Breaking Through My Comfort Zone
Updated: Jul 23, 2021
I've always been cautious about taking risks. When I was about 5 years old I was part of a local soccer team. I did not like moving out of my comfort zone, I would run away from the ball because I was afraid to get hurt. I've been like this for the majority of my life, in school I would never speak up in class and was afraid the teacher would call on me. This fear persisted when I wanted to meet new people, I was too afraid to start a conversation. Essentially I loved being in my comfort zone, I was afraid of being judged if I stepped out of it.
But I have managed to step out of my comfort zone using two techniques:
When it comes to interacting with other people (e.g., starting conversations, engaging with customers) I've developed an "alternate persona".
For projects and works I produce I have a "good enough" mentality.
My first experience with this technique is when I volunteered at my local museum as a teen volunteer at age 12. I was a naturally shy person and I was afraid to speak to guests. At the museum we had a wildlife sanctuary (animals that could not be released back into the wild) and an animal show to educate the public about these species. During the show there were several rules like: keeping strollers in the back of the amphitheater, not getting out of your seat, and no food or beverages. And our job as teen volunteers for this particular shift was to enforce these rules.
My first week I was assigned this shift but I didn't enforce the rules. Guests would come by and because I was too afraid to speak up to them I wasn't able to explain the rules. One couple with a stroller (which was supposed to be left in the back), walked right past me and parked their stroller in the amphitheater. After the show I was reprimanded and told the potential danger it posed if guests weren't informed of the rules. I went home upset, I didn't know what to do because of my fear.
So I tried to avoid this shift for as long as possible but around a month in I had to work it. I didn't want to disappoint so right as my shift was starting I decided to adopt an "alternate persona" a volunteer that had the guts to enforce the rules. I envisioned myself as different person, almost like having a secret identity. This volunteer I imagined was brave enough to assert the rules and I put on my "mask" (this was me putting on my nametag) and acted as this person.
I thought like this gutsy volunteer and knew she would not hesitate to talk to guests. So as the "gutsy volunteer" I went up to a few people and explained the rules to them, I felt great. Then as my confidence grew I began talking to larger groups. And the show went smoothly. After that every time I volunteered for this shift or any other activity I had to do I would adopt this persona and actively engage with the guests.
That isn't to say the fear and anxiety wasn't there, but with this technique I was able to push past it, just to begin the conversation. Once I started the conversation it was easy and my confidence grew.
Basically the "alternate persona" technique is when you create an alter-ego, a character with a trait you want, for me it was outgoing. Then you create a moment when you become this character, putting on my nametag was my moment. Finally you initially let the personality take over, just enough for you to move out of your comfort zone.
Eventually this "alternative persona" became part of who I am. I am now the person to go up to someone alone in a crowded room and strike a conversation with them. Now I'm not saying you should be fake, this technique is just to give you the initial courage needed.
I encourage you to try this technique in your life. Find a conversation you've been hesitant to have and think of the type of person who would go up and talk to them.
"Good Enough" Mentality
As I mentioned in my first blog post, Introduction and Goals I noted my hesitation for starting a blog, was ultimately because of my fear of judgment. I wanted all of my posts to be "perfect". I had many reasons why I didn't want to publish my writing: coming up with topics is challenging, writing daily is a struggle and sometimes I don't like what I write. But without practicing I would never get any better and just dream of one day when I would have the perfect blog.
I had a similar mindset when I thought about starting a separate Instagram account for my hobby. I didn't feel like my my pictures worth posting. And even if I did others would harshly judge me.
Finally after thinking about starting a blog for months I managed to gather enough courage to say "whatever" and decided to start one anyways. Even if my posts weren't perfect or didn't live up to my standards they were "good enough" for me to publish it and move on. And I created another Instagram account and had a similar mindset of "whatever" and started posting pictures.
The result? Both my blog and Instagram account are doing well. I never received the overwhelming judgement from everyone. I am happy I started both the blog and my Instragram account.
With both of these projects I realized sometimes the hardest thing to do with a project is to share it. Many of us get into the mindset of perfectionism, and don't want to publish our work because we fear judgment.
The "good enough" mentality is when regardless of how you feel about a particular project you finish it. You don't agonize whether or not it's perfect or "worthy". You just produce your work and publish it because it's "good enough", you think "eh whatever it's good enough, I'll just publish it". It helps eliminate the pressure of perfectionism. Note: you still need to work hard so you can produce the best work possible, but this is to encourage you to just have a moment of courage and showcase your work.
So "good enough" is great, it's the difference between actually improving on a skill versus dreaming of improvement.
Coincidentally I did this "good enough" technique with this article, this is the longest post I've written so far and I wasn't sure if is any good and kept staring at it. So I decided it was "good enough" and published it.
I hope both of these techniques will help you get out of your comfort zone and encourage you to try something new. Whether that be sharing a project you've been working on or making a new friend.
See you next week!