Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

In my last few posts I’ve written about how having a supportive group of loved ones has helped me get through some truly difficult times. Having trusted friends and family members to lean on is a blessing, however there were some other methods I tried which helped me to overcome tough times, and I thought I’d share them here on the blog.

Today I’d like to talk about how getting out of my comfort zone helped me regain my confidence and feel more like myself again.

I had been hurt pretty badly earlier this year, and really took some negative incidents to heart. My friends, family, and even my therapist helped by talking me through things, and tried to give me perspective…but I wasn’t able to shake it off. I went from feeling sad, to feeling “ok”, and I mistook that “ok” to mean that everything was better. I settled for “ok”.

Fast forward a few weeks – I had an event coming up at work that I had planned with a colleague, focused on mentorship and sponsorship. It was going to be a panel discussion with some mentor-mentee/sponsor-protegée duos from within the company, and facilitated by our partner organization, Catalyst. My colleague thought it would be a great idea if I spoke on the panel with my mentor. With a sense of false bravery, I agreed to it. And then immediately regretted it.

Speak on a panel?! Me?? In front of an audience of almost 50 people? No way. How could I do that? Panic set in. I hadn’t done anything remotely challenging in months, not since that terrible incident that had set me firmly inside my comfort zone. I had been telling myself that being comfortable was good, it was practicing self-care, it meant I was taking a break and healing.

But settling is not self-care. There is a difference between being kind to yourself and deliberately hiding from the hard things in life. You can and should listen to your own needs and work through difficulties at your own pace, however slow that may be. My problem was that I hadn’t been moving at all. I was stuck.

Days before the panel I started practicing possible answers to the discussion topics. I practiced and practiced and practiced. I watched YouTube videos on overcoming the fear of public speaking. I talked to friends about it (and received a torrent of “You got this!!!” text messages the day of the event 🙂 ). I even talked to the facilitator from Catalyst privately before the event to let her know the anxiety I was feeling. Somehow, addressing and naming the problem made it seem less scary.

Finally my moment came. My answers sounded just as I had practiced them in the mirror in my bathroom at home, and I even managed to answer some questions I hadn’t been prepared for as well! On top of that…I had actually enjoyed myself! The rest of the event was a success, and I practically floated home that night.

I felt like I had become a new person overnight, or rather, I became myself again. I felt proud of myself. I felt like I had accomplished something that seemed so daunting and impossible only weeks before. I regained my confidence, and that is a beautiful thing.

Without knowing it, I had put myself in a position where I had reached “optimal anxiety”. Optimal anxiety is that place just outside your comfort zone, where stress levels are elevated just enough so that mental productivity and performance reach their peak, but not so stressed that your brain freaks out and shuts down.

For too long I had been sticking my head in the sand, finding comfort in the familiar, in my friends and in my family. But I had been doing nothing to help myself.

I’m so happy that I feel like myself again. I am so happy that I have the confidence and strength not only to get through each day but also to live my life again. I’m blogging again. I’m saying “yes” to social events. I’m not settling.

If you’ve been living inside the cozy walls of your comfort zone for too long, please let me encourage you to do something that will catapult you out. The walls of your comfort zone will expand, and you will learn something new. Start small. Put your hand up in that meeting and voice your opinion. Take that class you’ve always wanted to, even though you have to show up alone. Run a marathon 10K 5K! If you need some encouragement, you can always reach out to me 🙂 You’ve got this!!!

Thank you so much for reading xox

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