I’ve previously written about a number of coping mechanisms I use to deal with anxiety and a lack of confidence / low self-esteem, including music (link here), motivational quotes (link here), and listening to podcasts (link here). Today I’ll continue with that theme and write about what I believe to be the most difficult but perhaps the most effective coping mechanism of all – stepping out of my comfort zone.
This is something I aim to do as frequently as possible. I could certainly lead a much quieter life and stay in the safe and warm environment of my home, though there are a number of reasons why I choose not to.
1. Living a full and rich life.
I’m a firm believer in life is for living. I’ve discussed this with close and like-minded friends over recent months (they’ll be reading this and know who they are…) and it is reassuring to know I’m not on my own in reaching a stage in life where this is becoming more and more important. I’m not using the word rich in monetary terms here – I’m using it to describe a satisfying and rewarding existence. To achieve that, I need to experience life to as great a degree as possible as frequently as possible. I simply won’t do that sat on my sofa. I’ll do it by getting out and about, by trying new challenges, by taking in as many experiences as I possibly can, by saying yes more frequently than I say no.
2. I won’t let ‘it’ win
When I say ‘It’, I’m referring to anxiety and low self-esteem / low self-confidence. It would be easy to concede; it’s certainly a lot more straight-forward and less fraught to lead a relatively sheltered existence and remain firmly within my comfort zone rather than stepping outside it. But that won’t happen. I don’t want it to happen. I can’t allow ‘it’ to dictate who I am and how I live my life. I’m not really a bullish person by nature but I need to be here – I simply won’t let ‘it’ win…
3. The vast majority of people are worth meeting
The image below really resonated with me when I first saw it, perhaps more than any other image I’ve seen over recent years.
I don’t wish to paint a perfect picture here; some people frustrate the hell out of me, especially those I consider to be ignorant, arrogant and selfish, and it’s easy (alarmingly so at times) to let those people get under my skin and affect my mood. However, in the main, I try to remember the words in the image and I do believe they’re 100% true. Everyone has a story to tell; a tale that will provide valuable insight into understanding what shapes them as a person. Some people are willing to tell all in an instant, others will not. Regardless of that, it’s vitally important to try to understand what makes people tick, what has happened in their life to mould the person they are right now, what their hopes and fears are, what heartaches they’ve suffered, and what drives them on. People fascinate me and I try not to be so quick to judge. It doesn’t always work but it really is important to try. Life is infinitely fascinating, people are infinitely fascinating, stories are infinitely fascinating. We spend significant amounts of money and a whole load of our time watching stories on TV, watching stories on the big screen and reading stories in books, whilst, in reality, some of the very best stories lie within those who we interact with on a daily basis. Sometimes a good brew (or beer!) and an hour or two simply sharing those stories can provide as good an experience as this life has to offer. The brilliant Michael Morpurgo, who, in my humble opinion, is an angel in disguise, sums this up beautifully:
4. It begins to normalise the really difficult situations
This may not work for everyone but it certainly does for me. Continually putting myself into situations where I feel nervous to some degree does begin to normalise those situations and make them easier to deal with over time. Despite having played many live music gigs as the guitarist in Lux Bay duo, I still get nervous as we take to the stage, though nowhere near to the same extent as I did when I first started gigging as a musician. I still feel butterflies when I step up to speak in front of a room full of people during events hosted by the PSA (Parent Staff Association) at my daughter’s school but it does get easier over time. When I hosted a weekly quiz for 3 years at a local club, I got nervous beforehand each and every week, though that eased over time and was never as bad as week 1. I still feel a small element of doubt when sharing these posts each week, primarily as I never know how the content will be taken or how people will feel about it, though I absolutely must continue and that concern, despite being very minor these days, will never be anywhere near as bad as when I published the first post back in May. Without sounding bombastic, continuing to fight ‘it’ is the best way for me to deal with this.
I’ll finish with this image.
Again, I know this isn’t for everyone. If sitting within your comfort zone provides you with the life you want to lead, then embrace that with open arms and carry on. We all need to find happiness somehow, though I do know many people who have done just that by stepping outside their comfort zone. It can be something as simple as taking up a gentle new hobby, such as writing, painting, baking cakes for others or walking. Alternatively, it could be something as radical as running your first marathon, signing up to the 2020 Ironman event, moving to a new country, completing a 100km walk for charity, or changing jobs and moving to an entirely new role in a completely different sector. Ultimately, it’s vitally important that we all do whatever we need to in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. Do you feel you’re in that position right now?
Thanks for reading and take care.