Lessons on Challenging Comfort in Order to Make Change

In early February, c21ers had the distinct privilege of hosting Jayme Alilaw, From the Core Coach (and opera singer) who is focused on empowering and amplifying the voices of womxn to transform the world. She spoke to us about breaking the boundaries of comfort in order to access our inner voices, empower our speaking voices and communicate without judgment.

Jayme is an army veteran, entrepreneur, performer, educator and mother of a soon-to-be college-bound daughter. Her worldly experiences as a Generation X, Black woman from California now living in the south adds to her unique perspective and voice on women’s issues and systemic racism.

Our session began with Jayme’s operatic vocal talents and her rendition of “Minstrel Man,” with lyrics by Langston Hughes and music by Margaret Bonds. She challenged us to find meaning in this musical metaphor and how we all might conceal our feelings or wear a mask to maintain an atmosphere of “comfort.”

Maintaining this comfort or fear of “rocking the boat,” keeps us from being our authentic selves and effectively communicating our needs, points of view or perceived offenses with one another. This fear also addresses why it is often so difficult to manifest change in society, even when it is the right thing to do.

c21ers jotted down some of our takeaways from this lunch and learn dialogue below.

Jayme challenged us to redefine our goals for comfort where openness and change can take place professionally and personally. Some of our goals included: the lack of fear, feeling welcome, feeling heard, acceptance and security. In order for us to feel this level of comfort, we must enable the creation of this atmosphere so that others may feel this comfort in our presence — creating an openness, dialogue and understanding between people who are different yet holding respect for each other.

Remember to breathe and breathe properly – expanding the ribs out and in and not just belly breaths as you might learn in yoga. Breathing leads to mindfulness and that leads to intention. To be open requires intention, and it’s important to stop, take breaks, breathe, open my ears more and truly listen.

It helped me understand that sometimes it is okay to step out of your comfort zone and have conversations and ask questions that can help make your team more understanding of your opinions and work ethics. It is best to be curious and ask questions before being quick to judge another person’s character or methods.    

I had never really thought about the way comfort and openness can be at odds with one another before our lunch and learn with Jayme (great name, by the way.) Each organization needs to think about and decide what their ratio of comfort to openness will be because that can be an important part of the company culture and work environment.

Jayme’s exercise made me think about the difference in being complacent and being comfortable, and how striving for a comfortable work environment is essential for progress. When everyone feels comfortable (and furthermore, comfortable with being uncomfortable), that’s when we are able to push ourselves to our full potential both professionally and personally.

After reflecting on Jayme’s questions, I realized that I was holding back from opening up and being my authentic self because of fear of judgment. Jayme expressed the power of becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Now I’m making an effort to be more open and vulnerable in a professional setting because code-switching is exhausting!

Jayme helped me remember that everyone’s fear of vulnerability is different.   When each of us feels comfortable to use our voice to be open, honest and vulnerable we allow ourselves to be more creative. We’re more creative because we’re more closely resembling the person we are outside of work. Our professional and private personality can be better aligned when we feel comfortable showing them together. 


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