AI: What’s just outside your comfort zone?

Today I am wearing a gray dress.  And it has a ruffle in the front. That’s me in the dress in the featured image, as proof.

If you have met me more than once, you may or may not remember, but I was surely in something that was black and v-necked. I don’t do ruffles.  I don’t do gray.  Well, until today.

Now, don’t get me wrong, all of you people look just fine in your colors and patterns and fancy fabrics that need to be dry cleaned.  But me? All that exists just a touch outside my comfort zone.  I’m pale and red-haired and a born & bred New York City girl … so I pretty much stick to the black uniform.  Yes, I could wear other things, but I like black.

So breaking out into the world of notblack today, I feel a little crazy, devil-may-care, you do not even know what might happen up in here — even though it’s really not all that exceptional.  Just a touch on the wild side, insomuch as a gray jersey knit summer dress can be “wild”. (Shush it!)

What little things in your day-to-day fall just outside your comfort zone?  How often do you push yourself to do those things?


The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.


A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

Related Articles


  1. Wearing shoes that aren’t Chuck Taylor All-Stars. They’re my favourite shoes and I never wear anything else. Except my running shoes because the chucks are shit for running. I don’t do much running because I hate running. I’m short and stocky with short legs and an old knee injury that hasn’t healed right. I enjoy cycling but running’s not my thing. But last year I wanted to do the Great Gorilla Run in London because putting on a gorilla costume to run through a major European capital? Brilliant!
    And that meant training which meant running shoes. And man, did it feel weird to put on some shoes with soles more than a few milimeters in thickness. It felt so weird that, at first, I almost decided I couldn’t do it and thought it might be better to just run barefoot. But then I remembered how much refuse and broken glass I’m likely to step on so I stuck with the shoes. But it was really weird. That one extra centimeter really made me feel much taller.

  2. Any dress is out of my comfort zone! I probably wear a dress 2-3 times a year, maximum. And yet I’m bringing not one, but two dresses to Dragon*Con, one for the Star Party and one that I may or may not go disco dancing in.

    1. I love it! Perfectly understandable. I prefer dresses myself. Especially if they are black and v-necked and otherwise kind of plain.

      But, in solidarity with you, I will be bringing a not-all-black dress to wear to the Star Party, so we can be just a little edgy together!

      1. Cool, my dress has a black skirt and a blousy, flowery print top.

        Another thing out of my comfort zone until last year was having short hair. I am self-conscious about my strong, square jaw and always thought I needed long hair to offset it. The chin-length bob I got right before TAM 9 got so many compliments, though, that I just got it done again. I need to be better about maintaining it; I tend to be too lazy to go to the hairdresser often enough.

  3. May not seem like much, but starting a conversation, something as simple as saying “hi” seems to be a huge barrier for me. Once things get going, I do okay sometimes. And people I have been around for a while I tend to be more relaxed. But if it someone I don’t know very well I tend to just stand there and wait for them to acknowledge me.

    1. Ah, that’s a huge one. I know a lot of folks who are not ice-breakers. I think it’s great that you just wait for someone else to do it as opposed to just avoiding it altogether. I know folks who do that too, even though they’re great conversationalists.

  4. Oh, there’s tons of things. My comfort zone doesn’t extend very far at all. Picking one at random…

    Coupons. I feel weird using discount coupons. It feels like I’m asking the store/restaurant/whatever for a favor that I somehow don’t deserve. I usually just give any substantial ones I get to a friend who uses coupons a lot.

    I did actually attempt a coupon transaction in a restaurant recently, but my coupon-expert friend was there to spot me. Y’know, in case I pulled a muscle or something.

    1. I also think this can be cultural. I LOVE couponing, although I’m not all that good at it. Do you google for a coupon code before checking out at an online store, or does that feel like a favor too?

      I love coupons, but can’t haggle worth a damn. I mean, not one bit. In my head these should be related, but they’re not.

    2. To me, using coupons feels like I’m advertising that I’m too broke to pay full price. I can use gift cards just fine, but I almost never use coupons.

  5. My comfort zone doesn’t extend very far at all.

    Ditto, here, though probably to a much greater degree.

    Commenting on blog posts is always discomforting. I always feel like I’m intruding on someone’s personal space, and leaving a stain on the carpet, or something.

  6. Driving. I didn’t have anywhere to go in high school and was lucky to have amazing public transportation for college and graduate school. I didn’t get my drivers license until age 23 and I just this summer got my own car to use. Yesterday and today I drove up the street to the grocery store and I got back home feeling like I just fought off an invading army.

    I have to drive myself to and from work this semester and thinking about it almost has me ready to go into a panic attack. I’m hoping ignoring it until the first day of work will make it better.

  7. Anytime I go somewhere that requires me to wear something other than jeans and a black t-shirt. I’m comfortable in my self-imposed uniform! Don’t take it away from me!

  8. I kind of freak the fuck out if I don’t have access to the internet. And my first reaction is “I don’t know what to do! I need to tweet about this! OH SHIT NOOOOO!!!”

    So, anywhere without 3G/WiFi is outside of my comfort zone.

    But really, I’m trapped indefinitely in Texas, I have no comfort zone.

  9. I wear bright-colored dresses daily (today it’s a red and white gingham ’50s-style thing), but wearing pants makes me feel really uncomfortable. And don’t even get me started on shorts! I also feel really self-conscious if I put on make-up or put my hair up. I was in a dance show at my college last year, and the idea of having to put on make-up and put my hair in a ponytail really distressed me.

    Starting a conversation with someone who’s not already in my established circle of friends also freaks me out. I’m getting better and better at it, but I’m still quite shy.

  10. Honestly, my day job as an technical instructor and project manager is outside my comfort zone. Heck, make that any public speaking. Although you may not detect it when you talk to me, I have a stuttering speech impediment. It was so bad as a wee lad that I couldn’t say more than 2 words without stuttering and stammering (imagine Stuttering John on Howard Stern when he gets really excited and that was me all the time). I went through 7 years of speech therapy and they got me about halfway there (could speak maybe 8 words between stutters/stammers). Joined the navy and ended up getting the opportunity to start teaching based on my technical abilities. Viewed it as a chance to step up and tackle my fear of public speaking (you wouldn’t believe the amount of emotional baggage and social fears that a fat stuttering kid ends up with). Fast forward about 16 years. Now you can’t even tell that I’m a stutterer or that every time I have to teach or present that I am doing so in abject fear… all because I have it under control and work very hard to keep both in check. But it is totally not in my comfort zone…

  11. Talking on the phone almost always makes me uncomfortable, especially when I’m the one making the call. I try to avoid it whenever I can.

    I imagine this is an extension of my general shyness, but I do find it a bit strange that I’m even more uncomfortable talking to someone on the phone than I would be talking to someone in person. For example, if I need to talk to someone on campus to get a question answered, I’d much rather take the time to go to the appropriate office than to just make a five-minute phone call. I’m not really sure what it is about phones that makes them so nerve-wracking.

    1. Same here! I’m very comfortable with people in person, but for some reason I dread talking on the phone, but I really don’t know why.

    2. I generally hate speaking on the phone as well, especially to strangers. As to the reason, it’s probably that you can’t read facial expressions and body language on the phone.

  12. As a ‘big girl’ any form of exercise in public has been surround with woe.
    This year though I have put on a brave face, plugged in my ear phones and lost myself in Zombies, Run!
    I figure all the little gym bunnies bounding along beside me have their own issues to sort out too. I’ll deal with mine without keeping a tally of any looks, stares and judgements, thanks.

    1. Same here. I used to be a big boy. Lost 60 kilos (that’s a lot of stones). I really had trouble going to the gym. It was part of the programme, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. Now I’m over it.
      But there’s one thing I still hardly ever do, and that’s eating in public, including fancy resataurants.
      I guess it takes some time to adjust to the “new” me.

  13. Dresses, nice shoes, slacks, blouses… basically any clothes fancier than my standard mid-20s lab rat grad student garb. I like me some casual clothes that can stand up to acid spills, what can I say? Part of it is because I’m prone to randomly deciding to hike 5k/climb a tree/go exploring in the woods/climb an embankment to see what’s up there/play in a ditch just like I was as a kid and I really hate ruining pretty things (but for some reason my decision making process on such things is always, “Whee, fun! Feel bad later!”), so I just don’t wear them. If I’m not wearing them, I don’t have to feel bad because I won’t ruin them! Makes perfect sense!

    Also: Talking to an intimidating authority figure alone. Or introducing myself to a stranger alone. Not sure why, but I’m more comfortable in a group for that stuff. Which is completely odd because I like to socialize in tiny groups. I can get up and give a lecture to 300 students when my supervisor is sick and not break a sweat (stage fright? What’s that? No, seriously, I’ve never felt it), but ask me to introduce myself to someone I admire and chat with that person? Um, ah, er, ah, well, y’know that looks like a really nice corner. I think I’ll just stand in it and watch in an awkward manner.

  14. I’m going to cosplay at a convention very soon here. I’ve never cosplayed before. I’m really nervous about it, even though I’ll have my friends with me.

    I mean, I want to do it, I think it’ll be a lot of fun, to show off my hard work, but it’s definitely outside of my comfort zone.

  15. Actually wearing a skirt or dress.

    This past week, our air conditioner has been utterly screwed at work. Now, most libraries, when their AC goes out, they get to close to the public. No one opening doors, letting what little cool air we have escape. We get e-mails about this. We are jealous, because, for some reason, we are never allowed to. As a result of this heat wave, most of my female co-workers have been opting for dresses, skirt, or capris, because they are sensible beings.

    Not so for us dudes. Only option is pants. Which are hot, and suck horribly as clothing in a hot library. Did I mention hot?

    I keep saying I should just bite the bullet, buy a skirt, and wear it. Something ankle length and cotton, because fuck denim right now. Fuck that shit right in the ear. And, quite frankly, I could rock a skirt like a manly man, because if your manliness is determined by whether or not you’re wearing fabric sausage casings on your legs, you’re likely uncomfortable with your own sausage casing.

    But actually doing it? Actually going to Goodwill, shopping for a nice skirt, and wearing it to work? That’s just a bridge too far. Can’t push myself that step farther.

    1. I’d mention it to your coworkers just to see if they freak out, then totally do it. I’ve done it before, and within a couple of days I’d gone from “that guy with suspenders” to “that guy with the sundress”. It has to fit the setting, obviously, and you need a certain amount of workplace tolerance.

      Also, utilikilts are not even slightly cool. And, wear underwear.

    2. Even though I’m a man, I’ve already gotten to the point of wearing a skirt most of the time. (Pretty much all the time, except at work — but I have a (male) friend who wears skirts to work all the time, too.) That is no longer outside my comfort zone.

      My outside-the-comfort-zone is dresses. I have a few, but haven’t yet had the nerve to wear them outside where someone might see me.

      Semi-outside my comfort zone is above-the-knee skirts.


      Dear A.real.girl —

      Ever since I first saw your nym, I’ve been dying to ask:

      What were you before you were A Real Girl?

      A marionette?


  16. For some reason, I’m good with knowing only one person, or even no persons, at a party, but at an event, in a public space, despite being pretty much the same damn thing as a party in someone’s home, my nerves get all jangled.

  17. Hmm, I don’t even think I have a comfort zone. And so many of these answers sound familiar to me!

    Clothes – anything that isn’t black t-shirt and jeans. It’s definitely become a uniform for me. Can’t remember the last time I wore shorts in public, even on a sunny day. But I’m physically very tall anyway, so clothing is always going to be a “if it fits me I’ll buy it” deal that doesn’t leave much room for anything non-dull.

    Actually anything to do with my physical appearance makes me uncomfortable. Being tall (and somewhat wide), I tend to loom. Or at least I think I do. So that’s attached to loads of strange little freakish neuroses. “Will someone think I’m following them when I’m just walking down a street?” “Are people afraid of me?” “Will bullying types see me as a target because of my size and demeanour?” “Is my zip undone?”

    Oh lock me up now…

  18. I’ve started to speak in TeamSpeak when playing online. That’s something I never thought I’d do, given the arseholes I’ve encountered when gaming online, but I got sick of being assumed to be a man and being called a “guy” and “dude” in text chat. There are a lot more of us women out there gaming than some people think!

  19. I have massive phone fear, and yet somehow my day job involves calling people up all the time.

    Wearing any kind of “business drag” is outside my comfort zone. Currently I’m in a midlevel position where I can wear jeans and Keens every day, but I’m terrified I might get promoted to a position where I’d have to wear heels and a suit. (My comfort zone is also bright pink hair, which thankfully so far has never been an issue.)

  20. I have a fairly large personal bubble. People such as my boyfriend, family and close friends I have no issue being close with but as soon as someone who I do not know or don’t consent to them touching me (hug, hand on shoulder etc.) I get very uncomfortable and want to hit someone and run.

    I don’t really try to step outside my comfort zone with this; I just am close with my boyfriend(no issue being close to him) and friends and leave it at that. I don’t see any need to be comfortable with strangers bursting my personal bubble.

  21. Crowded places.

    If there are too many people around, I sometimes go into this confused, semi-paralysed state. Too much information to process, I think.
    It’s why I don’t actively seek out big parties, huge events or other such things that might put too many people in too small a space for me.

  22. Pretty much any social situation with people I’m not familar with is outside my comfort zone.
    Closest I get to breaking that zone is at my job, when greeting customers. Even then, it’s not much of a push outside the zone (might also have to do with how much I hate my job).

    Something I’ve yet to break outside is any casual conversation with a female. Closest I get to THAT is at checkout counters at stores. Seems rather pathetic to me.

  23. Asking people out. I’ve always been approached first. I’ve suffered from depression my whole life. I recently started taking antidepressants and I’m finding myself feeling lonely for the first time in my life.

    It’s every bit as scary to ask someone out, but it feels a lot worse not to now.

  24. The gym. I’m getting more used to it, now I’m having to keep warm indoors and do a rehab program. But I’ve nearly always been the outdoors exercise type – cycling or walking.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button