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.

If you liked this post on Self Sabotage you will also like this recent video 4 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotaging your Success

“You can’t free anybody else and you can’t serve anybody else unless you free yourself” 

Nelson Mandela

You are not an accident.  You are a singular piece in the giant jigsaw puzzle that is this world.  This jigsaw puzzle is not a 50 piece puzzle, nor a 250 piece puzzle…  it is a 7 billion piece puzzle.  I find it frustrating when my daughter and I put together a 50 piece puzzle and find that there are only 49 pieces.  We can’t finish the game.  The great puzzle needs your piece.  Whatever you are given, you need to pass it on with integrity, humility and generosity.

You are not a Cog in a Machine.  Photo: iansand
You are not a Cog in a Machine. Photo: iansand

The greatest anger is the anger at ourselves for not living up to what we know we are capable of.  Hell is not after death, hell is the moment before death when a human being looks back on all the wasted potential.

“What you can be, you must be” Abraham Maslow.

Honestly expressing yourself.

The greatest gift you can give to those around you is your own shining self belief and glorious sense of meaning in what you do.  If you don’t have it, only you can do the work to get it.  If you have it, only you can keep doing what it takes to keep it.

The opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy.  Love is not easy.  Love is hard.  Doing the work that needs to get done, overcoming the devil in me that avoids the work is the course of love.  Allowing the resistance, the procrastination to win is the course of apathy.  Apathy leads to self-hate, which builds to resentment and then is shared with others in bitterness and cruelty.

The 3 Escuses

The Resistance

Stephen Pressfield speaks powerfully about the Resistance. It is a force within each of us that stops us from doing the work that really matters.

The 3 big voices of my personal resistance are:

  1. Comparison
  2. Pointlessness
  3. Fear

The Last 5% is the Hard Part

Starting is easy.  There are no prizes for starting the marathon.  You get the medal for finishing. Most people I know are good at starting.  Few people I know are good at finishing.

The closer you get to the end, the stronger the Resistance grows.

“An artist never finishes a work, he abandons it.”

Pablo Picasso

Here are a few of many ways I bring these voices into my life to procrastinate and avoid finishing important work.

  1. They won’t let me
  2. I am too young
  3. I am too old
  4. I am only one person
  5. I don’t know enough
  6. I am not a guru
  7. This could be embarrassing
  8. This will be embarrassing
  9. This is too touchy-feely
  10. I won’t get paid for this
  11. This isn’t business stuff
  12. I have to finish the things I have already started
  13. Seth Godin has already said it better than I can
  14. I’ll do it tomorrow/later/after this coffee
  15. Who am I to think I know something special about this?
  16. I’ve got plenty of time next week
  17. I’ve got plenty of time this year
  18. I’ll do it this summer
  19. I’ll do it after the summer
  20. I need to do a little bit more research
  21. Who’s going to read this anyway?
  22. [¡¡¡ insert your own excuse here 😉 !!!!]

That’s just 21…  I have many, many more…