You break out in a cold sweat, hands trembling, palms clammy. The feeling of air getting sucked out of your body as you forget to breathe. Your throat feels like a sister to the Sahara as you try to speak, but all that comes out is a croak. You’ve never felt so self-conscious as you have now. A room full of eyes are on you, and it feels like the entire world is watching.
Anxiety kicks in, and your mind goes into overdrive, leaking negative thoughts into the cloudy space within your brain. You begin to feel nauseous. Blood rushes to your head. The whole room seems to be expanding and contracting. You blink a couple times in quick succession, and the room goes back to being normal again.
In the first row, someone nods at you encouragingly while the rest of the room eyeballing you expectantly. You need to begin your presentation. You struggle to simultaneously clear your throat and your mind. Right now, you would rather be anywhere else but where you are.
You are incredibly uncomfortable right out of your comfort zone, and you loathe every minute of it.
Everyone has been in this situation, somehow or another. Imagine doing something you’ve never done before, and one that makes you really uncomfortable. It could be as ordinary as speaking to a stranger on the bus. Or being the first person to ask someone else to dance at a party. Perhaps a bigger situation, giving a public speech before a large crowd. Any situation that forces us to step out of our comfort zone triggers a fight or flight response in each of us. More often than not, we’re wired to flee back to safety instead of standing our ground and dealing with being uncomfortable.
When it comes to being uncomfortable, awkward, and feeling the fear, our first instinct is to run away from it. Stepping out from one’s comfort zone is definitely not something most of us are willing to do. And yet, there are people who are constantly stepping out of their own comfort zones, getting creative at solving their issues.
The Key To Getting Out Of That Safe “Comfort” Barrier
How do they do this?! You question through gritted teeth, half-desperate, half-afraid of the answer. How do they get over that giant wall of anxiety and quit feeling self-conscious?
The answer is to just do it. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Get awkward and ride the wave through that. Laugh it off and move on.
Successful people don’t succumb to the mundane day-to-day grind. They strive to continuously overstep their boundaries, creating new ones every day and overcoming them the next. Growth comes when one pushes aside the feeling of safety and security in a routine and expands from there. And in an identical manner, stepping out from the safe borders of our comfort zone forces us to get creative. From solving daily life problems to providing solutions for a client at work, we continuously use the – usually unused – 30% of our brain to find answers.
For example, if you can picture yourself continuously getting rejected when you talk to strangers, you grow numb to this stimulus. You will feel a lot less self-conscious and adapt to being more in the moment than staying anxious. It’s all a matter of how you think, versus how you do it. How others perceive you usually differs from how you think they perceive you.
Get Creative At Stepping Out Of The Comfort Zone
Change begins when you shift your focus from dwelling on the problems to the solutions. Here’s how to begin moving forward.
Let Your Imagination Run Wild
Start by switching your train of thought under a more positive spotlight. Take this for example. When you feel like you’ll never be able to talk to that one person you share the same bus ride with, all you have to do is tap into your imagination. Picture yourself already getting coffee with that person, and then go ahead with striking up a conversation. Imagining yourself already in action will help you with your end goal.
When you become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, most other situations will be a breeze. If you feel like it’s hard to speak to other people first, try facing that fear head-on. Walk into a busy establishment like a cafe or a bar, and ask a few people how their day went. Usually, a high majority of people would smile back and give you a positive response. The most they would do, if anything, would be to ignore you or mention they don’t want to talk. The worst that could happen is that you would just get rejected. And once you get over that fear of rejection, you’ll discover that it wasn’t such a big deal in the first place.
Write It All Down
If imagining yourself already in action while in a situation gives you the shivers, try writing it out instead. Go old school with pen and paper, or stay 21st-century by typing it out on your preferred device. Chances are, you’ll feel a lot better about the situation that stresses you out. It’s like a little documentation of your emotions when you were feeling anxious or nervous, which you might giggle a little at when you re-read it later on. You might find that the circumstances weren’t as dire as when you first thought it was. Somewhere in the mass of text you’ve just produced is the source of your problem. When you manage to pinpoint that, you’ll find it easier to figure out why and what makes you uncomfortable. This method of penning your thoughts and feelings out is actually said to be therapeutic. This is why journaling has remained popular since the dawn of the handwritten word itself.
Writing might not be everyone’s forte. However, doodling or making simple sketches can actually help you with your anxiety over a certain situation. Maybe you might not be able to draw or doodle like a professional, but that isn’t a requirement in your personal journaling process.
Finding this option lacking in the fun department?
Break Away From Your Usual Routine
Here’s one of the easiest ways to jump out of your comfort zone: Try stepping away from the usual things you do on a daily basis! Doing this can give you a little push in the right direction when the situation calls for it. Experiment with new things, such as signing up for a rock climbing session, or getting a completely new hairstyle you’ve never had. Do something out of the ordinary from your normal schedule, like indulging in a fancy meal alone.
Switch up your daily commute just for the fun of it. Don’t take your car to work for a day – try taking the bus or even walk instead. Take a different route when you’re walking home from work or driving. You might even stumble across a hidden park to explore or a new pizza joint to frequent!
You can do these new things with a friend, or fly solo. We recommend you try this on your own, because…
Being Independent Boosts Your Creativity
While humans are said to be social animals, we don’t necessarily have to do everything in a pack. Way back then, the human race started off living in tribes. With that came the powerful urge to accept and be accepted by others, which was an important aspect of survival. Humans felt safe when they belonged to a tribe or a community. Even in modern day times, we still practice this in a way where we heavily rely on social acceptance. We feel insecure when we’re outcast or ostracized from our social groups.
As humans living in the latter day era, things have changed. We now have an inherent need to stand out from the crowd and be seen as a unique individual. Sometimes it’s cool to be a black sheep, in a sense. For some, staying dependent on others can mean security and an easy way to avoid social pressure. For others, diverging from the usual group and paving their own way could offer a significant sense of freedom. Creativity is born from these people who have adapted to thinking out of the box and thriving in non-conformity. There’s a mixed bag of opinions for that previous sentence. Some might revel in being rebels. Some may feel that those who refuse to conform are potential rule-breakers and run the risk of being socially rejected.
But get this – being an outcast can give your creativity a generous boost. When you quit being dependent on others and embrace the feeling of being uncomfortable, you start thinking for yourself on a different level. Check out this saying: creative people are people who think independently. And it’s true. Picture this – you’re traveling through a completely new city on your own. You experience an unexpected situation and are able to get around it with a little creative problem-solving all by yourself. If you were in a group of friends when you were hit by a complex circumstance, you’d rely on them to help you through it. While there’s power in unity, there’s an even bigger power in every individual. 😉
The Trick is to Start Getting Uncomfortable!
Overcoming that first barrier of stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t mean you need to jump in headfirst. It doesn’t mean you have to try so hard. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway doesn’t mean you need to take drastic measures. You never know what might happen, so chalk it all up to experience and keep moving on.