We are pleased to republish this blog post courtesy of Laura Shibut. You can find the original post here on her blog: https://www.writeabetterstory.com/blog/2017/6/2/comfortzone.
So many thoughts swirling through my head, from “God, be with me,” “I hope I don’t hurt myself” to “We got this!”
I sat nervously in my car in the parking lot at CrossFit for the first time. I was praying and psyching myself up to go do something that felt totally out of my comfort zone and I had to push through my feelings of intimidation and inadequacy.
When I returned to my car after my introductory session, I was surprised at how anxious I was about going. You see I had thought I had already done this before.
It was almost 6 years ago when I decided to drastically change my life. I went from being disappointed with who I was and the life I was living to facing my junk and making different choices. Those choices included putting myself in situations I never imagined—like joining an outdoor fitness group called SEAL Team when I was extremely overweight and out of shape.
Having spent most of my life working at being very competent at everything I did, it took everything I had (and maybe a little more) to put myself in a place where I was weak and inexperienced. But because my desire for transformation was greater than being competent, I showed up and tried my best. And because of that one decision, everything about my life changed. Everything.
And I thought that was it. I broke out of my comfort zone and transformed my life.
Fast forward to the parking lot. After dealing with an injury that no longer allowed me to do SEAL Team I was looking for another fitness challenge. Sitting in the car outside of CrossFit I realized I was filled with the same fears I had almost 6 years ago.
And to be honest, it surprised me. It was then I realized I thought our comfort zones were a fixed space.
You know, once you “got out of your comfort zone” you were done. Pat yourself on your back, you did it, you broke through! I don’t know why I thought that. I just imagined this finite circle of comfort and fears that I would break out of and then would never be have to do that again.
And I thought I HAD broken through my comfort zone. I had done the work and pushed through my fears and succeeded at my goals of changing my life. And yet, here I was again.
Was it that I had lost my courage in the past six years? No. But I had become COMFORTABLE in my new life. I no longer had to dig deep to find the courage to show up at SEAL Team. I knew what to expect, was confident in my ability and comfortable with the community. What was once OUT of my comfort zone, was now my comfort zone. That “fixed” space I worked so hard to step out of had now slowly grown around me.
The comfort zone just got bigger. And now I had to step out even farther.
So doing CrossFit was now the new and challenging step. I was back at square one. I had no idea what to expect, no clue what I was capable of and didn’t know a soul.
And so I decided to keep going and day after day as I walked through that door I learned to embrace what being out of my comfort zone offered me.
The opportunity to embrace my limits and weaknesses. In a group of people just killing it with their cleans, squats and snatches there I was lifting a barbell with no weight on it. There’s no use in comparing myself to others here, I can’t compete. And I need to be reminded of that every day. No one wins in the comparison game. Just focus on your own journey and instead be inspired and inspiring in the community around you. And those limits, yea, they’re good for you. As much as it kills me to have to say to the instructor, “I can’t run or do jump ropes.” I know I need to embrace my limitations or I will just further injure myself. Admitting my limitations isn’t a character flaw, I’m not a wimp, it’s just my reality.
The opportunity to embrace my need for help. Every day has exposed me to new instructors, routines and exercises. I’m still trying to remember all my lifts and the proper form. So I continually have to introduce myself as ask the instructor and those around me for help. I’ve had to get over my need to be seen as competent real quick. If I tried to “fake it till I make it” here, I could risk seriously hurting myself; not just my pride, mind you, but my whole body. I can’t pretend here, I have to just live in the uncomfortable space of not knowing and constantly asking for help. And it’s okay. From the beginning we were designed to be in community. It’s not good to do life alone. So being in a space where I am reminded of my need for others constantly is good for me.
The opportunity to embrace perseverance. Every workout has challenged some part of me. After being sidelined by my injuries for months and not doing this style of workout before, I’ve had to reconnect to that “little beast” inside me. Despite being sore and tired, I’m reminded of the power of pushing through hard things and coming out the other side stronger. It’s far more a mental game than a physical one. It’s called “stepping out of your comfort zone” for a reason, it isn’t comfortable. And nothing worth doing ever is.
And ultimately what this new journey has taught me is that when I truly step out of my comfort zone, whatever that may be, I am most in touch with my humanity. I experience my most genuine self. A person with limits and weakness, who needs others to help her and can persevere through challenges. A person who can’t do it on her own but needs to depend on God and others to get her through.
It’s a space God wants me to embrace daily because it invites me to sit in a place of humility which helps me better connect with Him and others.
This is not the way I have lived most of my life. Quite the opposite. Pride in my abilities and self-reliance were what fueled me. But despite how awesome I thought I was, I was still IN my comfort zone, and I was lonely there. The very thing I thought would attract others to me, my competency and strengths, were the very things that kept people away.
The Apostle Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I’m actually strongest OUTSIDE of my comfort zone because THAT is where I am the weakest. It is there where I am most in need of God and others and the most able to grow. Which is why I am grateful our comfort zones aren’t a fixed space we break through once and are finished. Instead, every day we have the invitation to step out and discover the depths of our needs, who we really are and the grace, love and strength that await us there.
It was through a mid-life crisis that I experienced God’s desire to redeem our lives and teach us how to live life to the fullest. So I faced my fears and made changes emotionally, physically and spiritually. My story has gone from depressed couch potato to a bass playing, half-marathon running, Florida Keys kayaking, Jesus loving woman. And my story isn’t finished. The next chapters are being written in Richmond, VA with my husband Doug while I serve in ministry, do CrossFit and plan my next adventure.