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The Better Me Project—Day 26

Ah…the precept that I feared the most. Get out of my comfort zone. That might seem like the easiest of all. How hard is it to do something that’s not something you normally would do, right? Just say, “Oh, I don’t normally do that, but I’m going to make a point to do it today.” Well, for you, it might be the simplest thing in the world. For the other millions of us that suffer from anxiety and things of that nature, going out of one’s comfort zone can be the most painful and dreaded task they can be asked to perform.

It Seems a Little Dramatic…

I assure you it’s not. Research has indicated that anxiety often arises from people going out of their comfort zone. People who are anxious overthink pretty much everything in their lives. Did I talk too much at that meeting—did I say anything stupid? What time do I need to leave if I want to make the show—what if I miss it? I can’t take the bus to the city—how will I know where to get off? 

While I can’t speak for everyone, for me, that’s why I tend to stick to routines and feel better when I do. For example, if I know how to get to work taking that road, I’ll do that every single time—until the road is closed and I have to make a detour—then I panic.

Same thing with almost everything in my life. I know I like that restaurant and I’m comforted by knowing what to expect when I go there, even though I’d like to try somewhere else. I go to that nail salon because they know me there and even though they’ve been doing a terrible job lately, I’m going to continue to go because that’s where I feel comfortable and not anxious.

My anxiety is compounded (or maybe even caused by) my hearing loss, so I have always feared getting out of my comfort zone because I’m terrified that I’ll miss something and it’ll be disastrous. That would be what therapists call “catastrophizing”—basically assuming the worst and making a mountain out of a molehill.

Once Upon a Time

When I was younger, I was a lot less anxious, a lot more daring. I’d go on roller coasters , swim deep in the ocean, and not worry so much about the consequences of my actions. Every little decision I made didn’t include assuming the worst would happen if I didn’t choose correctly.

Something happened along the way, though. At some point in time, it changed. Now every time I decide something, I have a running list in my head of what can possibly go wrong with each choice. It’s stressful and exhausting. The easiest way to avoid it is to stay in my comfort zone. But not any longer. I’m going to stop being comfortable. I’m going to get out of my comfort zone.

So You Want to Stress Yourself Out?

No. Of course not. What I want to do is learn to get out of my comfort zone in small ways, so that when faced with a situation where I really need to get out of my comfort zone in a big way, I know I can do it. If I’ve done it in the past, I’ll be okay with it and not get panicked.

Slowly, I’ll be able to do more that I haven’t done in the past. I’ll be able to break these self-imposed rules that I’ve been subconsciously adhering so stringently to. I won’t be stuck in this comfortable little box that I’ve cornered myself in. At least, in theory this should work.

Baby Steps to Get Out of My Comfort Zone

So how do I do this? Baby steps. Listening to music that I normally wouldn’t listen to on the radio—I went to a boy band concert with my daughter…does that count? ✔ Picking up books that I normally would pass by without a second glance—all this non-fiction I’ve been reading has to count for something, right? ✔ Trying new recipes—wait a minute, I’ve been doing that with our USA tour so…✔✔✔! Driving places I haven’t driven to before—drove down to Ocean City a few weeks ago. ✔ Blogging about things I wouldn’t normally blog about—this whole Better Me Project. ✔ Pole dancing class—just add a ✔ to that. (Don’t judge—it’s hard exercise!)

What’s Left on This List?

A lot. There’s so much I’m nervous to do, despite the strides I’ve made over the past few weeks (and months). I’ve never eaten in a restaurant by myself. I have never gone to a movie alone. I would really like to join a writer’s group and find my tribe. Despite my few futile searches, I haven’t found a group to volunteer for yet.

I want to book a trip for somewhere I’ve never been before and deal with it, regardless of my fear of not knowing where to go and what to do. I live by a set of rules that I’ve created to reduce my anxiety.

There’s so much I’m missing by being anxious. It’s all about comfort and fearing the unknown for me. It’s scary as hell to get out of my comfort zone, but I’m going to keep trying. Baby steps.

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