If you haven’t already, start by reading part 1 the fear of failure (here) and part 2 the fear of judgement (here). Those posts talk about two of the major fears that people face that stop them from living the life they really want to live.
Most of our fears are just telling us that we are about to do something we are not used to doing. It is a clear indication that you are about to do something thrilling and exciting. That thing has the ability to change you and your world.
Stepping out of your comfort zone leads to building real courage and confidence.
How Fear is guiding Your Life
Our fears can consume us. They lead us to being stuck in the same crummy situation that we want to escape or running hastily into a bad situation we never wanted. The one that I see most often around me is marriage.
A lot of people stay in long relationships with people they never saw a future with because they are afraid they won’t find someone else. Or they start to see everyone around them getting married so they convince themselves they need to get married right now. They allow their fears to guide them into a major life decision that isn’t ideal or what they wanted because they are unable to face their fear of never getting married.
My own fear of not knowing what was going to happen almost stopped me from quitting the job I hated and moving to San Diego. I was petrified because I had no job or plan for what I wanted. I had a lot of scary ‘what if’ questions plague my mind.
What if I didn’t find a job? What if I didn’t like it in San Diego? Or what if I was going to regret this entire decision? I came really close to calling it off even though I knew with absolute certainty it was what I wanted and needed to be happier.
A lot of us don’t face our fears and we settle for “good enough”or even unhappiness. We stay within the walls of our comfort zone because overcoming all of those what if questions is daunting. If you are not used to facing them, or have never even tried, it seems impossible to overcome them.
This is why challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone is so important.
Your comfort zone
Let’s discuss the comfort zone. What is your comfort zone?
Someone’s comfort zone is an imaginary zone in your mind of activities that you feel comfortable doing. Everything within your comfort zone, does not cause you any anxiety or fear when you think about doing it. The activities or thoughts or feelings inside of your comfort zone, when experienced, are not given a second thought. Read more in depth on your comfort zone, here.
Everyone’s comfort zone is different. My comfort zone could be filled with things that would be completely out of your comfort zone and vise versa. I love snorkeling and swimming in the ocean. I feel like I am one with the water but I know people who had traumatic experiences in the water while growing up. To those people, swimming in water is completely out of their comfort zone. They feel anxiety and fear when they think about swimming in water.
People have different comfort zone depending on their experiences. For instance, when you think about public speaking, each one of us will have a different comfort level. I am comfortable speaking in front of a small group of people that I know. News anchors on the other hand are comfortable speaking to millions of people on live television. If I were put into a live news situation it would be way out of my comfort zone. It it so far out of my comfort zone that I would pass out.
That small spark of anxiety or fear you feel right before you do something is your mind and body telling you that you are about the step out of your comfort zone. Those alarms bells are not a bad thing. The alarm is just telling you that you are about to something that you are not used to doing. You are just not comfortable. Most people equate this fear as not being ready but it’s just the feeling anticipation.
Why stepping out is good
Look back at any situation where you were forced to step out of your comfort zone. You probably recall it not being as bad as you thought it was going to be. After doing something out of your comfort zone multiple time you will get used to it. Your comfort zone will slowly expand as a result. The bigger it gets the more flexible you will be to new experiences and the more easily you will be able to step out the next time.
Think back to when you first went to college of high school as a Freshman, you felt anxious but by the time you were a Junior, you probably felt like you owned the school. Going to that school was so far inside of your comfort zone that you don’t even give it a second thought. The more you experience something, the more likely you are to feel comfortable doing it. Eventually after you become used to doing that thing, it gets absorbed into your comfort zone.
As you experience stepping out of your comfort zone and conquering challenges that you had never faced before, you see what you are capable of. We start to see that these things are not as bad as we thought they were. That we are capable of facing difficult and scary situation.
Of course, it leads to being less afraid of everything.
How it helps us face our fears
When you expand your comfort zone, you feel more capable. Like I said earlier, you gain confidence in your own abilities to do things. There will be this inherent feeling of safety because you know in the back of your mind that everything will be okay. How do you know this? Because every other time you faced something scary it has worked out. It may not have worked out exactly the way you wanted it to or in the time span that you expected but it worked out for the best.
I am not saying that growing your comfort zone will make you feel no fear. That’s not true. You will still feel afraid of things, you will just be increasingly able to face the things that scare you.
Facing the Fear of judgement
When you step out of your comfort zone, you gain confidence. This confidence will help you not care about other people and their opinions. When you have experienced new things, challenged yourself, and grown, other people will start to not matter. You will be comfortable knowing what you want and what make you happy.
When you figure that out for yourself and know what you want, it won’t matter what is expected of you. Other people’s opinions and judgments of your life don’t matter because you will honestly not care. You will be too busy pursuing what you want to pursue and living a life that you want to live.
Fear of Failure
Stepping out of you comfort zone will lead to a few missteps and failure. The beauty of that is, you will learn how to pick yourself up and try again. This will lead to not being afraid to fail because you know that you can keep going. The more you step out of your comfort zone the more you realize that you can do anything. You realize that you can do a lot more than you though you could. It creates a willingness and ability to try anything and everything.
Even if my friend Edgar in part 1 had started a kickstarter page like he wanted to and no one donated money, he would still be fine. He would have come out alive, and he could have tried again with a different approach. His ego may have taken a hit but he would have realized that it was not as bad as he thought it would be.
When it comes to new experiences nothing turns out as bad as we think it is going to.
how to step out of your comfort zone
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “slow and steady wins the race.” I think that is true of comfort zones as well. Sure you can take a huge leap out of your comfort zone and face a huge fear but it has the potential to scare you into never doing it again.
I would start off with something small. Have a fear you want to conquer? Think of the smallest thing that you can do or smallest step and try that. If you have social anxiety, try having a conversation with a store clerk past “hello, how are you?” If you have a fear of public speaking, try practicing in front of a small group of one or two people. These small steps will eventually lead to these situations becoming a part of your comfort zone. From there you can make your comfort zone larger!
Another, and personal favorite way to expand your comfort zone is to try something new. This can be as small as trying a type of cuisine that you have never eaten before to going bungee jumping off of a bridge. Whatever is it, try something different that you haven’t done before. Try something as small as taking a new route to work. See what happens! Anything that is out of your routine or ordinary will teach your mind that you will be okay.
All of these small steps will increase your flexibility to new experience outside of your comfort zone. And it will lead to being less afraid of everything.
Keep challenging yourself because the stress and the fear that you feel before taking a leap is temporary. It is just our bodies telling us we don’t know what will happen. And before you know it that feeling will go away. After it’s over or even during, you will see that there was nothing to be afraid of. That will be a good feeling. You did something new, you faced a fear, you did something different.
Feeling truly alive starts right outside of your comfort zone. Tests the waters and see what it feels like. It is better than never trying it at all. It is worth a shot! What do you have to lose?
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