I’ve been thinking a lot about comfort zones lately. Seems to me that a huge comfort zone is maybe the biggest personality asset that someone can have. Kind of like the ultimate personality super power, tho it doesn’t really play well into a superhero name, “Hi! I’m Gigantic Comfort Zone Woman!! Come to make you feel good about yourself anyplace, anytime, with anyone!” Nope, just doesn’t fly. I swear, some people are born with almost no boundaries to their comfort zone. I am not one of them. As a parent, I tried hard not to pass my limited comfort zone on to my kids. Not sure I did enough to EXPAND their comfort zones, but at least I don’t think I inhibited them. Fortunately, with practice, comfort zones can be stretched. Age and maturity help. Financial independence helps. Self-confidence and her evil twin, “not-giving-a-shit-what-anyone-else-thinks,” probably help the most.
I find that it is hard to stretch a comfort zone by myself, to take a risk and plunge into new territory. It is so much easier to be pulled into a new zone by someone on the inside. It all has me thinking that maybe the best way to make the world a better place is to just be friendlier, be more open, be more receptive, and reach out a little more. Nothing slams the door that might have been open like a “you idiot” or “you’re not one of us” attitude from a person on the other side.
To me it is interesting that I find this attitude is important in two areas that are seemingly opposite to each other. First, the whole the-world-is-shrinking area. Cultures continue to meld, global communications and travel are routine, countries are becoming more and more tied to each other economically, political changes are felt far beyond one country’s borders. And though I am still not very adventuresome in experiencing other cultures first-hand, I still feel my awareness and appreciation continue to grow. And it grows faster when someone from the other side is willing to say try this, or willing to patiently explain, or willing to laugh with me over misunderstandings; all without condemning my
lack of different experiences and knowledge.
This attitude is equally important in the smallest level of community. It is the biggest reason that we don’t want all our local, independent stores and restaurants to go out of business. It’s the biggest reason that I choose where I shop and where I eat, I want to be respected and appreciated for who I am by the people that work there.
Yes, I can shop on line for everything and even watch how-to videos, but sometimes I really just need to walk into my local ACE hardware store and ask for help. Hardware stores haven’t always been in my comfort zone, I’m not a huge do-it-yourself person, but the people at ACE are so helpful and patient and friendly that I feel really comfortable in there now. I don’t do all my shopping there, and I don’t think they expect me to, but I hope I give them a big enough piece of my hardware budget to keep them around a long time.
I would’ve considered dress shopping at Nordstroms well out of my comfort zone, but the salesperson who is helping me (repeatedly) understands me. She gets that I’m usually in jeans and a t-shirt and she’s willing to help me find something that I am comfortable with. She’s laughing with me and not at me. And honestly, if she’s laughing at me after I leave, I’m OK with that because she is making me comfortable while I’m there.
Bringing me to my most comfortable zone, bookstores. Actually, is anyone outside their comfort zone in a bookstore? The perfect place for browsing and loitering and sampling the wares. Sure you can find everything online and the computers will even make recommendations for you, but it’s so much better to have someone hand you a book with a heartfelt, “Oh, I just LOVED this one!” I want to pull everyone into my world of books and reading. I want everyone to be comfortable with one of the greatest tools for expanding minds and attitudes – reading. And I want to do it at my little, neighborhood bookstore.
So thanks to all the people who are passionate about what they do. Thanks to all the people who own bookstores and yarn shops and restaurants and who want to share their loves and hobbies and family recipes with the rest of us. If we keep our local communities strong and open and inviting it is a huge step towards making the whole world a comfortable zone for everyone.