Being in the comfort zone and getting out of the comfort zone lie right next to each other. Every day in our life, we all make decisions which way to go. I have always been shy about expressing myself in front of people. I was scared of the reaction I would get. When I was committed to become a pianist, I realised that I liked playing the piano because it’s almost like the relationship with only me and my piano. I focused on getting better at it and expressed my feeling through the sound. I didn’t have to speak yet still got to express my feeling and thoughts, how great is that. Some people say I am quiet, not sociable or kind of scary (how rude!) because I don’t talk so much in front of people that I am not comfortable with. I don’t mind chatting around with my clothes friends. I actually love interacting and getting to know people with various backgrounds and thoughts. My comfort zone has always been so small for me and I did not like getting out of my comfort zone. I believe that the comfort zone is a form of security that we all have in us.
Since I am an introvert and my comfort zone was the only place I wanted to live in, it has always been challenging to get out of my comfort zone to achieve something or to be adventurous. Let’s give you a quick example. When I was studying abroad at a university in the US, one of the things that was the most challenging for me was to raise hands in class. Now you might think why especially if you are from most of the western countries. My Asian brothers and sisters might be nodding their head right now. When the professor decided that the participation; raising hands and sharing opinions in class, will cover 15% of our grading, my thoughts, “I’m so gonna fail.” Even if I had the right answer or some good points I wanted to share with the class, I felt like my lips are sewed together and a single word didn’t come out of my mouth. I was so nervous. During my time in the States, I gained some confidence with this particular issue but still, this is something that I feel very uncomfortable doing. What if I am wrong, what if I use the wrong grammar, what if I misread the question, what if somebody else is just about to raise his/her hand. So many things went around in my head. This was the time when I “had to” overcome my fear and do something uncomfortable; stepping out of my comfort zone to achieve the requirement for the class. Now, if my friends invited me for a gig with bunch of unknown folks and I decided to tag along; that’s just me being adventurous.
There are four comfort zones that I think we all have. The first one is social. I hate socialising (mostly with people I don’t know) because I’m terrible at it. Often, my friends and family tell me that I wear emotions on my face. That should explain why. Now please don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy hanging out with friends or chatting nonstop about some things. But when I am in a situation where people socialise for the sake of their reputation or just because everyone else is doing, it is like pouring water in to a vase whose bottom is broken. I would not feel satisfied and will feel empty after all. Most of the times, I feel left out and want to go to the restroom and escape. Socialising should be something you get to interact with interesting and lovely people who share the quality time with you, not something that you have to feel pressured or crap about yourself. If you are not in it, just leave. I believe that time is the most valuable thing in our life that we are given equally. Angelina Jolie and I both have 24 hours a day. Elephants in Africa and I both have 24 hours a day. What do you value in those precious 24 hours of yours? I allow myself to be selfish sometimes, selfish so I can prioritise my time and I can restore my soul. When I spend time by myself, I have a full control of my time, needless to say. Whilst at an event or a place where there are many people, there are so much pressure to be sociable, to smile and to be interested in something or someone. That’s just too hard for me. Some people get energised by surrounded by many people. Others prefer some alone time. Either way we all should acknowledge the value of our time regardless of the pressure by the social life around us.
The second is people. When I was three or four, my mother was concerned because I was extremely shy. I was too shy to speak up or even to say my name. Little me was in a little shell that I never let anyone in. My mother put me in to many classes; English class, music class, gymnastic class, drawing class, and ice skating class. She knew I needed to get out of my comfort zone and be there communicating with people. I am thankful for her decision and effort. Yet even today, I am shy at making friends. The thought of letting someone into my mind or my space terrifies me. Usually, people who keep trying to break my shell or someone who just somehow slides in to my space will become my forever friends. Who are your comfort zone? Your family? Your friends? Your colleague? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? Whoever makes you feel safe and valued are the people who are in your comfort zone. I often realise that I am more energised and happier after I hang out with people who I feel comfortable with and when I can be true to myself; relaxed, happy, angry, sad, or funny. People who allow me to be myself. They always uplift me. Having those people in our life enriches our life.
The third comfort is space. Where is your comfort space? Is it at your favourite cafe or is it at your home? It can be anywhere. My comfort space is my apartment with bunch of candles, plants and my favourite crystals, or a little forest where I can feel the fresh air. It is a little space that allows you to relax, sleep, cry, really breathe in and out, chill, dance etc. Having those safe places is important for your soul to rest, to restore, and to restart. Another space that is always around us is personal space. When a stranger is in my personal space, it really distracts me and it’s very uncomfortable for me. When I lived in Tokyo, it was very hard to find the balance between being with people and being alone. Even when I was alone, I felt like I wasn’t. My personal space was so limited, invaded and shared by too many people. Tokyo is avery energetic city itself. The energy runs through it. Sometimes I love it, but sometimes it gets too much. During my two years in Tokyo, I managed to discover some comfort space where they allowed me to put my guard off and relax. One big time when I really went out of my comfort zone was when I decided to go to Canada all by myself. I didn’t know how to speak English. I couldn’t even ride the local train back home by myself. But then somehow I told my mother that I wanted to go. That was one of the best thing I did to myself. I was way out of my comfort zone but I was so comfortable in it. After all, we are able to adjust ourselves to the place where we are given. It can be difficult but I encourage you to find your comfort space, it shall comfort you. And a lot of the times, a person who you are with can make any place your comfort zone.
And last but not least, the forth is obstacles. This comfort I talk here is similar to the example that I gave in the second paragraph about my experience in the US. Obstacles are things we have to somewhat overcome or even to let it go in our lives. Everyday, each of us overcomes something. Either that’s giving a speech at your company, it’s your first day at school, telling your family you are gay, or taking the train you have never taken before. We always fight for something out of our comfort zone. Usually, things that are out of our comfort zone have more power of changing the situation or higher chance of making things better. Some may call it a risk. I more see it as an opportunity. If we keep coloring the picture with one color, we will never see it in other ways. It has been challenging for me to face obstacles and make an action that is out of my comfort zone. The fear of failure or the fear of rejection is usually bigger than my determination, bigger than what I think I can handle. Being comfortable is extremely important, but getting out of our comfort zone sometimes is the only way to make things better, and to keep going. One of my weaknesses (I hate to share but I do because we should all be supporting each other) is to look back on things and regret. “I should have done this” ” I should have said this” “I should have told him this” “I should have…..” I analysed my behaviour. Most of the times I regret things that I did’t do. I didn’t do because I was scared of getting out of my comfort zone, because I was scared of getting hurt. Recent days, I just do it when I am in doubt because I know I am more scared of the regret than the fear for something. In the previous paragraphs, I more emphasised the importance of understanding and keeping your comfort zone. But occasionally, as given some examples, getting out of our comfort zones benefit ourselves more than we could have ever imagined.
By learning our comfort zone and “un”comfort zone, we can perceive ourself better and learn how to love ourselves better. I often tell myself, “push yourself because no one else is going to do it for you.” However, too much pushing can cause a lot of stress and discomfort. Sometimes we have to use our comfort zone for the sake of our body and soul. It’s all about the balance. It is always you that decide to step left or right, forward or backward; staying in your comfort zone or getting out of your comfort zone. A comfort zone is a form of security that we all have in us, to protect ourself and to improve ourself. Take charge of your mind and always choose an option that will make you feel happier, fulfilled and accomplished in your own sense.
Thank you so much for reading.
Author Mayumi Nakamurah
Pictures all taken and edited by Mayumi Nakamurah