Stepping out of your comfort zone

Photo: © Vera Kudryashova / 123RF Stock Photo

Why is chatting on social media fun, but studying, boring? Why is speaking in front of a group daunting? Why do exams make us nervous? Why do we stick around in troubling friendships yet find it upsetting when these friends leave? Why do we want things to be okay and still do nothing when they’re not? How come everything that’s good for us is so difficult? And why does laziness hit us right when we need to be out there in the field, fighting, winning and conquering the game?

We like to stick around in that cosy spot where life is ever so comfortable, like an autopilot mode. Where things are moving at their own pace and we don’t feel the need to have it any faster or slower. No storms, no hurricanes, and of course, no confrontation or challenge either.

But if we look around, we have no barricades around us (we’re not jailed criminals!). What is this space then, that we feel happy confining ourselves to? Outside of which we are nervous, tired, hurt, afraid, unsure or insecure? This is our Comfort Zone — that snug place where there’s no uncertainty, pain or exertion.

Real time or imaginary space?

The comfort zone is not a physical room where we hide to shirk responsibility that’s waiting outside the door. This is an imaginary circle of avoidance within which we create explanations and justifications for not doing all the things we know we should and need to. We might even say we want to do them, but somehow we don’t. Because we believe that these things are agonising and tormenting.

  • I get a headache in the sun so I can’t go to the playground.
  • I’m low on stamina due to my weight, so I cannot run fast.
  • My friends make fun of me so I think I’m better off alone.
  • People don’t appreciate my humour, so I will stay quiet.
  • I’m not the smartest kid, so I will survive with low grades.
  • I don’t have a trainer so what is the point in trying a sport?

What tone can you notice in each of the above statements? Is there a seemingly logical and almost valid justification for refusing to do something that might actually be good for us? It’s undoubtedly effortful, but good in the longer run. But then, are we willing to run that race at all?

Reality check in life

If we want good grades we’ll have to study, and if we’ve got to study we can’t go out to play. If we want to lose weight we should watch our diet but that means no more fries, burgers or cheesecake. To make friends we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable, yet remember that we might face rejection. We get so apprehensive about a perfect performance that we miss the audition and lose the chance to contest at all.

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Dr Shefali Batra
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Dr Shefali Batra

Dr Shefali Batra, Psychiatrist and Cognitive Therapist, is the Founder of Mindframes and Co-founder of InnerHour. She is available at