Life outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens. Or so they say. But is it really? Or would we actually be happier in our own skin if we acknowledged and embraced our comfort zones a bit more?

Just to be clear, I am not suggesting we hide from life and shy away from new challenges. On the contrary. That’s stagnation. Personal growth stalls without taking risks, without venturing beyond familiar territories where we feel safe and in control.

We can only become masters of our craft by pushing ourselves to improve our skills and habits every day. And we can only build meaningful relationships by putting ourselves out there and accepting the risk that we may be rejected and hurt.

All incontestable truths.

Yet in an age of abundant possibilities and digitally mediated social comparison, when so many feel the pressure to live up to impossibly high standards, I wonder whether our cultural obsession with stepping outside our comfort zones is actually doing more harm than good.

The risk is that we constantly feel an internal pressure to be someone we are not. A pressure to ignore our own needs and boundaries in the pursuit of an alternative self that better conforms to society’s standard of what it means to live a successful and satisfying life.

It can make us feel like we should constantly stretch ourselves and try new things even if they go against our natural inclinations.

Taken to its extremes, this pressure is anything but healthy or conducive to personal growth. It’s exhausting.

It’s like telling an introverted person that they should be a bit more outgoing and sociable (what if they actually preferred to live a quiet life?).

Or it’s like stepping into a management role at a certain age because, well, that’s what career progression looks like in the Corporate Playbook (when you would actually have been much happier staying a specialist and not having to deal with people all day long).

Rather than aspiring to be someone we are not, perhaps the biggest gift we could give ourselves and others is to actually spend more time figuring out what our comfort zone looks like.

What is the place where you feel most comfortable in your own skin? Where you can be your truest self? Where skills, passion, and personality intersect?

And how can you design your life and career to spend most of your time in this sweet spot?

More and more, I like to think that our comfort zone is not a place we need to leave behind. Instead, it’s a place waiting for us to be found and cherished.

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Reflections on life, art, and creativity – inspired and supported by photography. With tips for creative inspiration.

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