We often hear how magic happens outside of our comfort zone. Sometimes, fear can hold us back, paralyzing us from pursuing certain ventures. Overcoming these fears and pushing personal boundaries can have boosting, beneficial effects.

“We’ve come to see stress as a dirty word,” said Carolyn Gregoire in a 2014 article.

In our comfort zone, little stress occurs — it’s where we feel most at home.

“But a little bit of healthy stress can actually act as a catalyst for growth and provide a powerful motivation to act,” Gregoire said.

The article discusses various reasons it’s advantageous to stray from our comfort zone.

For one, taking risks and embarking on personal challenges allows us to grow and surpass fears of failure.

“We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure,” John Gardner wrote in Self-Renewal. “There is no learning without some difficulty and fumbling. If you want to keep learning, you must keep on risking failure.”

Gregoire notes that trying different things fosters creativity and openness to new experience.

“Openness to experience — which is characterized by qualities like intellectual curiosity, imagination, emotional and fantasy interests, and a drive to explore one’s inner and outer lives — has been shown to be the best predictor of creative achievement.”

According to Belle Beth Cooper’s blog post, leaving our comfort zone increases levels of dopamine in the brain.

“Dopamine’s role centers around motivating us to go looking for rewards and novelty increases that urge,” she said. “Novelty has been shown to improve memory and increase possibilities for learning by making our brains more malleable.”

Interestingly enough, Gregoire warns against pushing ourselves too far, and I tend to agree. I may ask: do I have a genuine desire to do whatever it is I’m going to do? What does my inner voice tell me?

Around 14 – 15 years-old, I began to stray from my childhood aspirations: To be on stage. To sing. To dance. To act. It was easier to point fingers at a drama teacher who made me uncomfortable; it was easier to blame cliquey high school kids who judged harshly. Gradually, however, I realized that I was the one who was changing.

Performing requires a specific personality, a skin that’s hard to penetrate. A callus. It’s like saying: Hey, here I am, fully exposing myself under a bright light for you to see everything. Here I am before you, emotionally naked.

It’s brave.

I didn’t have that skin then, and to be honest, I don’t think I completely embody that now. I am pushing myself, though. I am seeking something when I sing in front of others. Maybe it’s to connect. Maybe it’s to surpass my fear, even if just for a moment. Maybe it’s to transcend my own (perceived) limitations. Maybe it’s all of it.

Overcoming fear and going outside our comfort zone can appear daunting, but it can also serve as a healthy dose of stress, allowing ourselves to learn and grow and foster creativity.

Stage curtain photo available from Shutterstock