The term “comfort zone” is also called “known zone.” What we know, the familiar, does bring us comfort but it can keep us stuck. It can keep us from growing.
As sexual abuse survivors, we often create safety for ourselves in these ways. We have experienced the unthinkable; feeling vulnerable and out of control can be frightening and uncomfortable.
For me, I wrapped myself up in several layers to feel safe and secure.
My Achievement Layer
One layer of insulation was being an achiever. I could control how much effort I put forth and I defined myself by the degrees, accomplishments, and even roles that I played. All of this was a way to define myself and be seen without exposing my sensitive or vulnerable parts.
The following is an excerpt from my book that illustrates how that did NOT work for me.
“During that time, I realized my brokenness caused me to put my guard up so that I wouldn’t be hurt in every aspect of my life. At work, I tried to be polished, strong, and competent. The feedback coworkers gave me around my performance was “professional.” That comment stuck with me. Who wants “professional” on their tombstone? I would want to hear things like “kind,” “fun,” and “insightful,” but I got a very sterile description. This was the wall I put up to be safe and not criticized. Sadly, when I was my genuine self, I felt naked, vulnerable, and at risk.”
Shedding the Layers
How do we become all we are meant to be staying in that safe but confining comfort zone? How do we heal and grow?
To move from Surviving to Thriving, we have to be willing to do our healing work and stretch ourselves.
We first have to see that the walls (or layers) we construct to protect ourselves are the very walls that confine us. We have to recognize that all these layers keep us from the growth, the relationships, and the life that we want.