Exiting Your Comfort Zone

I believe we're all shy in our own way. When I was young, my parents coined me as a "shy child", only to be confused by the fact that I grew up always performing in some manner - whether it be dancing or singing or soccer, or later on, playing guitar. They weren't wrong, my shyness runs pretty deep and is definitely still there, and depending on when and where you met me, you may agree with the sentiment or be completely confused by it.

Since I was twelve years old, I've lived in a different country almost every four years. I've frequently relocated and reformed my friend groups, bands, roommates. Every time I do this I'm faced with a hard look in the mirror - who am I really? What am I about? How do you pronounce my name (it's not English, it's Afrikaans)? Where am I from? What exactly IS my accent? Am I shy? Am I not shy? Am I bold? Am I cool? Am I nerdy? Am I a hipster? Am I a punk? The point is, that I've been outside of my comfort zone pretty consistently, having to observe my tendencies, and here's what I've taken from this experience.

Being out of my comfort zone made me stronger. When I became more and more interested in being educated (yes, that wasn't always a goal of mine), around 10th grade, I used to challenge myself to stay alert in every single class, every day. Never day-dreaming or zoning out, but rather really absorbing what was being said. I promised myself I would raise my hand and ask a question when I didn't understand something. For some reason, this part was almost impossible for me to do. To this day, I can hardly ever remember simply raising my hand to speak up... and this is the same person, who if you ask at any given time to play you a song and spill my guts and tell you every secret through lyrics one-on-one, I would. But I felt anxiety about speaking up in a school or college environment.

I started to think more and more about comfort zones and what being comfortable meant and why something such as "comfort" or being "content" is what one should strive for - at least what society has told me one should strive for. I think when people address this idea of being taken out of their comfort zone, often they often jump to the big picture right away and feel overwhelmed. But being taken out of your comfort zone can be something as small as raising your hand to ask a question and contribute to a class. 

So the contradictions continued and as I moved around and re-made friends and auditioned and did try-outs in high school, I remained afraid to ask questions... of admitting I didn't understand something. I was always a very social teen, but even so, some anxieties persisted. I used to be afraid of walking into a room full of people I don't know or only vaguely knew. Even a loud, drunk party in college. I still am sometimes, but I eased into it by going to concerts on my own. I told myself that if I could start up a conversation with just one person while at a show, about a band we both evidently like, then I had taken myself out of my comfort zone that night and progressed as a person. I went from going to gigs on my own, to going to parties with only one person I know, and not making a point to tag along by their side, but rather meet new people. I want to reach a place where I can have a proper conversation with anyone I meet... young or old, artist or businessman - you get the idea. I want to be able to fundamentally connect with people on many levels, and so I had to face this fear.

Instead of me writing that you should quit your job, pack your bags, and go on a life journey across Europe to discover who you are and be taken "out of your comfort zone", here's what I would say. If you take some time to observe your inherent quirks that are so unique to you, you may find a way to open up some new doors you hadn't considered before. There seemed to be something very endearing and captivating about the concept in the film "Yes Man"... sometimes I worry that we as people have become more and more afraid of experiences... and really, of experiencing ourselves in a way we haven't yet before. So, I challenge you to face your habits you can see need some re-shaping, even just the small ones, because that's really the only way you can keep evolving and surprising yourself.

Yesterday I did yoga for the first time. Not because I believe Yoga is the type of exercise that would be affective for me (it isn't at this stage in my life), but because one of my best friends is a Yoga instructor and I wanted to experience what she does with so much of her time. Not only that; I'm shy to try new things in front of other people because I worry I'll look "stupid" or uninformed, so I decided to challenge this anxiety. There I was, the least flexible person in the history of the world, doing Yoga in a group. It was scary for me and I giggled and felt awkward, but I did it. 

Muscles that I didn't even know exist still hurt as I write this.



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