I opened Matt Haig’s Comfort Book today, and read a beautiful short passage about ‘The Discomfort Zone.’ You know the one, the place where you are familiar, where you know what is what, where you can operate on auto-pilot and not really pay attention. Haig makes the point eloquently that so often our ‘comfort zone’ actually becomes a place of unease, boredom, stagnation, I’ve heard others call it a state of quiet desperation.
I’m all for comfort. Feeling safe is a really good thing; it’s essential to health and to good living. We need our nervous system to spend most of its time in a ventral vagal state, where we can rest, socialise, eat, and be intimate.
The thing is, safety is a felt experience within ourselves just as much as it is a result of external conditions. For the vast majority of people, there will have been times when you were objectively safe, but did not feel safe. It is this internal lack of safety that can lead people to become stuck and stagnant, and to stop venturing out into pastures new, beyond the current comfort zone.
Haig explains it is surprisingly easy to walk out of our comfort zone once we decide this is what we are going to do. He suggests that when you do, a deeper comfort is available, that of being your best possible self. He has a point. We each have unique gifts to offer the world, and we don’t realise them when we are busy conforming and fitting into the expectations of others. Be who you are. As Dilts and Gilligan suggest in The Hero’s Journey ‘You are an incurable deviant. Go forth and double your weirdness.’ Be you, gloriously, in all your uniquely vivid colour and radiance. After all, no-one else can do it for you.