What does it mean to really step out of your comfort zone? For some, it means exploring new opportunities in order to conquer their fear. For others it can be forced upon them because in order to meet a goal or a deadline, they have to do things they would not have ordinarily chosen for themselves. In my case, it’s a little of both.
I love the idea of being comfortable. I loathe change sometimes and I fear doing things that force me to re-evaluate who I am. It’s a daily struggle for me to actually sit down and write knowing that I could be made fun of, or criticized, and yet, if I don’t do it, it’s almost like I’m letting fear win. Recently I had some things happen where I had to take a really long look in the mirror and decide if I was going to allow myself to stay where I am or if I was ready to start diving into unknown territory. I’m choosing the latter. You see, I believe with all my heart that God put us on this earth to do the best that we can. I believe that we are supposed to help one another, lift each other up in both good and bad times, and not judge others. I’m guilty of judging. There’s been plenty of times in my life that I thought I knew best only to be proven wrong. The main thing was that I learned to accept I’m not always right. One of my really good friends reminded me recently that I let fear control me in my relationships, in my professional life, and in my circle of friends. In many ways, I’m shutting down one area of my life and evolving through study and research. After all, how do we grow? We get out of our own way.
As a preacher’s kid, you would think that I could quote Bible passages to you. I can’t. I know a few but I don’t study the Bible as much as I should. I know that God is there for me. I also know that whatever a person’s faith is, they have to establish their own journey even when it isn’t popular. Losing children can have a devastating effect on a person. When I lost the last baby in a miscarriage, my heart died. There was a part of me that didn’t want to go on. No one can prepare you for that kind of loss. You watch others around you celebrate with their children and you want so badly to have that kind of life only to have it yanked out from under you. There’s a lot of anger, hurt, confusion, frustration, and a whole barrage of emotions that are difficult to describe that happen when you lose a child or children. You are never the same and yet you aren’t alone. Most of the time it takes a while for you to be around others who have lost a child. Everyone around you tells you that you will have other children but when that never comes to be you find yourself really pissed that everyone else was wrong. It’s worse when you have a child or children that you raise only for them to die before you. It’s like a knife to your gut. You feel their loss profoundly. It changes you and makes you cling to things tighter than ever. If you have other children, you need them around you because they are still here. Nothing makes sense. Stepping out of your comfort zone can only be done if you are willing to share things like the pain you’ve endured so that others may get just a tiny taste of how the world can be.
Writing is one mechanism for being cathartic. Writers can create world of escape that allow them and the reader to venture into unknown territory. They can make you feel the sting of bitterness and betrayal that quell within your spirit. What they can’t do is make decisions for you. As much as good writers can lay the groundwork for the world to be experienced, they can’t give a person the decision that a person may be seeking. Before my father died, I made the decision to go back to school and pursue my degree. I wanted to go to an ivy league school but my grades had been mediocre and I didn’t really score well on my SAT’s. School could be easy at times for me and difficult in others. I excelled in music, but math and science were weak spots. I loved English. I thrived in it. I could immerse myself in the readings of Shakespeare and could understand how those works withstood the test of time. What I couldn’t do was conquer the fear of being good enough. It was a years later when I obtained my degree. That was just a start to conquering the fears that dwell within me. We tend to be our own worst enemy. I do not regret any of the mistakes that I’ve made. I’ve learned from them. I’m grateful for the people in my life that even when I’m angry with them, I still love them. There’s a lot of fear that can overtake a person. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone can be a challenge. But it’s a necessary tool that helps each of us grow and manifest our talents if we allow our confidence to overrule our fears.
It took me a very long time to start to see my own potential. I’m finally seeing it but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have days that I question everything. Here’s a few things I’ve found that are helping me to conquer my fears and propelling me forward.
1. Become Aware of What’s Outside of Your Comfort Zone.
If you aren’t aware of what’s outside of your comfort zone, then you need to re-evaluate some things. For example, are you a terrible cook? If so, why not take some cooking classes? Do you want to get to know that special someone? Why are you afraid? If they reject you it’s their loss but at least you can move on.
2. Become Clear About What You Are Aiming to Overcome.
How does this fear apply uniquely to each situation? Be very specific.
Are you afraid of what others think of your appearance? Why? Are you afraid of how others will treat you? If you aren’t willing to put yourself in situations that you aren’t usually in, then how will you know what your potential really is?
3. Get Comfortable with Discomfort.
For example, self defense classes have scared the hell out of me for years. I didn’t want to become a person that got into karate but now I’m seeing that self defense classes aren’t just necessary but a boost to confidence.
4. See Failure as a Teacher
Don’t let fear of failure be the reason that you don’t try new things. If you fail, so what? At least you tried and you can keep trying until you succeed. It’s really easy to criticize ourselves and others but it’s a lot harder to follow through and be able to hold your head up and face criticism and embarrassment. You may not like to be embarrassed but it will make you stronger and more educated of what not to do the next time. Let failure be your teacher so that when you do succeed you can move on to a new challenge.
5. Take Baby Steps.
It’s smart to do things a little at a time and work your way into bigger things. It’s kind of like when you are learning a sport. You can’t be a mega star athlete until you’ve mastered the skills to get there. Think of any project as something that has steps. Put one foot in front of the other until you get past the doors that are shut.
6. Hang out with Risk Takers
If you want to hang out with folks who only talk about success, all you’ll get is conversations but if you really want to up your game, get to know the people who are the movers and shakers and learn from them. Emulate their moves. Have them take you under their wing. If you can’t do that, find ways to volunteer in programs that elevate your level of growth.
7. Be Honest with Yourself When You Are Trying to Make Excuses.
If you tell yourself that you don’t have time to do something, at least be honest with yourself that you are either afraid of doing the task, or you just don’t want to do it. Either way, you make excuses for why you aren’t doing a project. Learn to be specific as to why you don’t want to do something.
8. Identify How Stepping out Will Benefit You
In doing various projects, what’s in it for you? Learn to identify how certain projects and tasks will help you in the long run.
9. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
If you screw up, so what? Learn to shake it off and roll with the punches. Life is too short to get yourself worked up.
I don’t know anything about what’s going on in your lives. What I do know is that some of you are facing some of the most difficult challenges that you’ve ever faced. You aren’t alone. Some of you are on the front lines of this pandemic and are having to fight every day to keep people calm and as healthy as possible. There are so many people right now dealing with anxiety and depression along with other mental and physical illnesses. I hear you. I know that getting out of bed can be just as tedious as trying something new but the flipside is that if a person doesn’t try new things, then how does that person know what they can achieve? Some of you may not want to do anything new. That’s your call. But for those who are tired of the same old routine in your lives, I hope that you are willing to try new things. It could be something as simple as trying a new exercise routine or reading a book if you haven’t read in a while. It could be doing something with your family or even taking a walk somewhere you don’t usually go. Find something that makes you want to elevate your growth with. We grow best when we allow ourselves the opportunity to let new things in. Every day is a gift. Use it wisely.