With my anxiety, the world constantly drains me. Any little step out in it is exhausting. It doesn't get better by continuing to go out. If I push myself too hard, I just hit a point in which I am too overwhelmed to function. Anxiety is not always beaten by repeatedly putting yourself into stressful situations. After thirteen years, leaving the house is still just as stressful and draining as it ever was, so I have to make decisions about what's worth the loss of energy. What social things are worth the anxiety. And some things definitely are worth it. There have been times when I really wanted to do something badly enough and gave myself enough time and preparation to really and truly be ready. Did "ready" mean I wasn't scared? No, I was still terrified. But something told me it was the right moment. That I was ready. And I trusted that inner voice, while still respecting my limitations. I made the uncomfortable as close as it could be to comfortable. (Even if that was still "barely tolerable".) And it was draining. And it was worth it, for the most part.
But that doesn't mean the only time you grow is by leaving your comfort zone. If I didn't have a (tiny) safe space in which to do my work, I would never progress. Guess where I do all of my best writing? At home. At my desk. In my safe space. This is where I, through writing, feel like I grow the most as a person. If I kept pushing myself in the traditional ways the world wants me to, I would not only have no energy for writing. I would emotionally crash. I would stay sick and stagnant, just getting by. My work only progresses when I’m feeling safe and well enough to write. To dive into my deep inner world. To bloom in my own garden.
Obviously, I'm not saying don't ever leave your comfort zone. Sometimes it's important to take steps into new things, if they are really what YOU want. And not what others are pressuring you to do. But there is such a thing as being ready. Knowing yourself well enough to know when and where to make tentative steps forward is important. WHEN YOU ARE READY. Because that knowing does exist somewhere deep inside of you. It's usually the doubts and anxieties of the mind that cloud your judgements more than anything else.
I think our culture so heavily favors external success that we forget that growing can also be a quiet, internal experience. Growth is not always about flashy outer success. I think we also tend to glamorize the idea of "the struggle". The "push yourself until you succeed" mindset. Force success. And that does work sometimes. For some people. But to me, that is the extrovert way. And I prefer the introvert way. Where you can grow just as much from facing your inner demons as your external ones.
What I'm suggesting is a balance. Because sometimes you grow from experiences... and sometimes you grow from introspection. From giving yourself a safe place to think things over. To figure yourself out. It doesn't have to be one or the other. I think most of what bothers me about quotes like this is how absolute they tend to sound. Everyone has different experiences, limitations, and things that do and don't work for them. When you distill the human experience down to a sentence or two, you're bound to oversimplify. Which leads you to reach some and alienate others. And maybe I'm in the smaller group of the two. Maybe my viewpoint is so rare that it might as well be nonexistent.
I'm sure I'll still be posting the occasional inspirational quote. And you're welcome to do the same, of course! Maybe we'll relate to each other's, or maybe not. I think it's worth remembering that not everyone's path is the same. And that's okay. Our differences can sometimes be a beautiful thing. But I'll still be here, growing flowers and trees in my comfort zone. Because that matters, too.