We all have that safe place in our lives known as our comfort zone.  That’s the place we know that we have control.  We’re in charge while we’re in our safe place. That small box known as our comfort zone is actually very confining and if we never venture out of it then we will never grow as we were meant to.  Our comfort zone can actually be a prison to us.  We each have our own key to break out but we have to know how and where to find it.   Sometimes we have to put on our brave face, unlock that door with our key and step out of that box no matter how hard or impossible it seems.

For nearly my whole life I was too scared to leave my comfort zone.  I was a shy and meek introvert.  I was afraid to speak up for myself.  I let others walk all over me.  I was too scared to take chances out of fear of what could go wrong.  I didn’t like the person I was very much but I was too afraid to step out of my box and change that. This is all a result of negative thinking.  When I learned how to change my thinking from negative to positive earlier this year it helped me a great deal in all aspects of my life.  One of those ways was to help me leave my comfort zone.  It was pretty scary taking that first step out but I did do it.  Each step was easier than the one before it.  Before I realized it I had completely left my little box and it wasn’t as hard as I had always imagined it would be.  There’s actually a whole different world outside of your comfort zone.  It’s like being on the other side of the looking-glass. Stepping out of your box gives you a different perspective on things and sometimes it helps you to see things more clearly.

One of the things I have never liked to do was to speak in front of a lot of people.  I would be so nervous that I would stumble over my words and fidget.  I have a tendency to talk fast when I’m nervous, probably so I can get it over with quicker. (Hmmm….I never realized the reason for that until I just wrote that last sentence). Because of this I stayed in my comfort zone and avoided speaking in front of a crowd like you would avoid the plague. Speaking in front of people was just something I dreaded and I hated it through and through. I would just rather die than stand in front of a crowd of people and talk.

I had to face my fear of speaking in front of people this past January.  My mother passed away the month before and I gave the eulogy at her memorial service.  I actually wanted to do this for my mom.  There were a lot of important things that I wanted people to know about her; intimate details that only her closest family knew.  Telling those things to the pastor or person in charge of a memorial service for them to say just isn’t the same.  It needed to come from someone close to her.  I wrote a three page eulogy to read in front of the people who came to her service. It took me a week to write it.  It isn’t very easy to summarize a person’s entire lifetime into a few short pages but somehow I managed to do it.  I picked the highlights of her life to tell her story.  We made a PowerPoint slide show of pictures spanning her lifetime.  I practiced reading the eulogy many times and I timed the slide show to end when I was done speaking.

The day of Mom’s service I very nervously stood in front of the small crowd of people gathered in her church.  I stood up on the stage with a podium and microphone in front of me.  The spotlights above me were so bright that it made it hard to see out into the crowd.  That may have been a good thing in that I couldn’t really see everyone.  My mother’s good friend from church stood next to me for support because I asked him not to leave me up there alone.  He graciously stood there the whole time I spoke with his hand on my back to let me know everything was ok.  Taking a deep breath I started to read the three page eulogy about my mom.  I stumbled over many words and mispronounced some of them out of complete nervousness.  I fidgeted with my glasses, my face, my hair, my dress, the microphone and the papers in front of me.  I know I did all of this because of the video my son took that I watched later.  I read through the eulogy much too fast and my practice runs to time it perfectly to the end of the PowerPoint failed miserably.  After I was done reading my mom’s friend said to the small crowd that they didn’t normally applaud after a eulogy was read but asked if they could because he knew how hard it was for me to stand up there and I had poured my heart into what I wrote.  The people in the audience did and in a strange way it felt good.  Not because I was proud of what I said but because I had stepped out of my comfort zone and done something I would have never done before out of fear.  I took the key and unlocked the prison door on my comfort zone.  It felt so good to do that.  It felt especially good to do it at the time it happened.  I know my mom would have been happy that day, not just for the things I said about her but because her shy little girl stepped out of her lifelong comfort zone and braved a fear she never thought she could.

I sometimes still retreat back into my comfort zone.  I probably always will now and then. It’s my safe place I can go to when things aren’t great.  But, I now know I don’t have to stay there all the time. There’s a much bigger world outside that box. You just have to be brave enough to step out into it.