I don’t know about you but I love my comfort zone. Like, if I could set up shop and never leave I would totally do it. I’m easily stressed, easily embarrassed, and sensitive to criticism (wow, I sound awesome), so to take a step in an unfamiliar place outside of my comfort zone is huge. As a result, I often miss out on opportunities and have an accompanying list of regrets.
Can I just say, my comfort zone has never served me well. It’s hard to navigate a full and fruitful life if you’re scared to stand out a little bit sometimes.
At the root of my need (and your need) for a comfort zone is fear. Oh, fear. I think the walls of comfort zones are made up of fear and are meant to make us feel safe when in actuality, they keep us closed off and out of the reach of those who love us and experiences we desperately need. Can I be so bold as to say that the majority of our fears, the ones that keep us in our comfort zones, are based off of others’ perceptions of us?
Why are you afraid to open up to your friends about your struggles?
Why are you afraid to try that new exercise class?
Why are you afraid to share your talents?
Why are you afraid to apply to your dream school?
Why are you afraid to invite someone to church?
When we stay in our comfort zones, we are resisting being seen by others. We are preventing the opportunities to be embarrassed, to be criticized, and to be worried. However, we are also preventing the chance to succeed. To make new friends. To fall in love. To change the world. To change at all.
The Bible tells us:
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
God gives us everything we need to do big, scary, new things. He gave us HIM! The Holy Spirit empowers us to do things that inspire fear without Him. Why are we so worried about how others see us with truths like that? When we lean on God instead of our fears, we are powerful forces! Fear does NOT empower. It keeps us trapped in our comfort zones where growth and opportunity do not live.
So, I’m learning to let go. I’m learning to take steps out of my comfort zone and to BE SEEN. If I fall flat on my face and all my fears are realized, God’s got it. Plus, there is never a time I can remember stepping outside of my comfort zone and regretting it. No it doesn’t always work out. Big (or little) risks don’t always yield the rewards we want. But…God wants us to have a full and rich life on Earth. We can’t obtain that without turning our focus from how we appear to others to how to live abundantly. Like I said before, it’s not easy to live abundantly if we are too scared to stand out and live out of our comfort zone.
I wanted to share of a time where I really embraced this concept of letting go and living (abundantly). It seems like such a small thing when I look back on it, but I think it speaks to what I said about making choices based on how we appear to others versus how to live abundantly. About three months ago, my husband, Justin, and I took a short vacation to Nashville, TN – a place neither of us had been but wanted to experience. Going into this trip, I made a point to change my thinking. I thought back to vacations/experiences in the past that we had shared together and I recall times that I regret not doing something. I was so afraid to step out of my comfort zone, I walked away from sweet experiences with my husband with REGRET! I mean, that’s not how it’s supposed to be.
As I processed this realization, I realized it was rooted in my fear of how I might appear to others. Oh, I can’t ask for them to take our picture. I don’t want to bother them! Translation: I’m afraid to ask them to take my picture because I don’t want them to think I’m annoying or bothersome. Why don’t we just eat at _____? We know we love their food! Translation: I’m afraid I won’t fit in with the people who eat at this nice restaurant and they’ll definitely know we drive 10+ year old vehicles. Do you see how toxic comfort zones can be? Even in these small, mundane instances, regret can seep into memories so easily.
So, before we left for Nashville I vowed to live abundantly and fully. I kicked my comfort zone in the pants and just lived. I took pictures I normally don’t, talked to people I normally wouldn’t, went to places I secretly wanted to go to, and did all. the. tourist. things. I had a BLAST. The crowning moment was our first night there. We went downtown and it was my mission to live in the moment with Justin. We were listening to a country cover band in one of the dozens of places on Broadway, and they suddenly started playing Strawberry Wine. Before I met my husband, I hated country music. He has since converted me but I’m not kidding when I say the only country song I listened to and loved was Strawberry Wine. Sitting there, I knew what I wanted to do, but I also felt the familiar walls of comfort zone pressing around me. I hesitated for a moment and then remembered the vow I made to myself. It took Justin a little convincing but we finally got up in front of the band and slow danced, singing as loud as we could. Y’all. That is not me. It’s just not. The craziest part is I was filled with so much joy. It was joy for getting to experience something so nostalgic and intimate and hilarious with my husband, but also joy for living abundantly. It’s a moment I will never forget and a decision I’ll never regret. Did we look ridiculous? Most definitely. Does it matter? Absolutely not. As mentioned before, the Spirit of God gives us the ability to love big. This vacation was a time to love big and live without fear.
This was right after we danced together and it’s clear from our faces that letting go and living is so worth it.
Obviously, this scenario doesn’t touch upon some of the bigger trials we face in life. I know that. However, it’s so important to remember that we condition ourselves how to respond to fear. If we constantly choose to stay in our comfort zones when we are making small choices (like whether or not to get up and dance in front of dozens of strangers), then it’s so much harder to live abundantly when those big things come in our way. We have to live consistently.
There are so many incredible verses that speak about living consistently when responding to fear. God understands how vulnerable we are to fear – in big things like divorce, abuse, and loss, as well as the little things that keep us in our comfort zone. The ones below barely scratch the surface.
Psalm 27:1 – Matthew 10:28 – Joshua 1:9 – Matthew 6:34 – Psalm 23:4
I encourage you to turn towards these words when you’re facing those big fears (which I’m really not speaking to in this post) and the little fears that can hold you back in your comfort zone and fill you with regret.
Letting go and living…abundantly. No comfort zones. No places for fear. No worries about how others see you. You are filled with power. You are filled with love. You are filled with the promise of a Father. Now go live.