I once had a friend whose mantra was “You should never feel comfortable. If you’re comfortable, that means you’ve settled.” His sentiments seem to echo throughout our western society. We’re incessantly drilling it into people’s minds that they must strive for constant adventure. They must always venture out of their comfort zone. They must always embrace the unknown. They must always want more out of life. And this is the only way to feel fulfilled and keep from having regrets later on. We see the quotes all over social media; they’re reiterated to us by family members and friends. “Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone. That’s where the joy and adventure lie.” “When you stop taking risks, you stop living.”
I held onto this mindset for quite some time, and I noticed after college, it was no longer helping me. If anything, it was becoming psychologically harmful. I was a college graduate with a bachelor’s in psychology, working as a receptionist at a community health center… and I liked it. I liked the position, I liked my coworkers, and I was relatively happy. But at the same time, I was fighting this battle within myself because I didn’t feel like I deserved to be happy. Daily, this little voice was nagging at the back of my mind, “How could I be happy doing this? Shouldn’t I be striving to do more? Shouldn’t I be doing something that scares me? Shouldn’t I be taking more risks? Is there something wrong with me that I’m content working as a receptionist?” Eventually, I became unhappy. And my issue wasn’t with my employer, with my position, or with my coworkers. My issue was with the idea that no one should ever be let themselves be comfortable because there’s no way to achieve true happiness if you do. For the first time in my life, I was content, and instead of letting myself enjoy it, I tried to convince myself I wasn’t satisfied, because by society’s standards, I had settled.
It took me almost a year until I was able to pause and ask myself why it was so wrong that I was enjoying a simple, modest life. Why I felt so pressured by society to always be yearning for more. Why I was so terrified to feel comfortable. I decided I wasn’t going to run my mind ragged anymore. I was going to relax and glide through my comfortable lifestyle. And when the time came that I was ready to move on and take on the next challenge, I would go into it feeling certain and rejuvenated because I gave myself the opportunity to really embrace the last chapter of my life and get the most out of it- as opposed to being restless due to having the idea drilled into my had that I must always be scoping out the next best thing.
So, in a fast-paced culture that’s obsessed with success, with spontaneity, and with risk-taking, while condemning contentment, satisfaction, and repose, I’m here to tell you that it is okay to be happy with where you are It is okay to value familiarity and stability. And when you’re ready to move on to the next chapter and you desire something more, you do not have to dive in head first. It is okay to live life at your own pace. Push yourself, but not to the point of insanity. And know your comfort zone is not a sunken place.