Saturday, January 19, 2013

HSP Living: In defense of Comfort Zones

I've probably spent entirely too much of my life being involved in the "conscious community," the self-development industry and so-called "self-improvement."

That said, it seems to be a major part of most HSPs' lives. As a highly sensitive person, I am just drawn to these fields-- I'm just fascinated by the workings of the human species-- and if you're an HSP, you probably are, too.

Depending on one's perspective, I am alternately "blessed"-- or "cursed"-- with a brain that's equally content to meander around in the "right-brained" universe of creativity, intuitive leaps of faith and the abstract as it is taking a cruise in the "left-brained" world of numbers, logic and "the facts of life."

Bottom line: I really like studying vast amounts of data and extrapolating unexpected trends and patterns.

But I am digressing.
Let's just leave it at "I look at a LOT of this stuff."

Most people who have spent any time at all looking to "improve" themselves, or "find balance," or "find inner peace," or just trying to understand themselves will have run into the popular maxim that in order to develop yourself and "go anywhere" you simply must work outside your comfort zones.

In a sense, I feel that "comfort zones" have been given a really bad rap by mainstream psychology and self-improvement experts as the domain of the apathetic and unconscious; those who don't "care enough" to truly make themselves stronger and better.

But the more I think about it... the less I like this idea that our comfort zones are automatically judged, labeled and then executed as "the bad guy" in the greater equation of our evolving lives. And for the HSP, I believe comfort zones are actually an essential part of our well-being. And, let's face it, Elaine Aron (author of "The Highly Sensitive Person") even calls her own newsletter for HSPs "The Comfort Zone."

Odds are she wouldn't do that, if she thought we should avoid comfort zones.

For many HSPs, this perhaps isn't exactly new news. But given our broad-based interest in self-improvement, we're none-the-less surrounded by the constant meta-message that in order to "better ourselves" we must live outside our comfort zones. It feels both conflicting and counter-productive to me.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that falling into a complacent and apathetic stupor is not a good thing-- for HSPs, or for anyone else, for that matter. But I also believe there is such thing as finding happiness and contentment within our comfort zones... in a healthy and balanced sort of way. I have spent many years "working on myself" and as part of that, creating a comfort zone that fits me... and I am very happy here, thank you very much!

And maybe that's the key: "Happy." My comfort zone was an "active creation," not a place where I passively ended up in order to hide, or out of fear of life and the world.

Ultimately, it's all about finding your niche of happiness and contentment; about finding balance. If you like where you are, in your comfort zone, why is it you'd need to go somewhere else, to look for something else?

Talk Back! Do you have a distinct comfort zone? Do you feel like you "spend too much time" in your comfort zone? Who tells you that? Do people tell you you need to move "outside your comfort zone? Are you in a comfort zone because you feel "at home" there, OR because you are fearful of being outside it? Share your experience-- leave a comment!

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  1. If people are critical of HSPs for staying in our comfort zones, I wonder if they're projecting their own needs and preferences. What's outside of my comfort zone may be well within someone else's. And what's outside of someone else's may be well within mine.

    Perhaps what's different about HSPs' comfort zones is that, when we leave our comfort zones, we're more likely to take more considered risks - less likely to leap into the unknown without thinking unless we feel pressured or unless it's for something we feel called to do.

    For one, I'd rather take the initiative on my own terms and time frame - consult my own inner wisdom about it. "For your own good" is rarely a good enough reason. ;) I also prefer to have an awareness of why and how I'm going to stretch my comfort zone before I stretch it.

  2. I've heard that my entire life, to the point that I felt guilty if anything was within my comfort zone. When my health took a nosedive I said, 'no more'. I don't think non-HSP's realize how much we live outside our comfort zones simply existing in this world. I'm much more effective if I have that comfort zone in which to retreat and recharge. The distinction you made is key: are we passively hiding or actively creating a place of balance?

  3. For many years I sought (and found) my comfort zone in the bottom of a beer bottle. I quit drinking and realize my new comfort zone is very small indeed. I searched online for emotional support and that's how I discovered hsp and that I'm not alone. (Well actually I am very much alone, just not unique.) I feel I should expand my social life but I just prefer to be by myself. The problem I have is when I see other people with rich, full lives I really envy them. It makes life in my comfort zone seem very mundane and a giant time-waster. I also live in the Pacific NW and it has become too crowded and too loud. I find it harder and harder to find peace here. I appreciate your writings. I am new to this and excited for self-discovery now that some things about me make sense.


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