Julia, (my six year old) and I were folding laundry and discussing our weekend plans. I told her a very nice mom had invited me for brunch with a group of moms. “Why do you want to do that?” she asked. “It’s a grown up version of a play date,” I started to explain.”Instead of playing with toys, we talk, and eat.” Julia looked at me with a puzzled look and wondered, “Oh, but what do you talk about?”
Julia and I continued to fold her laundry, and I started to feel a bit queasy. Small talk has never been my strong suit. I suddenly realized I was going to be sitting with these women for at least for two hours.
All of a sudden a wave of anxiety came over me and the wheels started turning. “What WILL we talk about?” I wondered to myself. “Will they like me?”, I worried. All of a sudden, a flashback of my middle school awkward self, looking for a friend to sit with at lunch filled my head.
Then, before I could stop myself,” Maybe I shouldn’t go,” I sighed. Julia looked up from her laundry folding and asked, “Why not?” As I started to explain my fears, she looked right me right in the eye and said, “Mommy, you really need to get out of your comfort zone.” “Julia, what did you say?”, I asked. Julia rolled her eyes and explained slowly, “You know, you need to do things that scare you sometimes.” “Where did you learn that?” I asked. She looked at me like I had three heads, and sighed, “You silly.” “Don’t you remember telling me that before I jumped in the pool for the first time?” she replied with her toothless grin.
“You are right Julia, it is time to get out my comfort zone.”I agreed as I reached over the pile of laundry and gave her a big hug.
I started thinking about my comfort zone, and how I really don’t leave it. Is it because I am older, and set in my ways? Am I scared? Or maybe I just don’t how? Maybe all of the above? I decided to research what was going on.
In my search I came across the website Develop Good Habits founded by Steve Scott. (Google must have remembered my last blog post on habits).
In his post 7 Steps to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone Scott, defines Comfort Zone as “a self imposed boundary where a person will refuse to push past.” Doing so often fills him or her with nervousness and anxiety. However, if you never push pass this zone it will prevent you from the success and happiness you desire. Scott suggests the following seven steps to use when you are in a situation that is out of your comfort zone. I took my situation going out to brunch, and applied his seven steps.
Step #1 – Get Information
My anxiety was coming from the fear of the unknown. So I educated myself on who was going to be there. There was an acquaintance who like myself is a teacher, our daughters are in the same grade, and they played soccer together. Besides my friend who invited me there was another woman who I knew, so I started to feel more comfortable about going.
Step #2 – Have a Plan
It is important to identify the challenges that could come up. One challenge of sitting next to someone you don’t well might be an uncomfortable silence. Before I went, I thought of conversation topics just in case. Kids, work, restaurants, were good not controversial. I would leave Trump and his Wall for my friends I have known for more than five minutes. I didn’t want to be the cause of the uncomfortable silence.
Step #3 – Hold Yourself Accountable
Being accountable to someone or a group is key to breaking out of your comfort zone. Accepting the invitations kept me accountable that I was going to go, I’m not rude, just anxious. Also, I told my daughter I was going. Julia would never let me forget it if I didn’t go.
Step #4 – Take Baby Steps
All you need is that first step. I had a plan in place and I just had to get into my car and go. Once I was there I was fine and truly enjoyed myself. I just had to get out of my own head and let the afternoon happen.
Step #5 – Aggressively Challenge Your Comfort Zone
To really blast through your comfort zone, you would do what Scott calls an “aggressive challenge.” This is a rapid-fire approach where you do a lot of something that makes you scared. The idea here is you’re shocking the system into becoming comfortable.
You won’t have time to think about your fear. Instead you’ll be so busy pushing your boundaries that you forget about what used to make you scared. I will need to do go out to eat with acquaintances more frequently. Whenever I am asked to a social event I should say “Yes” every time, unless there is a sickness or a family emergency.
Step #6- Remain Positive
I acknowledged that this social event could go wrong. However, I didn’t allow negativity to take control of my mind. I could spill the Bloody Mary on the woman to my right, but I knew there were napkins and seltzer water, at the restaurant, and the earth would keep revolving. However, I ended up having so much fun that I forgot about my fear, and next time I might not even think about my clumsy tendencies.
Step #7 – Keep Expanding Your Comfort Zone
Always expand your comfort zone. One way I could expand is to invite one of the women out for coffee, organize a lunch or dinner, or maybe maybe even invite the group to my house. To be honest, putting this blog out there is probably the scariest thing I have ever done. However, I continue to do so and put myself out there may help someone who is as insecure as I am. What are you going to do to expand your comfort zone? Share below, to inspire the rest of us.