Why it is difficult for us to step outside our comfort zone

Why it is difficult for us to step outside our comfort zone

Have you ever been asked to talk or answer a question in front of a group of people? Did you feel nervous or scared to do so and secretly asked yourself why you were so unlucky? If so, you might need to be aware of staying too much in your comfort zone.

Everyone has something that they are not good at. It could be calculating a mathematics equation, giving a public speech, chitchatting with a stranger or opening a conversation at networking parties where you know no one at all. People are usually afraid of doing what they are not used to do. But what are the reasons behind that fear? “Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Build Confidence, and Rise to the Challenge” written by Dr. Andy Molinshy, a professor of Psychology and Organizational Behavior at Branddeis University, has summarized 5 different psychological obstacles hindering us to step out of our comfort zone:

  1. Authenticity
    You feel like it is not you who needs to do this. Using the example from the beginning of the article, you feel like it shouldn’t be you who is chosen to talk or answer the question in public.

  2. Competence/Incompetence
    You fear failure when doing something. You care about how others think of you and you do not want them to think that you are incompetent.

  3. Likeability
    You are afraid of being disliked by others when doing something. For instance, you fear that people might not want to talk to you before you start a conversation with a total stranger, though it may not be true.

  4. Resentment
    You feel aggrieved when you have to step out of your comfort zone. For example, you are an introverted person but a good employee who often delivers qualitatively good work. However, in today’s business world, a successful candidate usually not only has to deliver but also has to be sociable or have good networking skills. You feel resentful that no one seems to care about the quality of your work but the focus is on other things.

  5. Morality
    You feel like doing something does not align with your personal moral standards.

You can, of course, comfort yourself and lean into your strengths instead of doing what you are weak at. However, it is usually not a good idea since you would be restricting your own personal growth. Here are some tips for you to try when stepping outside your comfort zone:

  • Conviction
    Understand why you want to step out of your comfort zone and figure out what’s in it for you. For example, “Why do I want to learn English? Because it will help me do a better job and in personal networking.”

  • Customization
    Find your own way to confront your fears step by step. There is no universal way of doing this. You have to tailor-make your own plan to gradually change your behavior. Taking learning English as an example, you can set up both short term and long term goals, like reading 2-3 articles written in English every day and being able to understand and talk to a foreigner in a few months.

  • Clarity
    Make sure that you think realistic about your desired behavior. Most people, when preparing to step out of their comfort zone, imagine the worst possible scenario. Do not let your anxiety take over.