I’m sure we’ve all heard this piece of advice: to succeed, you need to get out of your comfort zone! Many articles and blog posts like to make us believe that the key to happiness is changing who you are: if you’re shy. you should come out of your shell and learn how to network and put yourself out there; if you are afraid of heights, you should consider bungee jumping to overcome your fear.
Well, I call BS! This is the worst advice ever and will make you deeply unhappy. Why? Hear me out. Because I believe true happiness comes from being true to yourself.
My story of leaving my comfort zone
About ten years ago, my freelance business was going well. I made a solid living — in fact enough for my husband to quit his job and become a stay-at-home dad for a few years. So things were going just fine.
But then I started to listen to the luminaries in my industry; those self-appointed gurus that make a living of giving advice to others while pretending to be masters of their craft. Except I didn’t realize this at the time. I thought, wow if this shining example of a professional keeps reiterating that we all ‘need to get out of our comfort zone’ to get ahead and become even more successful, they must be right.
Most of my peers liked and celebrated their posts and advice and shared and reposted it everywhere. Again, if everyone claims this is true, it must be!
Although I was happy with what I had, I started to feel inadequate. Was I an imposter for not ‘going out of my comfort zone’? Did I have to do more to be a true professional? It seemed so.
Unhappiness set in
So, I started to think about what else I could be doing to become more ‘professional’ and more important. Grudgingly, I started to offer training courses at the local branch of my professional association. Apparently, this boosted my cred and raised my profile. Then I completed a coaching certificate and thought that was the next step on my career ladder. Being a mere freelance translator isn’t enough, clearly. No, we all had to become trainers, coaches, presenters, social media masters and what have you not.
As an introvert, I hated every minute of it. But here they were, those grandmasters of freelancing, still telling us all to get out of our comfort zone and push out boundaries. It had to be necessary!
Over the next couple of years, I marketed myself differently, revamped my website and profile, and became someone I was deeply uncomfortable with. Ah, here we go, I must have been out of my comfort zone then!
Don’t deny your true self
I became well-known in the industry, was interviewed by peers and organizations, and my own content was shared and quoted. I had arrived — apparently.
But I was very unhappy. I lost my purpose and who I really was. I was out there playing a role every day. I was no coach, no presenter, no trainer. I just wanted to be a translator! The more I was distracted by ‘being out of my comfort zone’, the unhappier I became. I was sick of it! I had zero job satisfaction. And I realized: this wasn’t why I had chosen to become a freelancer!
After all, being a freelancer is a huge opportunity to be true to yourself; to do what you want to do; to answer to no one but yourself. I started to ask myself: why the heck are you listening to those gurus? Screw them!
Let’s put the ‘free’ back in freelancer!
I was exhausted and decided it had to stop. Pretty much overnight, I deleted my social media presence and went off the grid. I took some time to redesign my brand again and become myself again. I was totally enough! Working in my own profession was totally enough! Being a freelancer doing what you love and being comfortable is totally enough!
Enough with all that BS telling us otherwise. It’s great to be comfortable! It’s amazing to have a solid business doing what you love, earning a solid income. If you love what you do and it fulfills you, what could be better than doing the same activity for decades to come? You don’t have to strive to be more, earn more, do more! Absolutely not!
In my view, being comfortable is the ultimate goal. It’ll give you the greatest job satisfaction and ultimate life satisfaction. What greater purpose could there be than to be yourself, be satisfied with your work and who you are, and being comfortable? Why on earth would you want to strive to be deliberately uncomfortable, just because some clown who thinks (s)he knows it all tells you so?
Bestselling author and fear expert Rhonda Britten, founder of the Fearless Living Institute, agrees:
“I’m not interested in people getting rid of their comfort zones. In fact, you want to have the largest comfort zone possible — because the larger it is, the more masterful you feel in more areas of your life. Some people call it a rut. It’s not a rut; it’s life. It’s the things that are regular, that are predictable, that cause no mental or emotional strain and stress.”
And experimental psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky explains that when we do break out and seek thrills or experiences outside our comfort zone, the thrill soon wears off and the process of hedonistic adaptation sets in:
“We tend to adapt, quickly returning to our usual level of happiness.”
Say you’re an introvert, why would you want to push yourself to present webinars or call people when that’s not your thing? No way. Simply find alternative avenues that work for you and allow you to stay true to yourself and your nature.
If you’re comfortable and relaxed, you’ll naturally enjoy more job satisfaction, less stress and anxiety, and most likely improved health. And you’re more likely to attract clients and peers that are like you rather than ones that want to deal with your ‘out-of-comfort-zone persona’ and raise your stress levels.
Proponents of the anti-comfort zone camp will tell you that you’ll miss out on life experiences. earn less or not learn as much if you stay in your safe zone. Again, I claim the opposite. If you’re relaxed and comfortable, you can sit back and engage in any experience you like. Being comfortable doesn’t mean you’re housebound and never taking a class or meeting other people.
On the contrary, it allows you to ascertain what you really care about, what truly makes you tick, and then selectively choose the right activities that align with those characteristics. You’re likely to derive great satisfaction from such activities and will learn a lot — and most of all, you’ll enjoy it because you’re comfortable rather than feeling pressured to engage in an activity just for the sake of it.
By the same token, you can choose to work only with clients that align with your way of doing business. Over time, you can build a solid customer base in this way and earn as much as you put the effort in. There’s absolutely no need to work with clients that require you to be uncomfortable to deal with them. The trade-off in terms of your health and well-being is just not worth it.
So, I call BS on all the advice that says you need to go out of your comfort zone. On the contrary, I encourage you to stay right in it. Find ways to market your business and target clients that align with your personal preferences and personality. Stop listening to self-acclaimed industry experts that tour the circuit earning the lion share of their income telling you what to do rather than actually working in their professions.
You are worthy as you are, and your comfort zone is where the magic happens.
Originally Published in Live Your Life On Purpose