Monday, June 9, 2014

Journeys out of my Comfort Zone

To begin this post, there's something I need to tell you about myself.

I'm shy.

You might not gather that from what you read here. You may not even gather that from what you have seen in person. Or maybe it's obvious. I dunno...
I also have angry resting face, which is quite unfortunate. Shyness and angry resting face are a toxic combination. I've often been perceived as stuck up and mean. If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, "I used to think you were so stuck up..."

Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of moments where I have behaved in a stuck up manner. But mostly, I'm just scared. Scared to approach people, scared to talk to people, scared to initiate conversations. 

In high school, a dance choreographer once called me "timid."

It really hurt my feelings because I had tried very hard to be something different for her - to be a brave dancer and put myself out there and dance vulnerably. And she saw right through me.

She was spot-on, though. I was timid.

Still am.

My shy and timid nature is part of the complicated package of an anxiety disorder I've never quite been able to kick. I can mask it a little, and I've learned several coping mechanisms, but it's always there. I am a very scared person - particularly with anything new or unfamiliar. I am very, very dependent on my comfort zone, and my comfort zone is a very small place (that is why "own a passport" is on my non-bucket list. My comfort zone doesn't branch out anywhere that requires a passport). 

About four years ago, I began to feel prompted to make a change in my life. I was very nervous because I didn't know what, specifically, needed to change, but I felt a strong push toward... something. For months I found myself frequently in tears because I knew that, whatever it was, it would be really uncomfortable for me. Scotty and I started considering some big life changes. Were we supposed to move? Have another baby much sooner than planned? Start a company? 

We talked about things and came to no conclusion. We talked about moving out of state, and the very thought of it nearly made me hurl, but we considered it seriously, if only for a moment, and decided that that wasn't what we needed. We did try the baby thing, which would have given us an 18-month gap. It didn't happen at that time, but two years later we got Zoe.

Eventually, the overwhelming feeling went away.

But then it came back. 

It hit me again a year or so later - an absolute demand for me to leave my comfort zone. And again, I had no idea what I was supposed to do, but I cried when the familiar feeling returned because I knew I needed to do something scary.

Again, I never figured out what it was.

And now, for the past year, I've once again been feeling that familiar push to leave my comfort zone, but I don't know where I'm supposed to go. It feels like it's supposed to be somewhere big, but since it still plagues me as a mystery, I've taken a new approach. I have to do something. So in baby steps, I've been pushing myself out of my comfort zone.


I'm not kidding when I say baby steps. I'm talking... going to the grocery store at a time of day I normally wouldn't go, starting a conversation with the stranger sitting next to me, accepting an invitation to somewhere unfamiliar with people I hardly know, or even trying a piece of gym equipment I haven't used before.

The biggest thing I've done in the past year outside of my comfort zone was when I participated in Ragnar last fall. This required me not only to run (something out of my comfort zone at the time) but to pick up two strangers in a Walmart parking lot and drive them across the state line (whoa, Nelly!)

That would be such a small thing for so many other people, but for me it was HUGE. So when I start to think that I can't do something because it's too scary, I remind myself that I once did something completely unfamiliar, and IT WAS FINE!


So for now, I'm doing small things. Taking baby steps out of my comfort zone and sometimes retreating right back in. But at least I'm sticking a toe out here or there. Maybe eventually I can get a whole limb out. One thing at a time... until finally, I discover what the Big Thing is. 


Melanie said...

Good for you! I don't know that I'd consider myself shy, but I've been telling myself to be fearless or to do something that scares me. Not reckless things, more of a "why not?" "you won't know unless you try," approach.

Also, trying new equipment at the gym is scary!

Nameless-Sister-In-Law said...

I think it's awesome. I kind of did the same thing myself over the last year - but not really consciously. I've always had a thing about "sleeping in front of people" - meaning I don't like sharing hotel rooms (or beds for that matter) with ANYONE and I don't like sleeping over at people's houses. Not in a sexual way, just AT ALL. ANYONE'S. And over the last year, I've slept over at a friend's house a few times AND let Nameless-Sister-In-Law-2 sleep in my bed with me in CA. I also hate road trips with anyone but Nameless-Niece-In-Law and this year, not only did I go on one with a new friend, NSIL2, I went on one - with a total stranger (Soccer Dad) AND shared a hotel room with him & his daughter. This all might sound dumb, but really - it's always been a huge comfort zone thing for me, almost to the point of panic. Freal. But the surviving - and even ENJOYING it - parts? Makes it SO worth it!
Yay to all of us for bursting out of our comfort zones (a tiny bit)!