Have you noticed that we live in a world full of zones? Parking zones, no cell phone zones, school zones and currently, twilight zones but it’s comfort zones that I want to talk about because the older I get the more fascinating I find them. In many ways they don’t make sense and I find that they are like muscles and you need to exercise and stretch them to be healthy. Let’s be honest we all have something that we find uncomfortable…something that gives us that knot in our stomach. Big or small, they can seem daunting to step outside of even for a second or with loved ones cheering you on but that is exactly what we need to do at times.
Have you noticed that often the things that freak you out or make you uncomfortable are not necessarily logical? I know a very tough and manly man that would gladly take on a crazed killer but would most likely vomit if you touched his belly button. I know another man who is a black belt in karate but locked his wife outside the house one night because there was a spider on the door. Personally, I get queasy going over a small spillway in one of the local neighborhoods and let’s not get started on the bridge over Lake Pontchartrain. I think I’d rather cuddle a tarantula! Of course these “fears” are pretty tangible but there are also those comfort zones that are more internal. I have a lovely, zany friend who has no issue being the life of the party but feels uncomfortable wearing earrings larger than a pin prick because she feels it draws attention to her. She has such a loud personality and is well loved for it and I consider her to be far more brave than I am…She’s a Gryffindor, after all…yet earrings have never in my life been of much consideration outside of aesthetic appeal. It’s just strange how we get things tied up in our minds.
Somehow, without realizing it, I’ve spent the last year trying to stretch my comfort zones. I surely didn’t start out with this “project” in mind but through life, reading and this blog it has somehow turned out that way. I’ve tried to grow as a person in areas that to you, might seem silly, but for me bring on anxiety and a lead stomach. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal or big production to stretch these muscles but it can make such a huge impact on you and those around you. Let me give you some examples…
If you’ve been around this blog long you know I don’t do a ton of social media posting because it stresses me out. I don’t take a ton of pictures anyways and I can’t imagine anyone caring to see what I had for dinner. Yes, I probably overthink the process but it’s just not something I’ve ever done a lot of even in my college/Facebook heyday. For someone who has a degree in Marketing and Public Relations, I don’t do great at the personal branding thing. So, I’ve made an effort to post more in the last six months and to do so without analyzing ever little detail. That may seem ridiculous to you if you are comfortable posting multiple selfies a day but for me it’s been an actually challenge. My close friends have even caught on and are very encouraging to the point of being a personal social media PR team, for which I am eternally grateful! So when you see me post a poorly lit, somewhat crooked picture of tacos please know that I am trying to grow as a person… and tacos are delicious!
I love makeup. I love how it makes me look and feel. I love that makeup allows me to be creative and play with colors and shadows in my daily life. To me it is a creative expression of who I am but I also know it can be a bit of a crutch that is wrapped in pride and fear. Since the lockdown began, we haven’t had to worry quite as much about our appearance as perhaps we typically would but I realized early on that I was still putting on makeup to go layout in a friend’s backyard or to run through a drive-thru or to go to my parents’ house which is insane because at this point NOBODY cares. So, I decided to loosen up a bit which, for me, meant not wearing real makeup unless I was going in an actual public place that required getting out of the car and I found that nobody seemed horrified by my uneven skin tone or dark circles which led me to set myself the challenge of going somewhere that I would prefer people not to look at me like the Sea Hag and do so with little effort which of course actually required a TON of effort internally. Last week, I did just that! Hair thrown in a ponytail, tinted moisturizer with SPF because the sun is damaging and mascara. That’s it and off I went. I even ran into someone that I would prefer to look my best in front of and you know what? It wasn’t terrible! I spent the whole day in a state that felt very exposed but after a while I didn’t think about it and I didn’t notice anyone running away in terror which was reassuring.
If you go back in the annals of Converse and Crowns you will find an old post I did on a strange habit I have of losing my ability to form sentences when around an attractive man which is just as amusing to watch as you can imagine. It’s strange because I will gladly address an auditorium full of teenagers or wear a ridiculous costume in public or dance as a giant snowflake on national television but for some reason my brain goes foggy when faced with a man that I, personally, find attractive and I’m hard pressed to squeak out a simple “Hello”. It has become a running gag with my friends as they have now all experienced this first hand which has left them entertained and confused. Now, I’m not stupid, so, naturally I just steer clear of those obstacles which in hindsight might explain my singleness. Ha! However, I’ve made it a point recently to pay attention and attempt to engage in dialogue with these dashing dudes if for no other reason than learning to speak when I feel like I might throw up. I’ve even initiated conversations which once again seems so basic but for me is quite a feat!
This last example is probably the silliest of all but one that I forced myself into lately. I love Bible journaling because it allows me to be worshipfully creative and express my desires and beliefs in a way that reaches my soul but I’m also very aware that my artistic ability is limited. My brother inherited my daddy’s drawing skills but I most definitely did not so typically I draw my idea (or one from Pinterest) on another piece of paper before transferring it to my Bible for fear of marring the page. I know that seems insignificant but if I were to make a mess of a page, especially one with a special verse, I would forever be disappointed in myself and a bit gun shy to continue my efforts. However, this process takes forever and to be honest, it takes a lot of the worship out of the activity because I’m so focused on perfection and appearance. So, in the last week I have forced myself to draw directly, with pencil of course, on to the pages of my Bible. Has it been perfect? Definitely not but I have tried to concern myself less with perfection and focus more on the beauty of the scriptures I’m illuminating.
Overall, in this process I’ve learned two big things. One, your concerns don’t have to be logical but you can use logic to help you grow. For example, I know logically that posting a picture of tacos online should not stress me out. I also know that NOT ONE PERSON is going to look at those tacos and think something nasty and if they do they have their own hang-ups so that’s a good place to start a conversation with yourself. Maybe the thought of speaking to a group of people makes you queasy and you surely wouldn’t be alone because a survey done years ago found that the number one fear in the US was public speaking. The second fear? Death. That means people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy which is 100% not logical but that doesn’t change your feelings but the logic can guide your thinking. Even if you trip or forget your words or have your dress tucked in your underwear it isn’t life threatening though it feels that way. Try to rationally consider what ails you and approach it in a logical way.
My second realization, is that tackling these comfort zones, especially the silly ones, can be a great step in growth and health. Who knows what doors may open up when you start trying things just outside of that circle you’ve drawn. Maybe you’ll find a new hobby or skill? Maybe you’ll meet a new person or help someone else on their journey? Maybe you will learn to love yourself more or to appreciate your abilities? But just like any other form exercise you have to be intentional and consistent to truly see the payoff and just like exercising your body, sometimes it sucks, hurts and leaves you sore.
So, that is what I’m asking you to consider. Is there an area where you could step outside of your comfort zone? Even something tiny…kill that spider yourself, make small talk at the grocery, run a 5K, join the choir, wear red lipstick. Whatever it is, give yourself mercy and grace as you attempt the uncomfortable. No one gains six pack abs over night and no one feels 100% comfortable after facing an unpleasant task after one attempt. Also, might I suggest making this a group effort with those closest to you? It’s so much easier to do something when you have encouragement and logical, not emotional, reminders. It also helps with the intentionality and consistency when someone is holding you accountable. Now go forth and good luck!