The Comfort Factor

Moving outside your comfort zone is an essential part of growing as a person. Trying the things that make you feel a little uncomfortable or awkward is often the best route to great experiences.

I remember the first time talking in public. I had to give a talk about graphic design for music to about 150 people and it was utterly horrifying. I forced myself to do it, in spite of everthing in my body telling me to run away. But it stood me in good stead in the future when I had to do presentations and client pitches in my career as a designer.

Only the other night there I pushed myself far outside my comfort zone. Here is a secret about me - I'm shit scared of the dark. Properly scared. Which is, you know, kinda ironic given my goth credentials.

My bedtime routine goes like this: say goodnight to Prince B, who stays up far later than me, close the living room door and rush the few feet to the bathroom where I put on the light. From there I am now able to go into the bedroom where I put on the overhead light so I can go over to the bed and put on the bedside light. With the bedside light on, I can now put the overhead light off. The bathroom light must stay on. If Prince B goes to the loo and accidentally puts the light off and I wake up in darkness, the panic is overwhelming. It floods my brain in an instant and my heart starts thumping and my brain turns to mush. If I could think straight for a second I'd just reach over and put on the bedside light, but panic is so intense my brain just goes into overload. I've been like this since I was a very little girl as I used to suffer the extremely violent nightmares. I sleep with an eyemask on because if I didn't I'd just keep my eyes open all night, making sure the light's still on. But I still need there to be a peep of light coming in under the mask, just so I know it's still on.

But the other evening I went to bed and it was still relatively light outside so I decided to try and leave the bathroom light off. I put on the beside light and stared into it for ages then put on my mask and then put the light off. I was able to trick my brain into thinking the light was still on and I was able to go to sleep. It pushed me far outside my comfort zone because had I awoken in the night in darkness, it would have been panic central. But I was so happy with myself, so much so that last night I did it again when it was actually dark outside. I just stared into the light before putting my mask on, then the light off, again tricking my brain into believing the light was on.

Pushing yourself to do things you really don't want to do it is a hugely positive thing. It may have taken me 41 years to even attempt to sleep with the light off, but it felt good to at least try.

On Wednesday night our ballet teacher pushed us all out of our comfort zones by making us take the class! He asked each of us to teach the others a combination at the barre. When he said he was getting us to do it, we were collectively and individually horrified. Between us all, we experienced anger, panic, stress and that nervous laughter you can't help but do when shit's going bad.

I had to teach the class a plie combination. It was embarassing but I completely understood why he did it. It was a great way to gauge what we had learned and what we simply mimicked. I actually really enjoyed it, once I got over the buttock-clenching embarassment of teaching my friends how to do plies. I was pleased because as bad as I think I am at ballet, I do have muscle memory for much of it now, which is a bit of a milestone for me. The most difficult thing was to make your combination fit the counts of music. I decided I wanted to leave out plies in forth and instead go from second and close into fifth, but it left me a gap of 16 counts to fill. So forth went back in. Did I get my own combination wrong? Hell yeah! But it was good fun. And when other combinations were being designated to the other girls, I was thinking about what I would do with them.

Ballet is really just a series of events which force you out of your mental and physical comfort zones. Whether it's pushing yourself into a stretch that little bit more than is comfortable, having to do an excercises in the centre one person at a time or working through the foot discomfort to dance en pointe, nothing in ballet is really about comfort. It's about continually challenging and pushing yourself to move outside those, often, self imposed limits.

For me, even attending my ballet first class pushed me out of the safety of comfort but I'm so glad I made myself do it. Ballet is just part of who I am now.

So tell me, have you done something recently that kicked your butt out of your comfort zone? What was it?