Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

by Tracy Uttley

In the third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Aase, published a story I wrote in the local newspaper. Her acknowledgment meant the world to me. All I could think about was writing more stories. Writers, poets, artists did not run in my circles. We were small business owners in an even smaller town. How could I sit around crafting sentences while the potatoes patiently waited to be shredded into hash browns for the morning breakfast crowd?  I watched my mom, her pregnant belly extended, cooking over a hot grill for long hours.  My mom’s exhaustion was palpable; her sixth child was due soon.

As I scrubbed dried egg off of plates, I imagined the characters in my stories. I dressed them in colorful clothing and gave them spunky personalities. They were always laughing and carefree. Then I would hear my Dad yell, “Tracy, we don’t have all day. Finish up those dishes. There are motel rooms that need cleaning.”   I quickly abandoned my make-believe friends and got back to work.  I kept my made-up stories to myself, fearing being judged. 

My parents, relatives, and culture handed down the belief system that had been handed down to them, determining what was right, wrong and appropriate. These beliefs became mine. What they were comfortable with, I was comfortable with. What they were uncomfortable with, I was uncomfortable with.

At the ripe age of seven, I knew my family would not approve of the fantasy worlds I was creating in my head. A veil closed down inside of myself, cutting me off from my invisible friends and my spiritual existence. Every time I was teased or ridiculed, the feeling of being connected to all that was mystical and expansive dried up like an overripe prune. I knew I needed to behave the way my parents and society wanted me to, so I could be accepted.

My comfort zone developed when I was too young to make conscious choices of my own.  My parents placed me in a neat, safe box to quell their anxiety.  My comfort zone felt constrictive, bossing me around, demanding how I should look, feel, think, and behave. Life became less magical and fun. Limitations and imaginary lines kept me from connecting with my true essence.

Eventually, I dared to look at my discomfort zone, the areas in my life that are negative or limiting. In my discomfort zone, I saw that it was my inner voice that squelched my dreams. I started nurturing and embracing this part of me, loving it rather than judging it. I recognized it as a spiritual opportunity to get free, transforming old beliefs. I engaged in possibility thinking. I realized there was a possibility I could alter patterns that were not working for me. I replaced old images of doubt with new imagery, seeing myself free and able to create whatever I wanted. 

As my comfort zone grew, so did my confidence. I started writing. My first book, Molly McSholly Conquers Kindergarten was published in 2004. I did radio and television interviews. I did book signings at bookstores and schools. Then my self-doubt crept into my consciousness and silenced my dream.  How would we afford braces, tennis lessons and college if I spent my time repositioning nouns, verbs, and adjectives? My comfort zone knew writers did not make money, the great measure of success. I abandoned my dream and got my patootie back to work.

However, my dream of writing continued to nag at me. In my spare time, word for word, I began arranging neatly constructed sentences. Those sentences pulled me forward, smiling at me and gently leading me to write this blog. 

What is in your discomfort zone that holds you back from pursuing your dream?


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