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I was recently asked to ponder a time when I had left my comfort zone and it turned out to be a good thing.
The woman who inspired this question had commented that she didn’t have a success story to share—she was searching for one.
I thought about my answer for weeks and about where I am now.
I thought about the time I took a three-day bus ride to Florida when I was 18 and pregnant, alone. When I left an abusive relationship that I’d been stuck in for seven years. When I was afraid to accept a date with the cutest guy I’d ever met to a place I’d never been.
When I sat under a tree near my home and endured a panic attack that felt endless. When I wore a bikini in front of my friends. When I wrote my first published article. (And my 12th.)
Did it end happily? Was it worth the risk?
Well, to be honest, I don’t believe it’s “ended.”
I’m still here. I’m still living, and I’m still facing fears. I’m still pushing myself out of my comfort zone. But, after stepping out, falling out, and being pushed out of comfort, I have often found that I was a bit closer to myself and a bit prouder of myself. And while surviving these experiences, I found moments of joy, confidence, and love among the lessons.
Doesn’t that sound successful?
When I was first asked this question, I didn’t believe I had a story to share. Because—while I had been brave and afraid and left my comfort zone many times before—was it actually worth it if I was met with another level of discomfort to push through?
Was it a success if it didn’t last? If I couldn’t keep it? If it worked out, and then it didn’t anymore?
The pipe-dream of happily ever after is just that—a dream. The truth is, I’m sure there are many times that we have left out comfort zones and overlooked the benefit because we’re now finding ourselves on the floor searching for courage—again. It’s a never-ending cycle as we spiral through the trials and troubles of life.
But has anyone ever experienced success without a bit, or a lot, of pain or discomfort?
Here I am, again, outside of my comfort zone. I had to leave a relationship that I cherished, and I am afraid. I’m not comfortable alone, and having to disconnect from my best friend has been a huge challenge. This change is hard and extremely uncomfortable. I’m heartbroken, terrified, and everything has changed.
And after much thought, I’ve concluded that my entire life has been lived outside of my comfort zone lately. Because, for the past few years, I’ve carried anxiety around with me everywhere I go—trying to find a place to put it.
If you know what anxiety is like, I don’t have to tell you that it’s the furthest from comfort.
Knowing that I’ve been placed among such feelings before (and that I will inevitably need to do it again), in the meantime, I have the middle—a staircase through the endless levels of comfort zones.
And I believe success will be found in doing my best to make this space worth the discomfort.
In gathering up my lessons, checking my faith, and looking for beauty, I’ll build the bridge that will get me from one moment to the next.