Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Comfort Zone

By definition, a person's "comfort zone" is that realm of living in the everyday that feels comfortable, right.  At ease.  It's a combination of social circles, circumstances, individual relationships, job duties, and other miscellaneous expectations, routines, and habits to which a person has become accustomed.  It's the place in life where one feels safe.  

That makes a major assumption.  It assumes that the person has an inner comfort zone.  Such is not always the case.

The comfort zone I mean is the one where one feels comfortable inside - at peace with one's self.  The French call it "être à l'aise dans sa peau" - or "being at ease inside one's skin" - and it involves one very difficult - but essential - relationship. 

It's the relationship with oneself. For, as I understand the two most essential commandments of the Jewish law, identified by Jesus, it is necessary to have three relationships in life - and in this particular order of importance: with God, with oneself, and with others.
LINK for this photo

I've said a lot about relationship with God on this blog, so I'll leave that one alone in this post. Besides, I think that most people would agree that it's necessary to have a friendship with the Creator.  But I've seen a lot of people skip over that relationship with the self ... thinking it's somehow selfish ... and focus on other people exclusively.  Then they wonder why their caring for other people seems difficult, or forced, or why they are continually burning out and becoming resentful of the people they are nurturing.  I did that - for years.  I still fight the tendency to do it.  There seems to be a collective / cultural guilt surrounding the idea of being a friend to oneself. Perhaps it's that whole religious thing - the idea that paying attention to the self is egotistical, arrogant, and selfish. (Absolutely not the case. Just saying.) But as I keep telling my friends, "You're the only YOU that you have. Look after YOU ... please." I guess I need to keep reminding myself of the same thing, too.  Self-care fills my emotional tank and allows me not to get burned out as quickly (if at all) when I need to show compassion and caring to someone else.

Notice I said to show caring.  That doesn't mean that I rush in without permission into someone's life and start dispensing advice or (worse yet) barking orders - something I need to keep reminding myself about because that's what I used to do --- and on a regular basis.  It means that if someone needs a little help getting their bearings, I give them a soft place to land, to rest, to get their feet under them, to believe in themselves, and to learn to fly on their own.  It doesn't mean I create in them a dependency on me, on my advice or whatever else I think they might need. If I do that, then the relationship with the other person becomes about me.  That's not healthy.

But showing compassion and caring is the end result.  It will naturally flow out of relationship with God and then relationship with the self.  Many people focus on the end result of caring for others and showing compassion to them, - give, give, and give some more - and end up frustrated over time because ... well, there are any number of reasons but they all stem from a desire to have some sort of acknowledgement from the other person for their self-sacrifice.  It's been my experience that if I am looking after myself, I don't NEED that acknowledgement (I won't turn it away or be unthankful if it happens, but that's not my motivation or my goal) because I'm operating out of a place of fulness rather than running on empty all the time. 

As a matter of fact, when I actually DO start feeling edgy or resentful of someone else, that's my warning sign that I haven't been looking after myself. That's the time for some "me time" - to look after myself and be at ease inside my own skin - to find my own "comfort zone."

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