My Nutella Epiphany
I was spooning Nutella into my mouth, trying not to drip onto my microfiber pillow, when I had an epiphany: we can’t all be our best, most out-of-our-comfort-zone, badass selves all of the time.
First of all, it’s exhausting on a practical level. Sure, I love the abstract concept of drinking fresh green juice everyday, but the reality of shoveling bales of kale into a juicer to extract a few drops of mossy liquid leaves me disappointed, underwhelmed and hungry.
Introvert Boss Vs. Introvert Bed
As an introvert business owner most of my work has involved getting out of my comfort zone, AKA “getting out of bed.” I attend countless networking meetings and events, but I’m most at peace when I can stay right where I am at this moment – happily writing in total solitude.
What if you could stay in your comfort zone, even in uncomfortable situations?
When I was struggling with a confidence-crushing mix of social anxiety and a stutter, I would do anything to avoid being pushed out of my comfort zone. One time at a meeting I pretended to become suddenly ill and hid in the bathroom just so I didn’t have to introduce myself in front of a group. I used to do the same thing in elementary school when we had to take turns reading paragraphs aloud. As an adult professional, I was constantly terrified of being called out for what I believed I was: a coward and a fraud.
And yet, today I actually look forward to speaking and networking events. Don’t get me wrong, I still need my me-time and a wild Friday night can involve TV hospital dramas and my jammies, but that’s the point. I realized that those moments in my comfort zone are what make the more challenging ones possible. If you are an introvert like me, being around a lot of people can be draining. People like us desperately need times of solitude to recharge our batteries and refresh our souls. And that peace we experience in our comfort zone can be harnessed and infused into situations when we need it most.
The transformation I experienced took time and effort, but was not about getting out of my comfort zone. It required going deeper into it.
Imagine what it would be like to schedule “comfort time” for yourself and give it just as much importance as anything else. Now imagine feeling that same blissful sense of no expectations or pressure and learning how to embody that version of yourself all the time. I bet you feel better already, right? But I can almost hear your inner critic chiming in, “Are you kidding me? You can’t do that.”
Actually, You Can. ~ Your Inner Strength
The secret truth is that the expectations and pressures you place on yourself only exist because you’ve created them. They can stop existing. Most of us don’t realize we have that power. I certainly didn’t, not for more decades that I’d like to admit. When you set an intention for how you want to show up for yourself, you control your experience, instead of letting fear and anxiety dictate it for you. When you stop telling yourself you have to get out of your comfort zone and let yourself off the hook, you create a space where you can be at ease, even when your mind is telling you that you ought to be freaking out.
When I walk into a room of strangers now, I know that I can remain in my comfort zone by being my authentic, introvert self. My business suit might as well be pajamas. That’s how comfortable I’ve become. I don’t have to talk to everyone, I don’t have to pretend to be someone I am not. I can have a meaningful conversation with one or two other people. I mostly ask compelling questions and listen, I completely let myself off the hook about any “selling” I have to do. And the funny thing is, when I show up in that way, I end up with more significant business connections and referrals. Total win-win.
It’s Like Walking Around in Your Jammies ALL.THE.TIME.
Once I began to realize I could stay in my comfort zone all the time, I immediately felt relief, like I had just quit the worst most stressful job of my life. And the more I practiced, the more things began to shift in powerful ways. I began to be at ease even as I challenged myself professionally. It was as if I had all this pent up confidence and courage that had been patiently waiting backstage for a moment in the spotlight.
And when the moment came for me to step into that light, I didn’t step out of my comfort zone, I stepped into it.