10 Things Outside My Comfort Zone, 48 Hours, and 100 Things I Learned

In the last 48 hours I’ve overcome an ongoing fear, forced myself to show up at places I’d normally assume I have no business being at, I’ve endured physical pain and mental stress, and I’ve proven to myself that going outside my comfort zone is totally worth while. No, I am not literally going to list 100 things I learned from this experience. But, I learned a substantial amount about what it means to take risks in a short time and want to share that with anyone and everyone.

1. Attend a Networking Event

I signed up for a networking event titled “Tipclub Business Networking Event” with the intention of showing up for ten minutes to talk to one person at most and then bolt. I anticipated that no one would be interested in networking with a nineteen year old who has little to no experience in any particular career field, let alone a business field. The event hadn’t even started and I told myself that I was incompetent and would not be valued. Despite feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and complete and utter intimidation, I forced myself to enter the massive business complex. When I walked in I had to check in at the front desk, get a ticket and go through security in order to head up to the ninth floor. Finally, ninth floor… but no signs. So I followed a man in a suit assuming he was heading to the event. I followed him all the way up until he entered a conference room where it looked like businessmen were about to start a meeting. As I started to turn around I heard someone say to the man I had been following, “Welcome to the Tipclub Business Networking Event.” I was petrified. Had I signed up for a business meeting by mistake? But still, I sucked it up, turned around and entered the room.

When I walked in there were three women and about fifteen men sitting around a conference table in suits. They all looked a bit startled by my being there. I asked the man who was leading the meeting if it was acceptable for me to be at the event to network for internships or if it was strictly meant for the purpose of building business partnerships. He was decently welcoming and told me to take a seat. When the meeting started, every individual was required to introduce themselves and name what it is their company does and their position within the company. The introductions consisted of a range of companies — real estate, industrialism, graphic design, startups, etc. My introduction was the elevator pitch I’ve been practicing, thanks to UnCollege. I explained my gap year and the fact that I’m an avid blogger and an aspiring journalist with the ability to mold my writing to meet the needs of any particular company. I expressed that I am seeking out being a freelance writer with a desire to write online content. In the second whip around we were required to name which individuals we were interested in speaking with further. Apparently, it turns out most companies are in need of a writer. About six of the people sitting around the conference table who all work for a range of companies were eager to speak with me despite the fact that I was the only one without a business card. After the formal part of the event was over we had the opportunity to socialize. I ended up connecting with all six of these people on linkedin and they were all adamant that I reach out via the contact info on their business cards. Majority of the people there approached me and commended me for showing up to the event and were both intrigued and impressed by my gap year program. I made arrangements to go to coffee with one woman who is a speech pathologist and I had the chance to share my written work with her.

I left the event feeling the complete polar opposite way I felt walking in. I was overwhelmed in a good way, confident in my abilities, and eager to showcase my skills in the workplace. Above all, I felt proud in that moment. Proud of myself for trying. Had I not tried there would have been no outcome at all.This intense feeling directly confirms an idea I’ve always stood by — and it is that you never know until you try. This scenario didn’t teach me that everything will be okay as long as you try, because I don’t believe that’s always the case. And that’s where the fear of the unknown piece falls in and triggers a deep anxiety within many people, especially myself in this particular instance. Fortunately, the result was beyond what I could have ever hoped for. But surely in another setting the outcome of any situation like this has the potential to turn out poorly. At the end of the day what matters most is the fact that you tried. Because to stay comfortable is to bury yourself from life’s possibilities and your own potential.

2. Eat Cheetos

The last time I ate or even allowed myself to look at Cheetos was in first grade. Flashback to 12 years ago: I rarely ate Cheetos to begin with. I’ll go ahead and assume everyone knows about the thing I’d like to consider infamous: Cheeto fingers. I always thought Cheeto fingers were disgusting so I’d make a conscious effort to thoroughly wash my hands after I ate a bag of them. But seven-year-old me was not prepared for what she’d see at the lunch table that year. My friend was dipping her Cheetos in milk despite the fact that it made her nauseous — for some reason she found humor in it. Sure enough she barfed all over the lunch table. And that’s when my aversion to Cheetos began. Flash forward to now and this aversion still remains. So I’d consider this personal cheeto challenge to be exposure therapy more than anything. I’ve been through this before but on a larger scale. The only way I was able to get over my irrational phobia of mice was by petting a mouse and hanging pictures of mice all over my bedroom. That’s a story for another time, but regardless, I knew what I had to do to get over my fear of Cheetos… smell them, look at them, eat them, and worst of all, embrace the Cheeto fingers.

And so I did. I ate them like a champ with the help of some supportive friends. I put a mouthful of Cheetos in my own mouth, and let the orange flakes smother my fingers. At first I closed my eyes and totally panicked. But as I thought about it, I realized it was more the idea of what I associated with Cheetos for so long versus the actual taste. The taste wasn’t all that bad, and I managed to convince myself with some rational thinking that Cheetos might not be the most grotesque thing on the planet like I’d made them out to be. And yes, I’ll finally admit it, Cheeto fingers are not that bad either. But why does this matter? Why couldn’t I just go on living my life without ever eating Cheetos? It matters because it’s important that we don’t let our demons overpower us. Whether it be a little demon such as an aversion to Cheetos, or a big one such as an irrational phobia of mice, we have to face our fears head on in order to be the best version of ourselves. And the little demons count just as much as the big one’s. We often don’t see how little things affect the bigger picture, but they most certainly do. It was surely uncomfortable for me to eat Cheetos, but taking the initiative to overcome it provided me with a boost of courage and a sense of reasonable thinking. Although taking that step may appear minute, the impact it had on my sense of self was profound.

3. Muay Thai Class

Similarly to the networking event, I felt I had no business taking a Muay Thai class. For those of you who don’t know, Muay Thai is a martial arts sport where you essentially fight or box. Given this, the majority of the people who sign up for Muay Thai classes are extremely fit and at the least have a very clear understanding of the basics of the sport. When I walked in the people leaving the previous class were significantly taller and stronger than me, and they were all dripping sweat. The buff guy at the front desk clearly saw the terrified look in my eyes as he told me not to worry about feeling inadequate because everyone starts at some point. I completely appreciated and agreed with his comment, though it didn’t fully eliminate that inevitable fear of the unknown.

Now this is an instance where the outcome didn’t miraculously turn out to be the opposite of my low expectations. Instead, my expectations were met for the most part. I struggled to keep up with the movements being taught and I felt myself comparing how I was doing with others in the class. I was definitely the worst one there, yet I felt equally proud of myself leaving Muay Thai as I did leaving the networking event. I may not have surprised myself with sick martial arts skills, but I still gave it a shot. Like I said, that’s what counts most at the end of the day. Although my Muay Thai skills were anything but impressive, I remind myself that it was only my first class. Just as the buff guy behind the desk said, everyone starts at some point. And it’s because of that that I am willing to go again and again. More importantly, it’s because of my willingness to try something new and take a risk that I’m able to find the confidence to continue doing something that intimidates me.

4. Try to Get a Cute Guy’s Number

Take a wild guess on how long you think this activity took to complete. If I were a reader I’d probably say five minutes. At least that’s what I anticipated before actually attempting to do this. I thought, it can’t be that difficult… spot a cute guy on the street and go up to him and ask for his number. Well, this activity ended up taking me over an hour to complete. From a personal standpoint, it turns out these types of interactions are a lot easier said than done. I anticipated this challenge to be one of my easiest, but it quickly turned into one of my hardest one’s when I actually had to approach a cute guy.

I walked around for almost a half hour with my friend Shelby who was the videographer and anything she said just simply couldn’t prevent me from freezing up every time I attempted to talk to an attractive stranger. Something about the idea that I might make someone feel uncomfortable made me feel extremely uncomfortable approaching them. Additionally, I was heavily anticipating a hard rejection which was another level of discomfort in itself. After an enormous amount of time, I finally approached a cute guy and was harshly rejected as expected. Though I half assed it because of my nerves. I made it pretty obvious to him that we were filming as I stood near the camera and asked if I could have his number straight out of the gate without saying anything else. After this encounter I realized that in order to fully place myself outside my comfort zone and truly attempt to get a cute guys number, I needed to put forth my full effort. So we redid it where Shelby wasn’t as visible with the camera, and I was more subtle about getting his number. I approached the next guy by saying “hey, I think you’re really cute and I was wondering if I could get your number?”. To my astonishment, this actually worked. Again, not all outcomes exceed expectations, but you never know unless you try. And in this instance, the end result happened to be a positive one. Either way, I experienced a sense of accomplishment knowing that I was capable of putting myself in a social situation that initially seemed impossible.

5. Sing For a Group of People

Singing publicly using my legitimate singing voice is something I never imagined myself doing. I am an avid shower singer and have debated for years worth of showers whether or not my voice was actually good. I’ve always wanted to get feedback but have felt too scared that if it wasn’t good that people would laugh and I would humiliate myself. In this instance, I was afraid to take a risk due to the fact that I was afraid of what others might think. But once I committed myself to writing this piece on expanding my comfort zone, I knew this was something that absolutely needed to be incorporated given that it’s been a fear of mine for as long as I can remember.

I texted every person on my floor to come to my room as I would be performing a song (audience’s choice). I was eager to finally dedicate myself to doing something I’d wanted to do for so long. But much like the cute guy situation, I became entirely petrified moments before I actually had to follow through with the task. The audience was ready for me to sing and my voice was warmed up, but just as I pushed myself to start I froze. I reminded myself of my life motto (you never know until you try, duh) and that stalling wasn’t getting me anywhere. After about 30 minutes of self-deprecating regarding my singing so that no one would judge me incase it was bad, I finally toughened up and let my voice go. I sang Don’t Rain On My Parade and it was hard to tell what my peers thought. It’s tricky to know whether or not my friends were cheering because they’re supportive friends, because my voice was good, or both. Regardless, after I sang my peers were only focused on the fact that they were in awe that I actually sang given that I’ve never sang anywhere besides my shower. I realized in the aftermath of belting my singing voice in front of a group of people for the first time that I can be fearless. And that I shouldn’t give a crap about what people think about it. I felt empowered and confident in my ability to embrace my quirks. Whether my voice is actually good or not, singing is something I’ve always loved and I finally found that I shouldn’t repress it because of a fear of judgement.

6. Go Skinny Dipping

I am rarely ever naked. When I am naked it’s because I’m showering or changing and that’s it. Pretty sure that’s how most people roll but you never know. So at least for me personally it was definitely discomforting going completely nude in the ocean. I had been anxious about it on the car ride up and was debating going completely naked as it was something I’d never done outdoors let alone in front of other people. I went with a couple friends of mine to Lands End around midnight and the stars were incredible. I soaked in the night sky, the cliffs around me, and the ocean waves which are especially fascinating at night time. In doing this, I realized that there was so much to appreciate around me that it wasn’t worth anticipating the uncomfortable thing I was about to do. In that moment I said screw it and took my clothes off without a care in the world. I had already faced a number of fears at this point and skinny dipping felt like an unreasonable one given how beautiful everything surrounding me was. Once I was provided with an opportunity to realign my priorities and focus on what mattered the most, I found myself feeling liberated. I felt that sense of fearlessness yet again and I managed to embrace every minute of that night without second guessing it once it was done.

7. Hike In Heels At Night

This challenge goes hand in hand with my skinny dipping experience. After my friends finally convinced me to get out of the car and actually follow through with the skinny dipping, I completely forgot that I had been wearing heels. This was my only out of comfort zone challenge that was wholly unplanned. As I mentioned previously, it was around midnight so we could barely see anything and there were cliffs all around us. There was no direct route to the beach that we could see so we opted to hike our way down there. Yup, that’s right, in high heels. It was exactly like a scene from a movie where the main character avoids peering off the side of the cliff because it’s so high up and they are so close to falling. I was utterly terrified but opted to do it anyway because I value taking risks and embracing your fears. Looking back on it I probably would’ve made a different choice given that this was more life-threatening than anything, but even so, I made it and I conquered an extremely frightening situation. And walking away from doing something like that provided the same feeling skinny dipping did — it felt liberating.

8. Dance At a Public Park

I danced for ten years of my life and would like to think I’m decently good at it. Though every dance show I’ve ever done has been on a stage in a theater. So when given the choice to freestyle at a public park or stick to the comfort of a memorized dance on a stage, I’d opt to take the stage route. My reason for this being that if I were at a public park, I would be afraid of making others uncomfortable. A park is clearly an unusual place to execute a dance performance, which is why I would be fearful that others would criticize me for it. But in order to escape the infamous zone of comfort, I needed to put myself in a position where I could showcase my talent but in a way that I’m not used to.

This challenge predictably took a lengthy amount of time to actually occur. It took about twenty minutes and three takes for me to be willing to dance, and dance at my fullest. The outcome of my audience was totally mixed. I had a group of about six people gravitate towards me to observe my performance, while on the other hand there was an old couple who unfortunately got up from a bench and walked away. But I can’t stress it enough, the thing that left me most satisfied was not the people who wanted to watch me dance. I’m not denying that it felt good knowing that people cared and were fascinated by my dancing, but that wasn’t the determining factor in what brought me self satisfaction. It was the fact that I built up the courage to do something so out of the box knowing full well that others might find it strange.

9. Get Ear Pierced

I still remember the day I attempted to get my ears pierced in kindergarten very vividly. It was my birthday and I was beaming when my mom told me I could get them pierced as a present. But once we finally got to the store I started bawling my eyes out. I saw girls getting piercings and it reminded me of how it looked when I got a shot at the doctors office. After screaming and yelling for an hour we finally left and I never ended up getting them pierced that day. But once I convinced myself it would be okay we went back about a week later. This time I was still terrified but forced myself not to cry. I followed through with it this time and was ecstatic after I got them pierced. But still, somehow, that little demon who makes me afraid of needles still resides to this day. In order to face that head on I opted to get my double piercing done by a friend. As expected, the anticipation was brutal and I kept avoiding the three seconds of pain just as I’ve always done with shots. I had another friend holding my hand while another friend told me a story to distract me. Eventually, after my usual stalling, my double was pierced and I barely even felt a thing. I was reminded in this instance that I need to attack my fears and not let them get the best of me. The longer I stall the longer I’m simply putting off something that I know I will ultimately opt to conquer. Waiting is essentially useless.

10. Navigate San Francisco Without Google Maps

To tie things back to #1, I left the networking event feeling ballsy and self-assured in my decision-making. From the event, I planned to head straight back to the dorm to tell my peers about the exciting event I’d attended and everything I got out of it. And since I was already feeling pretty ballsy, I decided to navigate my way back to the dorm without using google maps. I didn’t know where to access a real map so I chose to do it empty-handed. That meant that this process would consist of me solely asking strangers how to get to Market street. Not to mention I had no clue where I was at. I had never been on California street before so there was no way of knowing which direction to start heading first by memory. That in itself was extremely intimidating and I would have rather tried to figure it out on my own. But surely asking for help would be significantly more efficient, so I took the uncomfortable path and aimed to do something that would benefit me despite having doubts. Eventually I got back to the dorm after about an hour of walking, and it would have taken 45 minutes otherwise. Not too shabby for someone who would consider herself directionally challenged. Luckily the strangers I approached were kind and all certain on how to get to Market street, unlike me. And, thanks to a willingness to take a risk by asking for help, I have the confidence to continue doing this moving forward.

Though I may not be Wonder Woman, and the challenges I took on may seem simple, they certainly made my adrenaline go up and impacted me immensely. I found my inner fearlessness, expanded my comfort zone, and care significantly less about what others think. To sum things up in a brutally honest way, it’s nice not giving a fuck. And it’s nice to know that taking risks, as challenging as they are, are so worth it long term. It forces us to expand beyond our horizons. Most importantly, leaving my comfort zone has allowed me to see the bigger picture. I have beat those little demons that prevented me from exploring myself and the world. They are still there, but I have mastered the art of overpowering them in order for self-growth.