We are often encouraged to venture out of our comfort zones, push our boundaries and limits, and embrace the unknown. People say that’s where the real growth happens. I concur. Subjecting ourselves to new experiences is a sure-shot way to fuel personal development. Having a routine in place may or may not be detrimental, depending on the kind of person you are. Some people crave a time-tabled life, whereas others need a change every minute of the day.
We often try to stretch our comfort zones by altering our lives, such as starting a new job, relocating, trying novel exercises, or exploring new locations. These are primarily physical adjustments — you cajole your body into taking up these unaccustomed, exciting external goals to nourish your soul. But what about internal comfort zones? Are we open-minded enough to set aside the prejudices we have collected subconsciously over the years?
Mental transformation is unarguably more challenging than physical. Any change starts with the mind, even the physical. Encouraging yourself to expand your corporeal boundaries is often more fruitful than attempting to alter your thought process. It takes determination to discard years of conditioning, escape the chains of our preconceived notions, and declare, “Okay, I see and acknowledge this new way of living, even if it’s unfamiliar territory.” Personally, I find such people incredibly attractive. Their willingness to listen is commendable and praise-worthy. Yet, we don’t see it happen much.
Why are some people more flexible than others when it comes to accepting new ideas and ways of life, welcoming them wholeheartedly as if they were privy to this knowledge all along?
I would like to highlight one sector in particular to make my point: the Hindi movie industry. It is intriguing to observe how professionals evolve to keep up with the changing times. In the Indian series Gulmohar, an effervescent Sharmila Tagore, a senior citizen, plays a character that most in her cohort would have found blasphemous. Similarly, the iconic Madhuri Dixit portrays a determined mother in Maja Ma, traditional in some facets yet unconventional in others. A role many of her peers would have been unwilling to take on. Among the male actors, we have the young multifaceted Ayushmann Khurrana, renowned for taking up any daring character that comes his way. We have actors and actresses across age groups willing to change with the times. But these are just the minority. Most are reluctant to play characters who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community. Ranbir Kapoor, who’s within my age demographic, admitted in an interview a while back, during Shamshera‘s promotions, that he’s not brave enough to take up such roles.
Moving out of our emotional comfort zones is not age-dependent, as you can see. It requires a willingness to listen, understand, and acknowledge.
It is common to find friends and relatives who struggle to accept new ways of the world with its pressing issues simply because they find them unrelatable. They deny support despite knowing our backing may prove meaningful or pertinent to the intended group.
The most humane thing one can do is listen to the experiences and feelings of others and try to see things from their perspective without being judgmental. To sit with others’ thoughts for a while takes courage.
Sexuality is only one example. This rigidity in perceptions can be observed in a variety of scenarios. Conservatives look down upon women who wear clothes they consider vulgar. Feminists are thrashed because they are non-conformists. Men who display their emotions openly are often criticized by their peers and seen as inadequate to cope with daily tasks. Husbands who love PDA are called “hen-pecked.” We just have to take a look around to see the plethora of preconceived notions everyone, including you and I, are harboring.
The morality or behavioral police who preach righteousness are often people who have achieved much professional success in their respective fields by taking risks and boldly venturing beyond the boundaries of their concisely defined comfort zones. However, many refuse to embrace new lifestyles or cultural norms that challenge their convictions and emotional comfort. It is ironic to see them share inspirational videos about exceeding boundaries on social media when they themselves are not entirely free from the clutches of their comfort zones.
Sometimes it’s difficult to move away from what we have accepted so far as it’s an emotional state that we don’t want to let go of. Humans love their comfort zones — whether they be emotional or physical. An object at rest wants to continue being at rest. This theory is not just applicable physically but mentally as well. The discomfort of new fights, marches, debates, terminologies, laws, thoughts, and social media agitations build up our rage and make us criticize how the world is over-sensitive nowadays. Things are changing way too fast, and we can’t seem to keep up. It is overwhelmingly complex, and understandably so.
But whoever said we should accept the new all at once? Take it one at a time. Baby steps. Sit with the new, try to detach from the old, get acquainted with unfamiliar thoughts, ask questions (but kindly), and ruminate for a while. Give yourself time, as you deserve kindness too, to slowly break away from things you have treated as “home” until now.
But accept we should, if not immediately, maybe sometime in the future. To be a kinder person, less judgmental, and empathetic — traits that highlight growth as well. Acknowledging that change is a constant part of life and adapting to new ideas, beliefs, and perspectives is essential to becoming a well-rounded individual.
Shouldn’t we make a concerted effort to step outside our familiar settings, both in terms of our mindset and physical actions? Something to ponder as we continue to navigate the ever-changing world around us.