“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” We’ve all heard some version of this quote, and most of us not only believe it, but have lived it. Yet, time and time again, we build up walls and gates to protect ourselves from the potentially wonderful unknown.
With the holidays coming to an end, and the New Year just beginning, lots of stuff is coming down in our home. It’s always bittersweet to take down the tree and store the stockings, but I know that before I can take a moment to blink, we’ll be trekking out to the tree farm once again.
But other things like baby gates and playpens are also coming down in our home and in all likelihood; we will be putting them away for the last time. And while this truth stings a bit, I know that in order for me and my family to grow, I need to let go of what has been familiar to me for the last six years, which has been a home filled with baby gates and safety nets.
The truth is, we all have “gates” that we keep, be it a label we give ourselves, an old idea, our daily comfort zone …but sometimes the gates which with we surround ourselves hinder us rather than help us to grow. All of my life, I have thought of myself as an extrovert. I love meeting new people, trying new things and don’t get me near a karaoke machine if you’re hoping for a turn, because chances are if you’re with me it won’t happen.
But then why is it that the thought of talking in front of more than 2 people makes me run for the hills? I’m pretty sure this “gate” went up in middle school when I was asked by the teacher to point to Beijing on a map of the world. (You guessed right on how that went.) Nevertheless, I ended up getting an A in Geography and still 35 years later that wall, even though it’s cracked and outdated, still won’t give. However, I am confident that with a little more effort on my part and well, confidence, I can kick this gate down with the first few tries.
Yet, there are gates and walls that are more difficult to break apart. Like many other women and men, I continue to struggle with my body image. And from the perspective of someone who has worn everything from a size 14 to a size 4, weight has absolutely nothing to do with it.
I’m still trying to figure out the best way to collapse this one. It’s been up for at least 20 years, so taking down the insecurities I still feel, from gaining 20lbs in 6 months in 7th grade to embracing the harsh reality that some things don’t always go back to where they were after 2 kids, is a process. It requires chipping away at ideas that have kept me safe and comfortable. Sure, I may fall (literally if it involves yoga or kickboxing) but the road to mental strength and physical wellness is lifelong, and we don’t get anywhere standing by the red light.
And then there are those gates that we don’t want to come down, like the one that sits in front of my fireplace tonight. Sure, it’s a nuisance and a bit of an eyesore, but it keeps my son safe from falling and serves as a daily reminder that I still have a baby in the house. (That “baby” will be two in March.) And his fearless spirit is a sober reminder that he doesn’t need the gate as nearly as much as I do. I’m worried that once the gate comes down he’ll hurt himself, or get burned. But the truth is his curiosity is stronger than any gate, and getting hurt and burned in life is inevitable regardless of our precautions. It’s a part of growing, learning, and becoming a better and stronger version of ourselves.
This year, I’m making a resolution to take down some of my own gates and walls, and get out of my comfort zone. Some will be easier to tackle than others. I look forward to becoming more comfortable with speaking my mind, and to survive another summer at the pool wearing that suit that I bought from the Target Juniors section (never mind the size) because I really love the colors. The times that will be more difficult are when it once again becomes time to re-enter the workforce and find my dream job. There’s a risk I’ll be passed for the position. Then there’s the risk that I’ll land it.
Living is what happens beyond our comfort zone. I am challenging myself, and each one of you to choose a gate in your life that is no longer useful, and to tear it down. I wish you all a very happy New Year and happy travels down the road of 2016!
Writer, marketer and mom, Susan Madden, has a background working with the Fine Arts in Dallas, TX and Milwaukee, WI. Relatively new to the fitness industry, she enjoys sharing her experiences about the craziness that is parenting and wellness from a novice perspective. She is a native of Whitefish Bay, WI and now resides in Mequon, WI with her husband Mike and children, Samantha and Blake.