Part of growing up is learning and experiencing the world around you. I grew up and lived in a small town for almost my whole life. When I went off to college for the first time, I went to a small private school in a small town. Why? Because I had grown comfortable in a small-town setting and didn’t want to be overwhelmed by going off to a city school like I originally planned on doing. Looking back I still understand why I did this, but the small-town mindset doesn’t really match my own mindset, so I think I often felt out of place in my hometown and first college town. 

Do I regret not stepping outside of my comfort zone and challenging myself? Yes and no. The obvious benefits of staying inside my comfort zone were that I’m close to family and friends, I’m used to the small class sizes of my first college, and knowing and being comfortable with most of the people I see. Being in your own personal bubble makes you feel warm and fuzzy. Everything is familiar, and nothing is extremely different and discomforting.

But I personally think that stepping out of your comfort zone is more beneficial to any of us who are growing up and going through the part of our lives where we don’t know what we’re doing or who we actually are. We need to grow and change to learn and grow up ourselves and for me, staying in a sheltered environment was halting my personal growth. Some people do well in small towns and I have nothing against them. But I didn’t see myself excelling in my hometown.

By taking a risk, whether it’s a big step out of your comfort zone or a small step that will gradually lead you to a further distance outside of your bubble, it forces you to learn and assess the situation at hand. You’ll make mistakes, which is good because mistakes are the best form of learning.

Facing a challenge causes you to think differently and more creatively, and understanding that there are more ways to solve a problem gives you different perspectives. Depending on yourself gives you more independence and confidence.

In the middle of 2016, I moved across the country to San Francisco from upstate New York. I was excited to be out of my comfort zone, it’s something that I know I needed. I only knew one person, my older cousin, but eventually made some of the best friends I’ve had in my life. I’ve grown so much since then, I’m completely different than the super shy girl that landed in San Francisco four years ago.

I challenge everyone that reads this to do something once a month, or even once a week, that’s out of their comfort zone. Start small, and get bigger as you get more comfortable with each step.

The most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t push yourself too far out of your comfort zone, because this could cause bad stress. My move was a pretty big move for a 19-year-old and I don’t recommend it for everyone who isn’t ready. Take it slowly if you need, or in bigger steps, if you can handle it. Everyone is different.

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