"A comfort zone is a state within which a person feels at ease, familiar, and in control, and experiences low anxiety. A person in this state uses a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk."
Also, a comfort zone is [...] "Where our uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized — where we believe we’ll have access to enough love, food, talent, time, admiration. Where we feel we have some control."
Some see the comfort zone as a good thing; a safe place. But comfort zones tend to shrink over time, and they can become restricting and confining:
In this more negative context for "comfort zones," the individual has overly demanding, self-defeating rules of personal conduct. They constrict and confine you to a life you don't like, but they're safe: Sticking to the rules comforts you and lowers your anxiety; going against the rules increases your anxiety and makes you uncomfortable....That remark brings to mind a visit I once made to a ward at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute. I came at 10 in the morning and saw most of the patients just sitting quietly in their chairs. A few were watching television and one was reading a book. A psychologist friend showing me around told me privately, "What you see is living proof of the maxim that 'Perfectionism paralyzes.' Come back later this afternoon--come back tomorrow--and you'll see the same people sitting in the same chairs doing the same things. Why do they waste their time like this? Simple: They're afraid to make a mistake, afraid to fail. And since they never try to do anything, they never do make any mistakes. But they also never get the exhilaration that comes from succeeding."
Personal perfectionism falls under this rubric: It leads to inaction when circumstances aren't perfect, but inaction is safe and comforting.
Naturally, any given real-world situation is neutral for the most part. Any situation can be well within one person's comfort zone and simultaneously outside another person's comfort zone. It's not external realities that determine the anxiety we feel in a given situation; it's our own irrational personal beliefs that are the source of our anxieties.
The source of these anxieties:
"Locus of control" issues: You blame the external situation for your problems rather than your own beliefs and reactions to the situation.
Catastrophizing: This means viewing failure or rejection as an unbearable disaster, which results in increased anxiety and thus increases the probability of a bad result.
Overgeneralizing: Failures in the past cause you to label yourself as "shy" or "a loser" or "a failure"; the label into a self-fulfilling prophecy and pre-determines failures in the future, turning into a vicious cycle. Or you label others based on bad experiences in the past, and as a result you continue to have bad experiences with them into the future.
Issues of perfectionism and neediness:
1) One experiences safety and comfort in sticking to rules, as described above.
2) One experiences safety and comfort in applying rules to others: Demanding perfection of others, and dismissing others when they exhibit minor blemishes of appearance or behavior.
3) Similarly: Demanding that others live by your rules. A typical example: A shy person finds the world hostile and refuses to socialize because he fears that the experience will be too bruising. But if he were to lighten up and reach out, he might find others willing to reciprocate. In other words, it may be his pessimism and gloominess that is off-putting for others, hence their negative reaction to him.
(Aside from the two Wiki quotes at the very beginning, this material is from Chapter 12 of the book "Conversationally Speaking" by Alan Garner)
Anyone have any comfort zone issues? Feel stuck in a rut but experience anxiety when you try to leave that rut? Feel like your safe place is shrinking?
Or do you experience your comfort zone is an unmitigated good thing? Sufficiently broad and wide that you're not tempted to stray outside?