Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

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Over recent months I’ve made the conscious decision to say “Yes” to every opportunity no matter how much it may scare me or force me to step outside of my comfort zone.

A few of these opportunities have come to pass including doing work-related presentations with, and in front of, people I greatly admire and normally lose all proper control of the English language when I meet them.
It’s a natural progression in my pharmacy career as the work I have been involved in has gained increasing national recognition, but it’s something I need to personally ‘dig deep’ to do.  I know that I appear very confident and my colleagues and friends often comment on it, but inside I have to really talk myself into ‘stepping up’ and doing the things I know I have the ability to do.

Fear of public speaking (known as glossophobia) is up there as one of the greatest fears people have; (questionable) figures as high as 75% of the population having this phobia have been quoted with 10% of these people describing  it as physically  ‘terrifying’ bordering on a Social Anxiety Disorder. Terror is a pretty extreme emotion to have about something where ultimately we will not experience any physical pain.  It’s the mental anguish associated with it that we seem to run from.

For me, I want to convey my message authoritatively and professionally without being negatively judged by other people.  What if they think I am speaking absolute nonsense?  What if they can’t understand my accent?  What if I say something politically inappropriate? What if they hate my shoes, notice I have lipstick on my teeth or think my dress is too tight!?  What if?  What if?  The more I allow these questions and thoughts to invade my mind the more I question my ability to be able to speak at all!

But what if I get up and speak….and people actually want to listen to me, learn from me, want to collaborate with me and really actually like me and want to get to know more about me?  Fact is, if I am well-prepared and talking about something I know I am expert in, these are the more likely outcomes.  It seems crazy for someone who has spoken in front of many different audiences throughout their professional life; nevertheless it is something I continually have to battle through.  I just need to work through all my negative thoughts to eventually reach the potential for positive outcomes.

This was exactly the dilemma I went through at a recent event in London where I had been invited to present on an expert panel.  When asked, I adopted my say “yes” to everything approach to life and instantly accepted the invitation.  I was looking forward to the event but despite my preparation and awareness that I would speak about something I have been immersed in for seven years, the mind monkeys started to creep in.  I purchased a bottle of Bach Flower Rescue Remedy at the airport to help calm my nerves.  I do swear by it and I use a few drops prior to things which make me nervous including flying, job interviews…..and getting married!!! (I nearly finished the bottle that morning!)

On the morning of the presentation I decided the only way I could beat my thoughts was to do some positive affirmations.  I do feel awkward and self-conscious doing these but I sat at the end of the bed and repeatedly told myself what an awesome presenter I am!   This process did seem to settle me and I then went through the even bigger and incredibly serious dilemma of choosing one of the four dresses I had packed.  London was sweltering hot therefore limiting my choices.  One dress was too naked, one was too low-cut & booby (!), one was two ‘swishy’ and one was well…. almost just right.  I love this particular yellow dress I chose and I believed it would do no harm to be memorably bright, albeit I have been at the brunt end of Sesame Street’s ‘Big Bird’ comments from my colleagues dressed in this attire before.  I was also risking being too warm but a final decision needed to be made.  I did a quick and perfectly posed mirror selfie and added it to my instagram feed, ordered a bowl of porridge and summoned up the courage of a lion.

By the time I reached the venue in a very trendy part of London I was finally feeling good internally.  I was the first member of the panel to speak and was delighted to notice that people were furiously scribbling down what I was saying.  So I must have been saying useful things and bringing some value to them after all.  Result! [or should I say ‘Boom’ (?) which seems to be the ‘in’ thing to say in this type of context].  Although I kept in mind to make eye contact with as many people as possible in the room, I did continue to come back to connecting with one very smiley fellow in the front row.  He seemed to be engaging with everything I said and showing great enthusiasm and this gave me the comfort and confidence to keep going.

The panel were then asked to answer questions  – isn’t that just the worst part of any presentation because you don’t have any control over the randomness of audience questions?  I handled it reasonably well but felt like I needed more time to really address and help with the valid queries which had been raised.  My mind monkeys paid a brief visit but I overruled them as I worked the room and singled out people who I felt wanted to know more and chat in more depth about my work experiences.

Overall it was a really engaging and enjoyable event and I left with a few people requesting my contact details to explore future collaborations.  The organisers later tweeted that the event had received the highest feedback score ever recorded by their company.  It was a wonderfully reassuring feeling to know I had played my part along with the other inspiring panel members I met that day.

Outside of work I also recently said “Yes” to modelling at an afternoon tea fashion show in aid of a local cancer charity.  My initial reaction to this request was again our old friend ‘terror.’  However, this event was being organised by a lady I know and love, and it was for charity after all.  I reluctantly agreed and proceeded to feel mildly nauseous at the thought.  Other insecurities about my looks started to arise on this occasion.  I put a lot of effort into looking my best through watching my diet and indulging in a plethora of beauty products and treatments.  My husband says I am far too hard on myself but it is something I have worked on and felt for many a year.  If I know I’m looking the best I can, I’m more able to achieve the best I can.  That’s just me and I doubt that will ever change.

On the day, despite the need to negotiate a magnificent stair case and multiple tripping hazards (wires, rugs, uneven flooring) I strutted my stuff and posed like a pro in two different outfits followed by a finale in front of 93 people.    I had been absolutely dreading this occasion; this really was a case of stepping well outside my comfort zone.  You know what?  I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it and have agreed to do it again for another boutique later this year  (Boom! lol).

Steeping outside your comfort zone is well…uncomfortable!  The thing is however, once you do it, and find a new comfort within your new experiences; you will want to keep pushing and seeing how far you can reach and stretch your ability and ambitions.  This can have rewarding and positive consequences in your work life (business or career) and also personal life and can potentially bring you to an exciting new place you could only previously have imagined and dreamed of. Always remember ‘what the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve’ (Napoleon Hill).

I’m continually working through this discomfort and am now determined to keep saying “yes” to things I thought only others were capable of doing but I secretly would love to try.  Public speaking and even modelling (life begins in your forties don’t you know?) are examples of things I want to keep trying and pushing the boundaries of and do on a larger and grander scale.

I urge you to also step outside the boundaries of your comfort zone.  Let me know what you would love to have the opportunity to do and if by chance it presents itself, please just say “yes”. It could be so worth it and you might actually discover something you really enjoy.

Ruth

The Swan Doctor

 

 

Ruth