How to Design a Journey to Better Self-Esteem
By Godot Media
Don’t Hesitate to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone Once in a While
Comfort zone is generally defined as a behavioral field where your behaviors and actions fit a pattern and routine, minimizing risk and stress. This is a relevant psychological concept which can help individuals embrace risk while trying to make changes to their lives. Also, it could ultimately lead to significant personal growth.
The important words here are risk and stress. People feel a sense of security, certainty and familiarity when they are in their comfort zone. When they move outside this comfort zone, they take risks and open themselves up to possibilities of anxiety and stress. In this space, they are unsure as to what would happen and how they would react.
Stress has come to be seen as something negative in the last few years. While it’s true stress is best avoided, but some amount of stress could actually work as a catalyst, enabling you to grow and providing the necessary motivation to take action.
Generally speaking, there is very little stress when we are in our comfort zones. A theory suggests that with reference to temperature, we are most comfortable between 67–78 degrees, when we feel neither too cold nor too hot. Psychologically speaking, comfort zone would be the space where we feel closest to home.
Psychoanalysts suggest that in a world that is highly competitive, there are some individuals who are happy to take certain risks by stepping out of their safe, comfort zone. Because they face uncertainty, they end up receiving the maximum rewards.
Beware of what’s outside your Comfort Zone
Even though, “moving outside the comfort zone” is generally understood as attempting new things, this might be a false or disguised understanding of the concept. Actually, anything which causes a rise in the anxiety levels of an individual could be considered as venturing outside the comfort zone. For instance, if you feel anxious commuting to work because of the heavy traffic and don’t enjoy taking a train crammed with people, you will not be in your comfort zone in this situation.
Children are risk-takers by default. They do not think about the consequences or the steps involved in taking a risk. In fact, they might not even be aware that they are taking some a risk. It’s only when we get older that we begin defining our comfort zone because we start to identify with the fear of failing. This is the reason we often hold back and attempt fewer and fewer unfamiliar or new things.
What happens when we refuse to explore the world beyond our comfort zone? We might end up wasting the huge potential we have for growth and stay stuck in a limited scope of thoughts, ideas, and actions.
Therefore, it is important to slowly unravel the world outside our comfort zone so that we can easily go back and forth without feeling too much stress or anxiety.
Take Small Steps
It is true that attempting anything new will take up some energy. That is why when we feel low or tired, we tend to rely even more on our old habits and refuse to take any risks.
When it comes to breaking out of your comfort zone, you don’t have to take drastic steps. Instead, start small. When you take one tiny step at a time, there are fewer chances of you being overwhelmed by the change.
For instance if you are trying to overcome the fear of height and jump out of an airplane, it might increase your fear of height. This holds true for your comfort zone as well. A small step towards facing your fear of height would be to try and climb a ladder. When you get comfortable doing this, you could move forward from there. So when you are finally prepared to dive out of an airplane, the experience will be extremely enjoyable.
The logic behind taking small steps is that you get de-sensitized from the fear or whatever it is that causes you discomfort. It is similar to the weaning process wherein you slowly release yourself from a habit or addiction so that the withdrawal symptoms are less.
Don’t Make Excuses
Majority of the people don’t hit it right in the very first go, when trying to move out of their comfort zone. But this does not mean you have an excuse not to try again. You must remind yourself that if you are unable to succeed in the first attempt, there would be several other opportunities for trying again.
Since fear plays a big role in keeping people stuck in their comfort zones, it is not uncommon for the majority of them to find excuses to stay there. We might hear a friend saying “Oh, I tried confronting the person, but he was unavailable”. In this case, ‘confrontation’ might be beyond the comfort zone of the person. Therefore, they are ready to settle back into their ‘no-confrontation’ comfort zone quickly, right after the first attempt. And they have ‘unavailability’ as an excuse to do so.
In order to avoid hanging on to excuses, it is good to remember that we are aiming for personal growth and it is okay to fail in the first attempt. But the idea is to keep trying. When hoping to break open out of your comfort zone, quitting cannot be seen as an option.
If and when you fail in your first attempt, try a different approach the next time. When you keep trying new ways to break out of the comfort zone, you will be able to figure out how you can achieve your goal.
Also, when you are successful in accomplishing one feat, it is good to re-visit those in which you could not succeed the first time. When you keep addressing different areas of uncertainty in your life, you will manage to gradually break out of your comfort zone completely.
Keep yourself motivated by being your own biggest support system. Also, seek help from family and friends whenever you can.
Be Clear About What You’re Aiming To Overcome
Once you make the decision of breaking out of your comfort zone, the next step is to identify what is it exactly that you are trying to achieve. This means you can only monitor your progress only if you have set certain concrete objectives for yourself. You can categorize your efforts into daily and monthly tasks.
For example, you might have a fear of social engagements or interactions. This is commonly termed as social anxiety. In order to overcome this fear, you could take small steps such as meeting a close friend for a coffee over the weekend. The following week you could join a group of colleagues for a lunch outing. Slowly, you will begin to feel comfortable in stepping out more often and meeting new people.
When you are constantly trying to move out of your comfort zone, you will realize that over a period of time, things start coming naturally to you and don’t seem like huge tasks that need to be accomplished. This process is similar to how one would train for a big marathon. One begins with what seems comfortable and slowly begins to push more in order to accomplish the set goals. By the time, it is time for the marathon; one is able to accomplish 10 km of running without even giving it a thought.
Get a Partner to Go Along the Journey With You
What are the obvious signs that you are living life in your comfort zone? You may often feel bored, tired, restless, unhappy and dissatisfied. Also, there is a lack of energy and enthusiasm for life in general. Several people keep daydreaming about how they could have different kind of adventures or live life differently.
Most of us are reluctant to take the first step towards moving out our comfort zones. What can help us in such a situation is the support of an understanding partner. This could be a family member, friend or anybody who you can trust easily.
Psychologists suggest talking about what you would like to overcome/accomplish with a friend. Then, ask this friend to walk with you through this journey of change. For instance, if you have started to feel bored and restless and wish to make changes to your exercise routine, request your friend to accompany you in trying out a different fitness class. This will help minimize your anxiety and fear in attempting something new on your own.
A book good also work as an excellent support partner for people trying to move out of their comfort zones. There are several books available today which can guide you to take small, strategic steps to take risks and move forward in life. They enable many people to overcome self-judgmental attitudes and embrace themselves with all their fears and shortcomings. Such books can be inspiring and fun to work with.
Another benefit of having a partner in your personal growth journey is that they keep reminding you about your progress and help you stay motivated at all times.
Imagine your Success
It is possible for the brain to develop fresh neural pathways if one tries to involve all or most of their senses. Therefore, when trying to push out of the comfort zone, try the visualization technique. Create a movie in your mind which has rich details.
Picture yourself and what you would be doing if you were to reach a major goal? What will be the sight, taste, smell and feeling that you will experience at that time?
It is a good idea to take short breaks (5–10 minutes) in the day when you can relax and do deep breathing while visualizing your success. The more often you see yourself achieving your goal, the easier it becomes to venture out of your safety zone. You are able to create fresh thoughts and adopt new behaviors needed for success.
The ‘Mirror Exercise’ is also a good way to train your subconscious mind to imagine success. Stand in front of the mirror for a few minutes each day and talk as if you have already achieved your goals and are now successfully out of your comfort zone.
Focus on the Fun
Breaking out of comfort zones seems like daunting and scary task to almost everyone. But when we start focusing on the freedom and joy we could experience once we manage to achieve this, our energy levels automatically increase. We become more focused on the fun awaiting us on the other side of fear (fear that keeps us trapped in our comfort zone).
For instance, if you have a fear of playing in water near the beach side or doing water sports, instead of focusing on the fear itself, you could visualize yourself enjoying and beaming with exhilaration as the beautiful waves embrace you while you’re surfing. Imagine sharing moments of fun and laughter with your friends once you step into the water and enjoy the present moment fully.
There are several benefits of moving out of your comfort zone. When you try a new sport or hobby for instance, the mental and emotional experience will help you focus on an expanded vision of your life, career and your relationships. You will grow fresh neural networks while trying new things. The new experienced will also evoke feelings that you have never experienced before. This will further allow you to have the courage to try different approaches and to think differently.
Here is a summary of how you can move out your comfort zone in a healthy way:
It is important to see your existing comfort zone as a prison, not a shelter.
Start out be embracing constructive discomfort.
Tempting as it may be, avoid taking the familiar, safe path.
Pick challenges over comfort
Try and set goals which push you to move out of your safe comfort zone.
Get comfortable with the discomfort that comes with moving out of your comfort zone.