I’m awful at listening to myself. It’s one of my biggest weaknesses, right next to listening to other people. All my life, I’ve had problems with pushing myself too far or doing things I don’t want to do just because I’m given the option. I mean, sure, there’s a voice in the back of my head telling me that my stomach is full already, but there’s also half a sandwich left on my plate.

The problem is, my inability to figure out what is best for my well being in a given situation doesn’t only affect my eating habits. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like school, that I have a lot of trouble with school, that school is absolutely awful for my mental health. For some reason, though, at the end of freshman year I went on a sign-up spree. Every day I thank the Lord I didn’t apply to AP classes, but I did decide to take a college class, as well as a class for 11th graders. I didn’t realize my foolish ways at the time, convinced I would be able to handle the workload and extra hours of being in class every night. If I had spent a moment considering the struggles I was having balancing school and a semi-decent mental state with a normal school schedule, I would have realized my boundaries were about to be crossed, and not in a good way.

I agree that getting out of your comfort zone is good, yes, but there comes a point where doing such causes only harm. Performing a heart transplant I would consider out of my comfort zone, as would being tied up, put on a plane, and abandoned in the middle of Russia. Yet neither of those things would be encouraged in a self-help book. Not everything has to be a competition of how much anxiety or stress you inflict on yourself. To some extent, leaving your comfort zone can have benefits. Auditioning. Introducing yourself. Trying new foods. Completely ignoring your personal needs, however, can be really, really bad.

Maybe you’re tired, it’s been a long week of doing whatever you do, and your friend calls you up. “Hey, do you wanna go to a party tonight?” They ask. You don’t want to go to a party, not one bit, but you have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone! Well, you go to the party, and guess what? You’re miserable! You feel like you’re going to pass out from fatigue, your anxiety is overwhelming, and now you’re six handfuls into a stress-induced cheetos binge and hating life. You go home in the middle of the night no more ahead than you would be if you had spent the night in, maybe a little behind, because you feel like you’re going to throw up and sleep in until noon. But yeah, pushing your boundaries is the holy grail of mental health.

Remember: Nobody knows you better than you. If you’re sure that something is far out of your comfort zone, respect that! Everyone has different limits, and pushing those limits can be detrimental to your mental health. The whole world around us is always telling us what to do: what to wear, how to organize your desk, what time to wake up in the morning. But skip the conformity and listen to yourself.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Listen to Yourself by Celia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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