Living Strong Abroad: Out of Comfort Zone


Where’s your comfort zone?

All coaches – and most wisdom – says growth happens outside of your comfort zone. It’s been occurring to me lately that “comfort zone” has a pretty limited, or perceived as limited, definition; made by people who consider eating chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla takes a giant leap of faith.

Mind you, this observation comes from a girl who has had pink hair since 2005.

And this is kind of my point. Recently I went to a party as a Picasso painting. I loved it. I got to step outside a bit and push the envelope… but for me, the biggest stretch was the blue hair. I know, right? I have pink hair, blue is just another color.

But it’s not.

I LOVE the idea of blue hair, but the idea of actually dying my hair blue is altogether another story. I think it looks beautiful on other people but on me? Oh, no.

And yet, seeing myself in the makeup, something different than what I normally do, (the picture above is me, by the way), I suddenly found myself thinking, ‘Why not? Why can’t I do blue hair?’ I’ve convinced myself, that pink is the only “non-natural” color I can pull off. And maybe it is, but the fact that I think that is the problem.

I’m going to digress. Bear with me…

I never wore heels, or what I liked to term “Barbie shoes.” I was not a feminine girl. I couldn’t “pull it off.” And then one day, as a part of a promotion and celebration – and this is where it gets a little weird outside of cultural contexts – my boss wanted to buy me some new shoes. I promise, this was not anything inappropriate, he just thought all women loved shoes and that would be a nice way to personally reward me. I ended up buying a pair of kitten-heel, red, snakeskin shoes – that never in a million years would I have bought for myself. Why? Because I wasn’t feminine enough or pretty enough. Insert excuse -here-.

And now I love “Barbie shoes.” I still wear flats, I still love comfort, but I no longer see myself as incapable of being feminine.

Alright, back on topic, pink hair.

Many people think this puts me in the fray. But my perfect vision of myself is a beautiful, winter white suit, pink hair done in a French-twist, conservative ‘do. For some, tattoos and piercings are their “norm”; not conforming is what makes them comfortable. For others, a couple of blond highlights is a dramatic makeover.

I think when we think of people living outside of their comfort zone, we need to really examine what that means for them. It’s not the same for everyone. And our talents/strengths can define some of those zones. When we work in our zone of strength, we are happier and more productive.

Pushing boundaries is good.

Defining those boundaries for others is not. And if we don’t begin to appreciate our loved ones’ talents or those of our co-workers/direct reports, that’s exactly what we’re doing.


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Jo Self

Jo Self is Peru’s only Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and is on a mission to disrupt the status quo and raise a Strengths-Based Generation. She believes in a world where everyone can live to their full potential, talents aren’t wasted & happiness is contagious. As a mompreneur & expat living in Peru, she understands the challenges and rewards that both entail. When she’s not helping others create extraordinary lives, she can be found at the sewing machine, at the movies, enjoying a glass of wine with friends or horsing around with her terribly precocious little boy, affectionately known as O. or