Nobody reading this needs to be told that they need to step outside of their comfort zone in order to grow.
We know. And if we didn’t know, the internet is here to remind us about a dozen times a day.
Yes, growth often involves discomfort.
Yes, growth often involves taking risks.
But if ALL we do is push ourselves in uncomfortable ways or take uncomfortable risks, we probably won’t “grow” all that much— because we’ll always be having to cope with the anxiety and effort that comes with pushing ourselves.
Growth doesn’t actually happen as a result of pushing ourselves.
Growth happens when we get a chance to slow down, rest, and recover.
Lifting weights doesn’t make muscles grow. It actually damages our muscles in the moment.
The growth and strengthening occurs when we recover from the damage we did lifting the weights.
The “comfort zone” gets a bad rap.
It’s true that if we never step out of our comfort zone, it’s hard to achieve different results in our lives. If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always gotten.
That said— if we want the risks we take in stepping out of our comfort zone to pay off, we often need to step back INTO our comfort zone to recover and consolidate our gains.
I see a lot of therapists posting on social media about how the therapy relationship is supposed to “challenge” clients, make them uncomfortable, push them— and that is what some clients need, sometimes.
But in my experience, many, if not all, clients also need the therapy relationship to be a place of safety and certainty as well as challenge.
If we want to grow, we don’t just need relationships that push us. We also need relationships that are safe.
A lot of recovery— especially trauma and addiction recovery— is about establishing safety and comfort inside our own head and heart.
It’s about creating a comfort zone that is actually comforting, restful, and safe— first and foremost inside of us.
If we can’t feel safe in our own head, it won’t especially matter what’s going on outside of us.
We can be in the “safest” external relationships possible, but we still won’t feel safe and good if we’re constantly attacking, disrespecting, and bullying ourselves.
One of the ways psychotherapy can help us is in establishing a relationship in which we do not have to guess whether we are liked, wanted, respected, or believed.
The idea is, if we experience that in the therapy relationship, it can show us how to recreate that on the inside of our own head.
Yes, therapy can hold us accountable.
Yes, therapy can challenge our assumptions, automatic thoughts, and distorted beliefs.
Yes, sometimes a lot of the stuff we confront in therapy can be uncomfortable or even painful.
But I do not understand the pride certain therapists take in creating a relationship that is seemingly constantly, intentionally uncomfortable.
Many people who seek mental health support already have enough relationships in which they are made plenty uncomfortable.
Part of what most people need to heal is a relationship in which they are given the benefit of the doubt.
A relationship in which they don’t have to justify what they feel or who they are.
A relationship in which they know they will be seen and valued as a person— not because they have achieved something or have been able to “be” an “acceptable” version of themselves.
All of which is to say: the comfort zone serves a purpose, both in your head and in your relationships.
Instead of avoiding the comfort zone altogether, consider how you might USE your comfort zone as an essential tool.