do anything with a law degree” and that I shouldn’t give up on something that I hadn’t been doing very long and had spent so much time working towards.
However, there came a point when I just couldn’t do it. Every weekend I had the Sunday scaries and counted down the minutes every work day. I didn’t want to live that way! So I quit practicing law with no other plan than to work as a freelance writer. I did this for a couple of years before I started to feel like I needed something more stable. I felt like there was something else out there for me, but I didn’t know what.
When I landed on becoming a therapist, it felt right, but I was terrified. Could I really go back to school and invest even more time and money into another degree without the absolute certainty that it would turn out as I’d hoped? I had a lot of people telling me that I shouldn’t do it, yet I felt the pull and I had to do it. When it came time to pay my first semester’s tuition, I remember calling my mom and saying, “I don’t know if I can do this. It’s so much money.” And she said, “Darcie, what else are you going to do?” That stuck with me. I felt pulled to take this leap of faith and so I did. I started grad school and years later here I am as a licensed therapist, completely thrilled that I stepped outside my comfort zone and took a chance that it would lead me to a place of fulfillment.
Here is the central question of our discussion. What are your “five ways to push past your comfort zone, to grow both personally and professionally”?
- Recognize that growth and change are inherently uncomfortable. The discomfort of trying something new is not a stop signal but rather a signal that change is hard. You will almost certainly feel uncomfortable as you make a change. That’s normal and to be expected.
- People around you may not be in favor of or even discourage your growth. Change is uncomfortable for you, yes, but it can also be uncomfortable for people in your life. This may come from a place of projecting their own fears onto you, or from a fear of how your change might impact them.
- Remember the phrase: I can do hard things. I often tell this to clients and personally say it myself. We can all do hard things. We may not always want to do hard things, but we can do them. This mantra can empower us to push through the challenges that come with growth and do the work to change in the ways we desire.
- When you step outside your comfort zone, lean on the foundation of support from family and friends. We are more likely to take the risk and make a change when we know we have people who will be there for us no matter how things turn out. Lean into this. Gather your team of supporters and then get to work.
- Remember that you can always change again. We often fear that we won’t like where we end up, but we forget that there’s no limit on how many times we can change. If you don’t like where you end up, you can change again and you’ll likely have even more confidence to make another chance because you know you can do it.
From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common barriers that keep someone from pushing out of their comfort zone?
Here are a few: The fear of failure or fear of being worse off after making the change; the inherent discomfort of leaving one’s comfort zone, the fear of the unknown and the uncertainty of the unknown; it feels easier to stay within one’s comfort zone.
There is a well-known quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that says, “Do something that scares you every day”. What exactly does this mean to you? Is there inherent value in doing something that pushes you out of your comfort zone, even if it does not relate to personal or professional growth? For example, if one is uncomfortable about walking alone at night should they purposely push themselves to do it often for the sake of going beyond their comfort zone? Can you please explain what you mean?
I don’t take Roosevelt’s quote literally, but rather as more of a philosophy. Opportunities to challenge and push ourselves are all around us; it’s our job to look for them and take them. And that’s how we grow and become the people we want to be.
The inherent value in doing something that pushes you out of your comfort zone comes from the feeling of empowerment and the confidence in believing “I can do it.” I’d argue that the ‘walking alone at night’ example does relate to personal growth, as there’s likely a reason behind this person’s fear or reluctance to walk at night. Doing the work to figure out why they are afraid is related to personal growth, in my opinion.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Start doing random acts of kindness for the people in your life. Recently, I baked a bunch of blueberry muffins and took them to some friends for a Valentine’s Day treat, along with a card. I know it meant a lot to them, but I felt so good doing it. It felt good to provide a small bit of care of them and show love and kindness. It’s amazing how good we feel when we serve others.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I’d love to share a meal with Amber Fillerup! (@amberfillerup — Instagram handle) She owns two companies (Barefoot Blonde Hair and Dae) and is also a mother of four. I love how she lives life to the fullest and celebrates life’s little joys. She seems to be intentional in how she spends her time and embraces ways to become the best version of herself.
How can our readers follow you online?
Readers can check out all of my work here. If you are a California resident and would like to explore the possibility of working with me, check out my website here. You can also connect with me on Instagram and LinkedIn.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.
About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule a free consultation, click here.