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!
I drew a small diagram illustrating. http://oi59.tinypic.com/359a1bo.jpg
Nice! Thanks for the visual. 🙂
I think that since I’ve become a parent 7 years ago, I’ve had this “extend your comfort zone experience” quite a bit, Now you have these little people looking up to you for guidance, for clues on how to act. So, I try to participate at school events or talk to other parents. It doesn’t always involve talking and being social. Sometimes, (and this is my comfort zone) I help out by doing crafts, decorations or bringing fun food.
I totally agree that when someone becomes uncomfortable with our silence and starts bugging us to talk, that is the worst way to get to us.
I remember when I was in 6th grade and a friend signed both of us for a dance performance, which I was ok with and happy that she wanted to do it with me. But quite disappointed and upset when she told me she did it so I could get rid of my shyness :/ Mortifying.
Thanks for sharing that, Mercedes. I’m sure many innies have similar stories of mortification. xo
Lately a lot of people who always warned me to get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes it makes me upset because others are too nosy me.
But I feel that they say is true, I do not want to get out of your comfort zone. How should I start? 🙁
I have tested as IFNP. I’m being pushed in my job to get out of my comfort zone & change my role to –
a: manage & motivate others – I can do this is small bursts, but I just seem to run out of steam because I’m working quite hard against who I am.
b: attend and contribute to meetings with people I don’t know who all seem to know each other & are not lacking in confidence. I feel like I don’t know what’s going on, or event he appropriate time to “interrupt” to contribute & everyone else does.
Thank you for the advice! MY parent are constantly pushing me to be more social (I was grounded once because my dad heard that I enjoyed spending my recesses in the library!) If you could make a blog post about introverted kids and teens with extroverted parents, it would help me at home. If you feel not a need, well then yeah. Thank you for this blog, it has helped me to accept me as is.
You’re welcome, Divia. I have written one post for parents of introverted teens: //introvertspring.com/advice-for-parenting-an-introverted-teenager/
I hear the “get out of your comfort zone” all the time. It seems to be the main theme in the entrepreneurial crowd. So I try and try because I am told you have to do what you have to do to become successful and if I have to become uncomfortable to able to get to a point in my life where I want to be, then I have to accepted the fact that this is the only way. It is just really hard to become someone you are not.
I really feel for people here who are being pushed to get out of their comfort zone at work. I listened to people who told me to get out of my comfort zone as a way to increase my confidence. Not once, but twice . . . I took on jobs that I thought were beyond me. I was right. “Do some training” they said. So, then I was exhausted from not only taking on a new job but trying to complete the training on the weekends. An impossible situation! The resulting anxiety left me able to work only three months in the past year and a half. I went back into my shell which, in my case, was a volunteer position where I loved the work, and the people, and I was good at it. I finally feel that I’m ready to look for paid work again but the only voice I’ll listen to is my inner voice. I’ve spent a lot of time examining my strengths and needs and I now focus on my strengths to help me cope. Introvert Spring has helped me a lot! Thanks Michaela :-). I’m happily INFJ and no longer try to be something I’m not. I’ll expand my boundaries but I’m not going outside them. Well, not just yet… 🙂
For the first time in my life, i am going to make a presentation in front of a group of people. Uncomfortable but good for my formal and social skills.
I was feeling guilty about my lack of trying new things, so I was talking with my sister, and she helped me make a list of new things I’ve tried (which translates into stepping out of my comfort zone in various settings), and I was able to see how much I really have done! It made me feel so much better about it! And if anyone says anything along those lines to me, I can pull out my evidence!
Sometimes I wonder if those self-appointed self-help gurus who are always telling us to get out of comfort zone ever get out of their comfort zones!
I have been reading a lot about being an introvert lately. I’ve always known and felt that I was but more evidence has been revealed that actually brings me some comfort knowing I am not alone. I am a recovering addict w/18yrs clean. Drugs were always my way of feeling comfortable and also my way to “come of of my shell”. I am a very open person but only to the few that know me and I am ok with that. I am a private person but so willing to share my life with the right woman. I have recently started to look into dating as I have been single for 4 years now. I am 56 and a decent looking man. It scares me to death sometimes because the last time I dated I always had drugs and alcohol as my crutch. I have never dated clean. Talk about getting out of my “comfort zone”!
Yes! That does sound like a really big stretch of the comfort zone! But good for you for doing plenty of inner exploration, and expanding your comfort zone for the sake of your dream. 🙂
Many of us also have anxiety issues–social, general–making our comfort zones even smaller. So something as seemingly mundane like dropping in to a convenience store for a snack can actually be relatively uncomfortable. For me, stepping out my apartment door is uncomfortable. I also consider my truck a safety zone that helps to center and calm me.
Thanks for sharing that Rob! I know a lot of other innies will be able to relate. 🙂 xo
And that was me saying what was on my mind is expanding my comfort zone it doesn’t help all the women on this forum that you show yourself only smiling and looking really good it would be nice to have a pic of you looking like you do without makeup when you are feeling down to balance it out i doubt this will get posted
Cognitive dissonance there’s the two words i was looking for also i unubdcribed because i realized eventually i was going to be marketed something and a bad habit of mine was to sign up for self help gurus who market their books or seminars you have to make money somehow I understand lol why am i not afraid because i know my comments wont ever get posted that’s why i stick up for ugly women who hate pretty women like you women I wouldn’t date but who i have hurt and wish i never did hurt them but i csnt hrlp it women who are insecure always pick guys who make them feel better about themselves and women who are secure apparently like it when men call them out on their sh*t but don’t make the mistske for falling for me because i’m not interested thanks
Well i should apologize for my tone i feel like i made a friend and when i saw your modeling photos i was triggered by all these females who have been bullying me and wanted to hurt them back but because I can’t i tried to hurt a stranger so I’m sorry bye now
I can relate to this a lot. Thanks so much, Michaela!!!!
This is all so interesting to me… I’m an extrovert, and I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think if I ever have done this to my “innie” friends…
I know that I DO often ask my friends or partners what they’re thinking, or to feel free to tell me what they think. I don’t really care about their comfort zones, though; I’m not trying to improve them. I’m trying to understand them!
If I want an introvert to talk to me, it’s because I’m trying to figure them out, see what makes them happy or makes them tick. I’m not trying to change them or make them become happier or better people; that would be like saying something is wrong with them now. And I don’t think that at all. I’m just impatient!
Bless you you lovely human! XD You probably already know this, but there’s nothing more wonderful than having someone value you for who you are, and seeking to understand rather than to change you. Doing that shows you both genuinely respect and care about the other person I feel. So, thank you for being awesome – the world needs more people like you, and I for one wish I had more extrovert friends – or just friends in general – who were as compassionate and understanding as you! 🙂
I had several presentations in front of a group of people. My presentations either are worst or quite wonderful. No average at all. I am always thinking on how to keep doing good presentations. But I didn’t get what situations makes my presentation good…….. Is it the type of audience? the subject matter? the timing?………no clue so far till I read this article.
Now, I understand that in all the situations that I tried to look like others – fake extroverts, my presentations were the worst that I don’t want to recall the situations….
Surprisingly, in a situations when I was the true myself, within my comfort zone, it was just wonderful and that I always proud of it.
I remenber school as a child, feeling uncomfortable very often.
The gradebook or statement from the teachers always stated: “Anne is clever, creative etc. BUT she has to speak more in class” or “we know she has the skills BUT she is to reserved and should get out of the shell” “Speak up!”
It made me feel so insecure and faulty somehow