Getting Out Of The Comfort Zone
Do you ever feel like you SHOULD belong but you just don't? Have you ever been in a room full of strangers who are smarter, more beautiful and more successful than you are and you have to pretend to be like them?
Really?! Me too!
Here is what many people believe creative types are like: Creatives are so open-minded and embrace such different cultures. Creatives love everything that's new and exciting. Creatives relish the absurd and bizarre. Creatives revel in change and languish in the stable and boring concepts of the "rest" of the world.
Well, that's partially true but if you dig a little deeper, you'll see it's also a lie.I know for a fact that we creative people are just as close-minded as anyone in the stuffy corporate world. We stick together because we feel better when we can commiserate about how the world doesn't understand us. We eschew the world of capitalism because it doesn't like our free-flowing wild thinking ways. We don't like anyone to tell us that we are not good enough, or worthy enough to be compensated. We keep our brethren of creative souls close because frankly, it hurts to be out in the world where we feel like we don't belong. We stay in the safety of our studios and hang with our creative buddies because we need each other to feel normal.
Or maybe that's just me.
I recently have been noticing that perhaps that safe comfort zone I love so much is not actually helping me be the person I'm really hoping to become.
I recently have been noticing that perhaps that safe comfort zone I love so much is not actually helping me be the person I'm really hoping to become. Here's one recent experience I had that was quite enlightening to me.
I attended a conference a few weeks ago. It was on a topic that I am particularly interested in: Love and Compassion in Business. Anyone who knows me for more than 5 minutes will know that I am ALL ABOUT THE LOVE. I have an oval bumper sticker on my car that says, "XOXO". I was so excited to be around My People and took off 2 days of work for it, thinking that it would feel like a stay-cation for my soul.
I walked in awe through the gorgeous 10 feet tall wooden doors of the renovated urban mansion that was the conference center, and found my name tag on a table. No bother that my name was misspelled (again), I placed the name tag cord around my head. I turned to see where I should go next when I saw a woman walking straight to me. "Welcome to the Love Summit!", she cooed.
And then she hugged me.
Okay–I am a big hugger. I hug hello, I hug goodbye, I hug when I'm happy and when I'm sad. But something about her hugging me really irked me! It felt invasive.
But this was the Love Summit, and I AM a hugger, so instead of putting the "stop it right there" hand out, I went ahead and hugged back. Despite the initial shock of the hug, she was indeed extremely helpful and welcoming and I was very grateful for that. She guided me toward the conference space below, fully handicapped accessible (awesome) and lit by the natural daylight by way of sky lights above. I love old architecture, so I was feeling enamored with the event space itself, and pleased as punch to be there. I sat in the comfortable plastic conference seat and listened to the speaker, who also forced me to do some things I was not prepared to do: Dance.
Dance in public! At a conference! Oh my God! The introvert in me recoiled in horror. I was still trying to understand this place. I knew nobody. I already had to withstand an uninvited hug, and now someone who is very great at dancing was forcing me to get up and ostensibly display my lack of dancing skills in front of 200 people I didn't know!I tried to play along, really I did. But after one 8-part choreography in the middle of a rambling non-specific lecture on our need to listen to our lizard brain within, my lizard brain was feeling claustrophobic and trapped. There was no way to remove myself without inferring insult to the speaker, which I didn't want to do. I felt like a toddler resisting a tight car seat. Get. Me. Out of here.
I felt like a toddler resisting a tight car seat. Get. Me. Out of here.
Some deep seated anger in me was triggered. I practiced some mindfulness techniques during the dance routine: I controlled what I could by refusing to participate in the next two choreographed dances. When it was over, I bolted upstairs to get some coffee and recover.
The day actually got better and the other speakers were quite good, but I was still struggling inside. I clammed up and didn't talk to anyone. I crossed my arms over my chest and looked like an antisocial teenager. Why?
I was WAY out of my comfort zone! I wanted to be around people who were familiar to me and instead, these people were invading my personal space physically and metaphorically. To make me feel worse, they were better dressed than I am. They were way smarter than I am. They were at a conference to learn about how to be more loving and compassionate in their businesses, as if it was a totally new and mind blowing experience. I'm usually surrounded by the loving and quirky people of my Creative Juice group. I hadn't realized how much I was keeping myself secluded from the rest of the world by nurturing this wonderful group of sensitive and free-thinking feelers.
Later that night, I considered whether I would return to day two of the conference. I wondered if I could take a different tack to this problem: If I believe that everything is for a purpose (and I do) then what if, instead of feeling completely out of place, I chose to belong? What if these people were in fact My People, and I just didn't recognize them? What if we had so much to learn and grow from each other? What if I reached out, instead of closing up myself in a tightly sealed armor of introversion? What if I opened myself up to a little vulnerability and practiced loving someone who was not like me? Ah yes, it was late at night when this thought came, but I knew I was getting somewhere. It's easy to be vulnerable around people who are just like me. It's not so easy when you feel inferior and your lizard brain thinks you're going to be killed if you reveal your flaws to someone not in your tribe.
What if these people were in fact My People, and I just didn't recognize them?
Then came an even more shocking thought: What if I actually had something to offer to this group of strangers? I was so busy assuming that each person was way smarter, cooler, more competent and more successful than I am, it never occurred to me that I had something they might be interested in. What if I could open up, and share what I know to be true about my experiences in truly compassionate work environments? What if I shared my experiences of community building in Creative Juice, where each person offered support in small ways to lift up another person so that we all felt smart and successful?
I removed myself from the taint of corporate survival tactics long ago and love and compassion are NOT new and foreign concepts to me, as they seemed to be to the many attendees of this conference. I live them every day with the people I work with and keep close to me. What if that was valuable information to someone who knew in her heart that it was true, but didn't know how to bring it about in her office?
I set to work that night building my own comfort zone inside my head. I walked into the conference the next day ready to belong. I gave that welcoming girl a Big Margot Hug and walked downstairs ready to learn something and be a part of this compassion movement. Most importantly, I was ready to change myself so that I could listen and learn. I was ready to believe I could be someone who is successful, smart and bold just like those who were attending.
Familiar and Comfortable are the chains that keep us from becoming everything that we could possibly want to be.
And of course, magic started happening. I sat with friends and made new ones. I'll be damned if those speakers didn't repeat the very words I'd been thinking or saying in my head. These really were My People. They were older and younger than I am, and different in many ways, but all of us understand that the world is shifting from one of wealth, power, status and dominance to one of collaboration, compassion and yes, love.
We may not get it right all the time, but we've got to keep trying! And we probably are going to have to get out of our comfort zones more often, painful as that is.
If you need a group where you feel welcome, and where strangers are honest and compassionate, please join our Creative Juice Monday Meetings. I can't promise I won't hug you, but I do promise to warn you first. :o)