07 Nov Confidence 101: Comfort Zones
How To Step (and Stay) Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Contributed by: Renee Walter
Life is like an ice cream shop, from the moment we enter it we're faced with an incredible amount of choices. Now, we have two options: We can play it safe and choose chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla. Or we can be completely daring and go for a scoop of the Black Raspberry and Chocolate Chip. The latter might mean an extra hour on the yoga mat, but it also means you now have one more ice cream flavor to choose from. Extraordinary things don't happen in comfort zones and playing it safe is not always "safe." In fact, it could mean missing out on a lot of great opportunities in the long run. Fortunately. there is a way to change this. Comfort zones are crutches. We rely on them because we don't think we are stronger enough to stand on our own. Well, prepare to toss those crutches to the side, because I'm about to teach you how to break out of your little circle of comfort.
Think of these seven techniques as forms of exposure therapy; following them will not be easy, but it will be worth it. The goal is of this list is to get you out of your comfort zone; therefore, the methods listed are very likely to build self-esteem, dispell insecurities, and produce mass amounts of underarm sweat. Let's start!
1. Raise Your Hand (More).
The best place to practice breaking out of your comfort zone is school. By volunteering to solve an equation or give your opinion you are attracting the one thing you fear: attention. *Gasp* Anyone who suffers from social anxiety knows how frightening it can be being the center of attention. It's terrible, I know. But as a socially anxious individual myself, I can confirm that this really does help. Not only will it make you more familiar to your professor (participation saves grades) it will also make you more familiar to your classmates. It's also helpful if you are conscious of your tone. If you are an expressive person like me and you talk with your hands, a warm, friendly tone coupled with your body language will make you appear more open.
Let's be honest, who doesn't like an unexpected compliment? I know my head swells a bit when another girl stops to compliment something I'm wearing and I like the feeling I get from returning the favor. Complimenting strangers is another way get you into the habit of talking to strangers. It produces small-talk and even has the potential to form actual friendships. So, if there's a girl in your biology class wearing a pair of cute boots, compliment her! Sometimes I randomly compliment people even if they aren't wearing something I particularly like. But as I said, it's good practice. You don't have to go around complimenting ever person you see, but it doesn't hurt to try!
3. Join A Club/Organization
Nothing gets us out of our comfort zones like some old fashion peer pressure. I'm talking about the good kind, not the kind that results in moody facebook statuses and a criminal record. Being a part of a team can help you master public speaking and improve your interpersonal skills by forcing you to interact with multiple people on a day-to-day basis. If you have a more introverted personality you might find it easier to just sit back and let the rest of the world work around you, but that turns life into a routine. The more people you know the more likely you are to have spontaneity in your life. One day there could be someone with an extra movie ticket that wants to invite you out, or an artist in the group might have a show coming up and ask you come. You never know!
4. Show Interest.
Did you professor just partner you with someone you've never seen a day in your life, and now you're sitting across from one another sporting the same tight-lipped smile? Great. Break the ice by acting like you already know your partner. There are tons of self-help books that can bless you with all kinds of ways to avoid socially awkward situations, but truthfully speaking, these situations are imminent; they are bound to happen. You just have to be prepared to handle them. You can try to ease the tension with a basic introduction, a compliment, or (my favorite approach) cracking a joke. Even if your joke is not funny the person you're working with will most likely still laugh or crack a smile just to humor you. But don't overdo it. Unless you magically become Kevin Hart, I suggest keeping the jokes to a minimum to avoid making things awkward again.
5. Offer to Help.
College students, this is right up your alley. Move-in day is the best time to get familiar with your roommate(s) and floormates. If you spot someone struggling to carry their suitcase or mini fridge, offer to help them. This can help you make a good impression and it can make others around you more open to engaging you in conversation. Don't work to become best friends with everyone on your floor, aim to become familiar with them. There will be some folks who won't be as open upon your first meeting, and then there will be people that you will click with right away. In regards to those who are more reserved, don't take it personally. They probably need a little more time to warm up to new people.
6. Volunteer to Voluteer
Similar to the point I made in number three, being a part of a team can be a great way to extricate yourself from your comfort zone. Sometimes we want to be outgoing and adventurous but we don't know where to start. Volunteering helps with this. Humanitarian work helps you practice talking to strangers on a daily basis. It's also a learning experience. If your choose to volunteer in another state or country you will definitely be forced to use those rusty interpersonal skills. Volunteer work is also a huge confidence builder because you walk away with a newfound understanding of your capabilities, and knowing you've made a huge difference in someone else's life.
7. Do Something Spontaneous.
Go somewhere you have never been. Do something you have always wanted to do. It's okay to put your worries in a box marked "Do Not Open" once in awhile. Overthinking can do to dreams what bleach does to germs--obliterate them. Don't let that happen. If you feel the urge to try something new and exciting (and safe) once in awhile, you should follow it. Maybe one afternoon, while you are on the train heading home, you realize you've always wanted to try pottery. You should pull out your phone and start looking for pottery classes being held near you. If you can't take the class the same day, try to schedule it for some time in the next few weeks. Your aim should to follow through and have the experience. I'm not saying don't think at all. I'm saying don't let every day be "just like yesterday." Break out of your comfort zone by ditching the world of 'what-if.' Surprise yourself, and let life surprise you.
All of these techniques can help you, but you have to be consistent. Ease your way out of your comfort zone by choosing two or three of these to try, then try switching them up and adding more in the over time. Remember, comfort zones are like crutches. You won't need them once you learn how to stand on your own💙