“There is no greater battle in life than the battle between the parts of you that want to be healed and the parts of you that are comfortable and content remaining broken.” Iyanla Vanzant.
I lived in a protected comfort zone most of my adult life. I didn’t trust myself to show up in what I perceived were challenging situations. I had performance anxiety and fear that there was something wrong with me. To protect myself from the fear of embarrassment or failure (showing up and screwing up) I became an over-preparer of sorts. I worked hard to build a persona of competency and an outward “got it togetherness”. Underneath I was that scared little boy who hadn’t successfully moved through adolescent and young adult academic and social challenge; in fact, I was gathering evidence (memories) of the repeated (stuck in me) experiences of how I was not good enough.
So, its with this prison of fear and self protection that narrowed my life choices to what I perceived was safer ground. I was creative with an interest in art and theater, and yet even after getting accepted at a NY theater school, I had not the self confidence and ground to take on that challenge. And that’s how my adult life choices and actions were contained within this protective comfort zone.
And yet I dreamed of the man I really felt I was and wanted to be. That yearning kept calling me with dreams of writing and painting, of a greatness beyond my day to day routine.
I suspect I’m not alone in this experience. I draw this picture of my life because my sense is that it is a familiar scene in many psyches and hearts. Even those among us who are able to take step by step to fulfill their career goal and dream life there can still be a yearning for a type of fulfillment beyond the world of achievement and being seen as successful.
That is the yearning that calls us all forward to step beyond our comfort zone—-whether it’s a comfort zone built to protect us or a comfort zone of routine, habit and familiarity that block any challenge to the status quo.
My comfort zone was built to protect me from the fear that I wasn’t good enough. That fear was etched into my innocent psyche as a result of everyday childhood traumas. Those traumas result in unconscious decisions about ourselves (“I’m not good enough.” “I’m bad.” “There’s something wrong with me.” ) And those decisions of which we are largely unaware, build a protective comfort zone of defense against touching the trapped emotion of those traumas. The time the 5th grade class laughed at my mistake; the swim meet I jumped into the water while a previous race was still on (a swimmer was half a lap behind at the far end of the pool who I didn’t notice) and I got my team disqualified in that event.
The way out of prison: Step by step we can gently edge outside our comfort zone by taking on challenges that we attract to us but are just beyond our current ability. That’s a challenge that presents a healthy fear, that once we walk through inches out our comfort zone and widens our expression.
Integrating our true nature of pure awareness and its qualities of peace, joy and love frees us to make choices that were previously beyond our willingness: We have an increased willingness and ability to step into the challenge and the healthy fear it creates in us because we now see and feel that the protective persona we created unconsciously is just a cluster of thoughts and beliefs—and not really us.
Once we know who we are, what we are not is shown to be false. The falsehood of the persona, ego or separate self falls away and we are free to step into a fuller expression of our heart’s desires.