I have recently returned from spending some considerable time living in a developing country. Spending time away from the comforts and familiarity of home created the ideal space to reflect on this experience. In this blog I have decided to share an important realization that I learnt during this experience.
Before I embarked on this journey, many were those congratulating me for being brave to step out of the comfort zone that was my home country and venturing into the unknown. To be honest, I never quite understood why people thought that this was a brave thing to do and it was only months into the experience that I finally started to understand why this was not brave at all for me.
One of the main motivations for leaving my home country and go onto this adventure was my slow, but persistent realization that being at home was not comfortable anymore. Having stable job, supportive family, loyal friends and familiar surroundings were not “comfortable” anymore. If I was comfortable I would not have left, right?
So, no, I did not step out of my comfort zone when I left my home country – I actually stepped out of, what had become my uncomfortable zone, and went on a search for something which had a better fit. The only thing I did was take a serious, honest look at my heart and truly listen to what it had been telling me. Once I listened and understood, I was left with no choice. I did what I had to do. It is like when you listen to your tummy grumble and you know you have to go and eat. Nothing brave about that. It’s the obvious thing to do. Same here – I listened to my heart telling me that it was uncomfortable in its zone, and so I went to find a more comfortable one.
So, this was one of my biggest lessons – a journey of soul searching, which I embarked on with the help of loyal friends and a professional counsellor – led me to learn how to listen more intently to what my heart is saying and act upon that.
Nonetheless, this is not saying that my newly-found comfort zone was a bed of roses. It continued to present challenges and perhaps it is because I was, once again, comfortable and, therefore safe, that I allowed these challenges to come up. It is during these times, that unresolved personal issues buried somewhere in the crevices of my being decided to pay a visit. Perhaps because the usual distractions were not there or perhaps because although it is comfortable it is still unfamiliar. Whatever the reason, this was a time to meet the self squarely in the face. There were times when I felt afraid
by what I had to deal with, lonely, lost, tired, sad. But these same times also pushed me to seek support from people who love me and understand me, rather than judge me.
So, I learnt that there is a difference between what is familiar and what is comfortable. Staying with the familiar does not necessarily mean that you are comfortable. Learn to truly listen to the signs that your heart, mind, body and soul are constantly sending. Open up to a trustworthy friend, or if needs be, speak to a counsellor, to enable yourself to understand that taking the leap from the familiar might actually mean stepping into your comfort zone.
Stephanie Caruana is a counsellor at Willingness. She offers counselling services to adolescents and adults experiencing some form of distress. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.