As an introvert, you’ve probably been told to “come out of your shell” or “get out of your comfort zone”. People don’t seem to like the idea of us introverts being comfortable.
The unsolicited advice about how to live our life is annoying. Often, it achieves exactly the opposite of what the person has in mind. I can’t know for sure, but I imagine that people who say such things expect us to cry “hallelujah” and thank them for redeeming us from a life of quiet comfort.
In fact, any sort of criticism of our behaviour is likely to make an introvert retract. Instead of coming out of our shell, we go further in. And instead of feeling comfortable, we feel shame and embarrassment about our true nature.
But getting a little bit uncomfortable is how we grow. Unfortunately, when people tell us to “get out of our comfort zone” they often want us to get A LOT uncomfortable. They want us to do things that are only slightly challenging for them, but downright terrifying for us.
This causes a dilemma for introverts who are dedicated to self-development and growth (there are a lot of us), but don’t like feeling anxiety-ridden and burnt out in the process.
Hmmm … what do do, what to do?
Expanding your comfort zone
In the same way that a turtle takes his shell with him everywhere he goes, introverts can bring a layer of comfort and protection with them, too. In social situations this might mean ‘putting yourself out there’, but having a loyal friend by your side so you don’t feel completely overwhelmed.
Another thing to keep in mind is that everyone’s comfort zone looks different. Case in point:
The other day I went to audition for a small local production of the musical Rent. Being on stage and performing in front of people is not really out of my comfort zone because I have done a lot of it as a salsa dancer. Singing on stage in front of a panel of judges is definitely uncomfortable for me. But it’s not as terrifying for me as it would be for someone who doesn’t have any performance experience.
In case you’re wondering, I didn’t get a callback. Also, I think I might be tone-deaf.
But that’s not the point. The point is that I stretched my comfort zone without completely traumatizing myself.
A little bit goes a long way
Often, expanding our comfort zone has more to do with a shift in mindset than taking drastic action. It’s all about being open to looking at things differently.
For example, a while ago, I decided to look at dating as an experiment rather than an all important endeavour that must lead to a life defining outcome. This took the pressure off and made going on dates a lot more fun.
(By the way, if you want to learn how to connect with the right people – whether it’s a potential partner or friend – check out my Fulfilling Connections For Introverts course.)
So, the moral of the story is that you don’t have to “get out of your comfort zone” to grow and be awesome. A little zone expansion will often do the trick.
Have you ever had someone nag you to get out of your comfort zone? Have you had any zone expanding experiences lately? I’d love to hear about them!