A few weeks ago, late at night, alone in my apartment, I had my first ever panic attack.
I was worried for weeks before the attack, sobbing after another restrained conversation with my mother. Suddenly, I felt deeply alone—stuck, worried about money, and I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t catch my breath, felt dizzy, and thought I would faint. I sat down against a wall, trying to focus on my breathing. Inhaling, exhaling, closing my eyes.
It eventually went away. At that moment, I knew something had to change. I did not know what exactly, but something had to because I couldn’t carry on like this.
I was fed up with the sadness, the negative feeling of wanting to get closer to people but without opening up because I was scared to give my heart to the wrong people. This negative feeling of knowing what you want to do with your career—but money is an issue.
The feeling of knowing you have everything to be happy yet dealing with several periods of depression, and nobody realized. You had to pick yourself up. And now, here you are doing it again. Nobody knows about the panic attack. And nobody will.
Get out of your comfort zone.
Happiness is on the other side of fear.
Change is inevitable if you want to grow.
I do agree with those statements. However, nobody tells you that it is hard work. Getting out of your comfort zone is hard work.
Reading self-help books or watching motivational speeches makes getting out of your comfort zone feels easy and possible. They don’t tell you it’s also uncomfortable for a few reasons. That the most difficult thing you’ll do is to throw yourself into the unknown. You’ll unlearn every idea you grew up with, and pivot away from what you should do. That leaving your comfort zone hurts inside, and it hurts deeply. You’re saying goodbye to what you’ve always known and to your old self to let this new uncertain self grow as much as needed.
You either need this transformation, are forced by circumstance, or it’s your own choice. But you know you need it.
I read a quote in Matthew McConaughey’s book: “Life is not easy. It is not. Don’t try to make it that way. Life’s not fair.” It stays with me everywhere I go, whatever I do.
We are not victims. The sooner we accept that life has its challenges for us, the more at ease we will feel in our lives.
I’m not talking about happiness because it means something different for everyone. I mean accepting the uncomfortable moments in our life. When you doubt yourself, when you’re scared, when you’re afraid to take this next step that might help you reach your goals. But you’re terrified to open up to the world around you.
Opening up to the world around me is what I have refrained from doing for a few years now. Crazy, right? I tell people I left home for the adventure. In reality, I fled a tremendous feeling of discomfort and not belonging in my own country. I always felt rejected and could never find my place.
And so, at 18, I started traveling. I went from different cities to countries to find my place in this world, my crowd, and the tribe where I’d belong. I am happy in this new place.
However, what I’m struggling with now is balancing opening up to the right people and keeping my secret garden. It’s a work in progress, and I believe it’s also about trusting people; making sure you can share parts of yourself with them.
If you avoid leaving your comfort zone, you stagnate. And you will let your life pass you by.
Now it’s up to you: what will you choose to do?