If you had a choice of staying in your comfort zone or having to give up comfy familiarity to be able to grow as a person, what would you choose? Most of us would say there are limits to what we would be willing to give up. We all like our favorite chair and our favorite blanket. We have gotten used to our routines and our quirky habits. And our comfort foods are non-negotiable. They all feel safe because they are familiar. When is it worth shedding some of the familiarity for growth?
“Anytime you’re gonna grow, you’re gonna lose something. You’re losing what you’re hanging onto to keep safe. You’re losing habits that you’re comfortable with, you’re losing familiarity.” ~ James Hillman
It sounds exciting to know that we can all grow. At the same time, it can be so scary that we become paralyzed in our familiarity.
As victims, we learn to seek out comfort and safety. That part makes logical sense and is necessary. Then life goes on and there is the practical side of life. Most people call it living but that gets interesting as our lives have been riddled with complications. Our defenses are up, we live in a high-stress thought-life and we do not make the best of choices. We, of course, have to include the trouble that seems to find us at every turn. We can become a magnet for more nonsense than a soap opera.
Recognizing that is a tremendous step. I knew I needed my familiarity to bring me comfort and that sense of safety as I worked through this. Then life began at the end of my comfort zone. Getting ill, I mean so ill that it was gut-wrenching for years, actually brought clarity to my life.
We all have limits and we all have unmet potential. The dance between the two is very personal. No two people will take the same steps in the same manner. Some people can get out of their comfort zone and fly like eagles. Then there is the rest of us, taking one small step at a time. Removing the blanket first, then the pillow, then getting out of the favorite chair, then testing some dang scary waters.
Personally, I cannot imagine life without constant personal growth. I love it and I thrive off of it. I say that but when my last familiar safety nets got messed with, it was a struggle to let go. I wanted to be a baby about it and hang on till death. That was not healthy for me, so I chose to give up the last of my familiarities that kept me stuck. This does not happen overnight. I was, and still am, kind to myself and take this slow and methodically.
Let’s get in the driver-seat and move through this.
What does this look like?
This is so personal to each of us that there cannot be a checklist. We all have experienced life differently and are at different places with those experiences. There is a time to blame others and be the victim and there is a time to take full responsibility for your current life situation. Realize how we are all so different while living through a common thread of chronic illness and trauma. This is part of why it can take so much time to heal, we are all so different with complex bodies, emotions, and experiences. Embrace your unique you and walk through it.
With that said, just start with something, anything. If you are stuck, start with food.
Familiar Food Feels Safe = Comfort Food
What are your comfort foods that keep you in your familiarity blanket of safety? Attempt a new comfort food.
The following example is specific to me, not necessarily you. Many people are too strict about diet and others are not even aware of the life-altering benefits of a clean pure diet. This is one of the simple ways I used to move through familiarity and feel safe in a new way that helped my growth.
Personal Example – Chocolate Pudding
I love chocolate pudding but I know it is not good for me and will hinder complete recovery from my illness, but life is tough sometimes and I want my pudding!! I have already been through the years of having “cheat days” and finding every excuse not to take care of myself properly. So I stretched myself outside of my comfort zone. Instead of store-bought junk that is full of chemicals and sugar that feed my infections, I make my own that feed my health.
I created my own comfort food that is chalked full of nutrients so I could look at this completely different. I now find great comfort in my chocolate pudding because every bite is nourishing my body, mind, and soul. I have removed the guilt, removed the junk and self-destruction. Each bite is like a sedative physically and emotionally.
I had to move through my familiarity zone of constant fight or flight; I no longer had small children to protect and I no longer was being physically attacked myself. I needed to find ways to calm my spirit, feel safe, and let the past go very gently.
Although some traumas were ancient history, I did have an illness that threatened my life, which kept me in a high-alert state for many years. That kind of stress-level feeds the illness and can keep us stuck in our past. I still have a Lyme co-infection that thrives on sugar and chemicals so I have to continue being very strict about my diet, for now. The onslaught of the Lyme attack is over but I still have heart issues and brain issues that will take time to repair. To do this, I need healthy fats and nutrients constantly going into my body to make those repairs. And I need comfort to keep me calm to speed my complete recovery.
WhaLa invented Crazy Amazing Chocolate Pudding that pours love and health into me and I am very aware of that with every tasty bite. This is one simple example of how I chose to remove some of my familiarity and still feel safe and sound while moving through personal growth. That small step gave me the confidence to try other steps of moving through my familiarity that has only made me feel safe but no longer serves me and my growth.
Celebrate the small steps, today! As my health improves because of the steps I have taken, I get giddy with anticipation of what I can accomplish with the rest of my life. Giving up has not been an option for me. I hope it will not be for you either. Reach out if you need help.
Learning about early childhood trauma can bring tremendous insight and healing. Niki Gratrix is my go-to for early childhood trauma on-line learning and she has a great program.
What are your familiarity safety nets that keep you from personal growth?
Maribeth Baxter, MBEC
Donations are accepted to serve others on their chronic illness journey. Maribeth Baxter, MBEC provides voluntary certified health coaching services to the financially limited during their time of crisis.