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What is a good antonym of "comfort zone", or an expression replacing "outside my comfort zone"? I'm writing an essay and don't want to repeat myself too much.

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I wouldn’t use comfort zone at all, other than with some degree of irony. It’s a cliché. Say exactly what you mean in your own words. What that will be depends on the context and the effect you're trying to achieve. –  Barrie England Dec 30 '12 at 19:23
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What @Barrie said. But in contexts where you would naturally use it, it's normally outside my comfort zone. Curiously, the first antonym that comes to mind for me is usually expressed as we're in uncharted territory/waters. Perhaps that's because we need other people more when we're in threatening/unknown situations. –  FumbleFingers Dec 30 '12 at 21:13
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@FumbleFingers. I wondered about uncharted territory myself. –  Barrie England Dec 30 '12 at 21:17
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@Barrie: It popped straight into my mind, but initially I dismissed it, thinking comfort and knowledge were different concepts. But then I remembered my old English teacher asking us class of 12-year-olds "What's the one thing that everyone is most afraid of?". After five minutes of (some, quite revealing), suggestions from those brave enough to raise their hands, he finally put us out of our misery - the unknown!. –  FumbleFingers Dec 30 '12 at 21:33
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6 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You could say "pushes your personal boundaries" or "pushes the envelope." It doesn't necessarily mean that it is a bad thing, but it does imply that you are doing something that is difficult for you.

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I like "push my personal boundaries". Thanks. –  Randomblue Dec 30 '12 at 23:06
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Colloquially, the opposite of one's comfort zone is one's danger zone.

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Lots of hits for discomfort zone. –  tchrist Dec 30 '12 at 20:00
    
@tchrist: The top hits seem to be for Jonathan Franzen's play-on-words title. –  Robusto Dec 30 '12 at 20:02
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"Discomfort zone" seems a better antonym than "danger zone". Just because one is not comfortable does not mean one is in danger. –  MετάEd Dec 30 '12 at 20:08
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How about "It makes me uncomfortable"? That's straightforward and seems to be what you mean.

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Leon Festinger's concept of cognitive dissonance might help you.

When you are in your comfort zone, you are at ease and free of anxiety. When you experience cognitive dissonance, you are ill-at-ease and anxious. In other words, you've lost your equilibrium or homeostasis; you're out of your comfort zone. The following illustration is probably better than a thousand-word definition.

You arrive in Las Vegas with $500 in mad money in your pocket. Before stepping into a casino, you swear to yourself that once the five-hundred is gone (of course, that will never happen, right?), you will quit and walk out of the casino. A couple hours later, you've lost it all. You are now out of your comfort zone. What do you do? Walk out? Perhaps, but perhaps not. You have just entered the realm of cognitive dissonance. Why? Because you are in the classic "on the one hand, but on the other hand" situation!

Since most folks find it difficult to hold two conflicting ideas in their minds at the same time without feeling this dissonance, they kind of weigh the alternatives, make a decision, and then convince themselves through the process of rationalization that they've make a good decision, one that restores their equilibrium and gets them back into their comfort zone.

The gambler in my illustration, who now is really stinging from having lost his mad money, probably has a little talk with himself, which might go as follows:

"I swore to myself earlier to walk out if I lost the 500. I'd better stick to the plan. On the other hand, I feel so bad having lost that money, I've just got to get it back somehow. Hmmm . . .. I know, I'll get a little more money from the cash machine--just a hundred bucks and no more, and if I haven't gotten back the five hundred in the next hour, I'll definitely walk out then. Yeah, that's the plan, and I'm stickin' to it!"

Before having this little talk with himself, our gambler experienced a swirl of emotions in his head: regret, sadness, anger, frustration and shame, to mention just a few. This swirl of emotions created dissonance, and to quell it, he made a decision. It may not have been the right decision, but it at least frees him up to do what he's decided to do--maybe.

The scenario could unfold in any number of ways once he re-enters the casino. After losing 50 of his 100 bucks, he might have an epiphany and immediately storm out of the casino. The inner conversation he has prior to his departure is likely short and sweet: "That's it, I'll never gamble again!"

If, however, he stays until he's lost the hundred bucks, the situation might unfold as follows: "Oh, brother, I've lost another hundred. I know I said I'd leave if I lost the hundred, but I just KNOW I can pull ahead. After all, I did win $200 a half hour ago, even though I lost it with another stupid bet. I'll get just another hundred from the cash machine, and this time I'll really stick to my guns. If I lose that, I'm outa' here." And so it goes.

Since many--if not most--folks can't tolerate the feeling that a decision they're making is at the same time both crazy AND sane, they convince themselves it's one or the other. Sometimes the sane thing to do is cut their losses. Even though it hurts in the short run, it saves them grief in the long run. Sometimes, however, they refuse to cut their losses and forge ahead. Why? Because it's crazy NOT to!

Are we humans the rational critter or the rationalizing critter? You be the judge.

I hope this long-winded answer is of some help.

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Make up a word, and add a hyphen. I like "Un-comfort Zone" (rather than discomfort - which means something else). In fact, I was searching on the Internet for different words describing comfort zone, and came here.

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"Hazard zone" is what I would call what is out of my comfort zone.

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