This is a guest post from Ronald Cain. Ronald taught English in Ethiopia, Zambia and Zimbabwe for ten years. Teaching has provided him with lifelong lessons about confidence.
Over to Ronald...
I was a shy child. I consider myself an introvert.
I let this label define how I thought I should live my life.
In high school I missed out on many opportunities and at college this translated into a studious but quiet lifestyle. I got good grades, but I didn’t make friends. I missed out on the relationships that would lead to career opportunities later in life.
In my final year, as I watched my fellow students apply for jobs, attain challenging internships or explore volunteer opportunities abroad, I realised I was holding myself back. I challenged myself to articulate what I was afraid of, and realised I had built a bubble around myself. This bubble – my comfort zone – was holding me back from reaching my potential. In that year I vowed to burst out of this bubble, to step out of my comfort zone.
Here were my strategies to burst the bubble of my comfort zone.
1) Write down What You’re Afraid Of
I allowed labels such as shy or introverted as a way of disguising a fundamental fact: I was afraid. Only when I saw this fact did I realise that it was fear holding me back all those years, and the first step was to identify what I was hiding from.
In my case I felt like pursuing social achievements (outside of academics) put me at risk of the negative judgement of others. I was afraid of the opinion of others. Once I realised that this fear was holding me back I was able to set about changing my habits.
2) Learn To Accept Discomfort
By spending many years in my comfort zone I had become hypersensitive to any discomfort and I avoided it at all costs. I always took the safe option. To face my fears I had to begin taking small steps, putting myself in uncomfortable situations and challenging myself to cope.
Talking to strangers was an opportunity for me to face discomfort. These new and unpredictable situations always challenged me, but striking up conversations with strangers gave me confidence for the future.
3) Redefine Failure
A fear of failure kept me limiting my expectations about what I could achieve – with small goals, there was no chance I would fall short. Once I realised that a fear of failure was holding me back, I knew I had to embrace failure to pursue my dreams.
Failure doesn’t have to be a negative achievement – hey, at least you tried. Redefining failure as a learning experience, one that’s positive no matter the outcome, let me take bolder steps forwards.
4) Take It Slow
You can’t change who you are overnight. You’ve probably spent years reinforcing the habits of your comfort zone, and retraining yourself to face up to your fears takes time. Personally, this is a process that’s still ongoing as I recognise impulses to flee uncomfortable situations even now.
Practising patience on yourself is an essential part of the journey so don’t get frustrated if you find it difficult. Identify small steps that take you beyond your comfort zone before jumping into the deep end.
5) Practise Deep Honesty
One of the biggest challenges I found when starting to step outside of my comfort zone was assessing my excuses. It’s true, sometimes you really are too tired or unwell to go out and face your fears. Other times, you’ll be gravitating towards excuses that give you an easy way out.
Face up to your excuses honestly and identify when they’re valid and when they aren’t. You need to be honest with yourself to overcome your fears.
6) Have Fun
You can’t spend your whole life living in fear. Discover activities which challenge your comfort zone that also appeal to you – try to have fun while you’re at it. Take up rock climbing or wild swimming, find a community and surround yourself in challenging activities you can take part in whole-heartedly.
Burst The Comfort Zone Bubble
I stepped out of my comfort zone and discovered a world of opportunities were awaiting me. I hope that these strategies will provide you with perspective and skills to see how your fears are holding you back.
About the Author
Ronald Cain is a tutor at Cardiff Writing Service. He is a professional writer, a blogger, and a contributor to Gumessays.com and Research Papers UK. Ronald taught English in Ethiopia, Zambia and Zimbabwe for ten years, and teaching has provided him with lifelong lessons about confidence.
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