Comfort Zones make us feel good by design. They are warm slippers on a Colorado winter morning. Or a cold beer after mowing the lawn on an August day in Iowa. They make us feel warm. They make us feel cool. A comfort zone can act as a shield, protecting us from the world. Or can act as a sword, helping us to build confidence through the comfort to stand up to the day. Comfort Zones are important, but so is leaving them.
Safe at Last
On the trail the comfort zones can really help to keep a hiker safe. I know that I am not going to be able to do a twenty mile hike up a mountain. It will not end well. Those who have hiked with me know that my comfort zone is ten miles and below. After that I revert back to a two year old full of tantrums that only dino nuggets can cure. Others will take a twenty mile hike on a sip of water and pair of Teva’s and not think twice. Their comfort is in the distance, the challenge, and the knowledge that their legs won’t fall off. I do not have that knowledge.
Solo hiking was a huge comfort zone for me. I was embarrassed when I started my hiking journey. I was breathing hard, I was sweating, I was a mess. Solo hiking was different though. I knew that each step I took was measured only by my stride. Each bead of sweat was only going to sting my eyes. And I knew that after the stinging eyes I could sit and whine all day because nobody could hear me. Lately, I have started to hike with others more and more. I’m still a mess but I have grown comfortable. The more I do it, the easier it is and I realize that I am not slowing the group down (I am) but the others enjoy my company(hopefully) and don’t mind the slower pace.
The strangest thing began to happen recently. The more I hiked with others, the more THAT became a comfort zone. A solo hike, while still enjoyable, is somehow a little less comfortable. I didn’t notice when this change happened. One day I was hiking alone and I turned to say something and nobody was there. I smiled, told myself the joke (it killed by the way!) and moved on with another step forward. My comfort zone had started to shift. The safety that was being alone now required another. It felt weird. It felt some how warm and cold at once.
If hiking with someone could help shift some of my comforts, what else could I shift. My comfort level these days is on the trail or behind a keyboard. The latter using my special blend of self-deprecating wit to hopefully cause a lip to curl into a small smile, maybe even a chuckle, dare I say, a laugh. The goal is to always entertain outwards. I am a bit of an “Influencer” or “Creator” but I am the type who doesn’t post a ton of selfies, and tries to make the outdoors the hero in my story. It isn’t about me but about what a person like me can get from being outdoors. But if I can change my comfort zone on the trail, maybe I can change it other places as well.
When I got an email asking if I wanted to be a model I fell out of my chair laughing. The Fatman, a model? After finding out that the email wasn’t a joke I decided to give it a shot. What could be more out of comfort than a mostly solo hiker who maybe posts one selfie a week standing in a studio in front of others and having them take pictures of me. Totally uncomfortable!
Screw it, I’m Trying. That has been my motto for this whole journey. Walking where I didn’t expect to be. Experiencing different things. Worst case, it’s a story. Best case, I become a professional model and move to Milan and hang out at parties with a bunch of sky scrapers. I said yes. Then I bought a copy of Zoolander and dove into extensive research of the world of male modeling.
Vogue, Vogue, Vogue
I took no walks on the catwalk. I stood in a studio with a brilliant photographer who made me feel very comfortable. Every change of clothes stripped not just fabric but doubt. When I put on the next outfit it was like a suit of steel confidence. I still don’t think I am going to get confused with Ryan Reynolds on the street, but each step out of my comfort zone makes me feel like there is more and more I can do.
I went into the experience feeling exposed, like a giant raw nerve waiting to shoot shockwaves of pain through a body. Leaving the experience I felt like my head was slightly higher and my shoulders a little less slouched. It felt like a new trail. The anticipation and anxiety of not knowing what was laid out in front of me from the trailhead. In the end, a feeling of confidence in what I had accomplished.
A year ago, two years ago, this never would have happened. My comfort zone would not have allowed me to stand under lights in front of a camera and have my picture taken. I would have retreated to my couch. Hiding from opportunity. Not knowing what I was missing was a comfort zone in itself. Ignorance can be blind and not trying means not failing. Not failing is comfortable.
I think that hiking is really what has built this confidence. I have accomplished a lot over the last few years on the trail. But what might be more important is the times that I failed. The times that I didn’t finish a hike, or cut one short. Failing didn’t hurt my comfort level. Trying became more important than the result. The comfort zone had shifted ever so slightly.
That slight shift let me know that other comfort zones could shift as well. I could even be comfortable being uncomfortable. I could open myself up to the possibility of something great even if it meant falling a little short. The moments outweighed the outcomes. Each step was valuable, not just what waited at the finish line. The comfort zone had turned to a comfort journey. And the journey was bigger than anything discomfort could throw my way.
More from The Fatman
If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy more of the posts on my Fatman’s Rambling page. Blogs such as “Hiking Alone not Lonely Hiking“, “Winslow, Arizona” and “Another Year” as well as many others may interest you there. If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover, feel free to email me at email@example.com. Or you can keep the conversation going by following me on any of the below social media platforms.