Whenever I open my phone and scroll through Facebook, I run into this same sponsored post by The North Face (I guess that’s what FB’s algorithm does to you when you drool over Thermoball jackets all day long). It’s a black and white image of a grisly older man who has ice in his beard, the edge of a beanie darting across the middle of his forehead, and a jacket collar lifted high around his ears. It doesn’t really speak to me, but that ad inspires me every time I see it. I never click on it, and I don’t know what the man’s supposed to be doing (or selling) in this ad, but what always catches my attention is the caption that accompanies it:
“The truest version of ourselves lies far beyond comfort’s perimeter.”
Isn’t that a beauty of a line.
I used to think that I subscribed to this line, that I lived every corner of my life according to the idea in this line. Why else, after all, would I have a public blog with my feelings all over it? Why else would I go skydiving with a bunch of strangers for my 21st birthday, read a poem about an ex to a crowd of 500 people, and say yes to being a Relief Society teacher, even though speaking in front of people often leaves me in shambles? It’s because I rock at getting out of my comfort zone, right? Wellllllll…wrong. Every time I see this ad, I feel the pain of falling short, of not living by it at all.
I genuinely suck at vulnerability and getting out of my comfort zone. I’ve struggled with that for most of my life and I still do. It’s about time that I own up to it.
When I was a kid, I was cripplingly shy. I talk about that a lot because that is something I dealt with for a good 13 years of my life. Add in some social anxiety, major introversion, and fear of falling short and you have one chaotic mess of a person that was (and occasionally still is) me. It was very hard for me to open up to anyone as a child, and one of the few times I finally got myself to do it, I was badly hurt by a good friend. So I locked myself up and shut myself in. My comfort zone became a very tight, very confining circle, and I’ve spent years crafting habits and responses that “protect” me in this circle. To name a few, I:
a) dilute how I really feel about situations and current event topics in conversations to avoid getting emotional or getting criticized
b) avoid parties or activities where I won’t know more than one person
c) don’t pry into other peoples’ lives too much for fear that I’ll start caring too much for them, and when they leave, it will hurt a lot
d) keep my emotional distance from people at work so I can seem more professional and in control
e) do my favorite activities, like hiking and writing and even listening to music, alone rather than involving someone else, because in these situations, I’m at my most vulnerable, and if they left, these things would hurt
f) stifle the parts of my personality that are spontaneous and carefree in an attempt to not draw any attention to myself and, in extension, my weaknesses
g) avoid getting to know people whose intelligence intimidates me for fear that I’ll fall short
h) (lately) avoid written/text correspondences whenever possible to avoid the moment when someone else drifts out of my life because I’m “better in writing than real life,” which has everything to do with items a, d, f, and g in this list and nothing to do with the fact that it may be true
And there you have it. That is me. I am a pretty piece of work, aren’t I.
I have made an automaton out of myself in an attempt to not be hurt, and it is a terribly lonely way to live. Sure, I’ve made breakthroughs. Sure, there are people who get the full, undiluted me, but it is very difficult to get to that point with everybody. The truth, I’ve found, is that I don’t live outside of my comfort zone at all. I’m not vulnerable. I put on a facade of icy coolness so that people don’t have to see that, underneath it all, I am deeply emotional and sensitive and caring. Those things, historically, have seemed like weaknesses to me. I’m coming to understand that, as much as those things hurt, they are the greatest strengths I have. Without them, connectivity in this world cannot exist.
I suck at vulnerability and connectivity, and I don’t want to. In an effort to be genuinely authentic and real and open, and in an effort to see where I can improve, I want getting out of that comfort zone to be my focus this next year. The truest version of myself is someone I want to discover and embrace. I don’t want to hide her for fear of getting hurt. The real truth is that hiding is where we hurt the most.