08 Mar International Women’s Day Blog Series #1
GETTING OUTSIDE OF YOUR COCOON AND BUILD CONFIDENCE, DECREASE ANXIETY, AND LIVE A MORE FULFILLING LIFE
Each of us has our own “comfort zone” which, more than an actual place, is a psychological and emotional space that outlines the routine of our daily life. A comfort zone implies familiarity, safety, security. It’s the parts of our life that are patterned and predictable, and it keeps us comfortable and calm, free from worry. Sounds great doesn’t it? Creating a comfort zone is, for the most part, healthy. But so is stepping out of our comfort zone.
When I graduated high school, I moved to Kamloops for University, getting a diploma in Animal Health Technology. I had my life planned out…. I wanted to work with animals but had already decided on this easier route, instead of going “all the way “and applying for veterinary school. At the time I didn’t think I was smart enough or able to commit to that level of education.
I’m not saying I have regrets about where my life is now, just that I was already in a pattern of underestimating myself. After graduation I got a job working at the University of Calgary working in medical research; ironically working closely with veterinarians to ensure humane practices in the labs.
Fast forward 8 years, I’m married with two kids and decided not to return to work after kid #2. My husband had also in that time quit his teaching job and started a personal training company. So, I began being his right-hand woman; doing the majority of the administrative work while raising our kids from home. I also started a photography company and was very happy being the one behind the lens!
Fast forward another 8 years, and my husband and I have opened two spin studios, and I’m now a business owner, a manager, and a fitness instructor. When we first decided to take the step to open a studio, the plan was for me to continue do what I was doing…. Administrative and managerial work, staying happily in the background. Through all of this, I struggled with bouts of anxiety and depression, some times worse than other times.
When we started our spin instructor training, Tyler sort of said off the cuff, why don’t you do the training, so you have a good understanding of that aspect of the business?
I’m secretly introverted. I say secretly because I’m one of those introverts who’s really good at pretending to be extrovert. But once I’ve peopled for an extended period of time, I need to lock myself in my bedroom and un-people for a while. So, the idea of being a spin instructor, putting myself ON A STAGE, leading classes, was terrifying. But I went into training thinking it was just to learn the business.
Fast forward 3 years, and I’m now teaching 12 spin and HIIT classes a week. I train our new instructors. I manage a staff of 25, I taught a spin class to 175 people on the roof of a hotel, did an ON CAMERA interview for Global TV… I’m 41 and I’m the most confident I’ve ever been, my mental health is the best it’s ever been, and I feel like I have a purpose and goal.
If you’d have asked me in university if I ever saw myself being a business owner and a fitness instructor, I would have laughed it off. There has been a lot of pushing outside of my comfort zone in the last few years. And I still have to do it, every day.
Experiencing a little bit of stress and anxiety every now and then is actually a good thing. If all you ever do is stay wrapped up in your cocoon, keeping warm and cozy, you may be missing out on quite a lot— new experiences, new challenges, new people. In other words, all those things that define who you are and give your life personal meaning.
Change can be an uphill battle as it is, and depending on what the scenario is, your brain might not do you any favors. There are ways to help your brain adapt to change a little more easily, if we understand a few things about our brain first.
- Your brain is busy.It hogs a ton of your energy resources to do what it needs to do every day. Which is basically keep your body working.
- Your brain is lazy.Because it needs so much energy and there’s so much going on up there, it doesn’t want to do extra things. It tries to get you to do what you’ve always done, by staying inside your comfort zone.
- Your brain wants to keep you safe.Your own survival depends on avoiding danger. Our brains are conditioned to fight everyday threats to survival. Thousands of years ago those threats were hungry lions. Sometimes your brain fires up the oh-crap-there’s-a-lion fear response when it’s more like, you’re a few minutes late for work.
Our brains don’t always respond properly to situations that cause feelings of anxiety. Because of this, our brains crave routine. But settling in to what’s most comfortable doesn’t lead to growth.
Getting out of our comfort zone every now and then alters our brain’s tolerance to change, for the better. Shaking things up shows your brain that there’s nothing to fear — you’ll be fine on the other side of a little stress, and it’s worth it.
There’s two important points I want you to remember next time you have the chance to do something that scares you:
Taking risks helps you respond better to stress
When you take a risk on purpose, you’ve weighed the pros and cons… good things can happen, or bad things can happen, but you go for it anyway.
As I’m sure you all know, us girls are capable of dreaming up a lot of gloom and doom, and some of us are really good at expecting the worst. (*Hi*) But most of the time, if we take a risk and it doesn’t turn out as we’d hoped, chances are, everything’s still okay after it’s all over.
This is actually like practicing for unwelcome surprises in life. There are times when things will happen that you didn’t prepare for, and you will need to be able to deal with it. As you get more used to seeing that everything is fine on the other side of stressful events, you can slowly start to take more risks, have more confidence, and potentially more amazing experiences.
You’ll learn what you’re really made of
If you’re always calm and working within your same old habits, how will you ever learn what you truly can handle?
Sure, things can go the other way, and results can range from disappointing to the worst outcome you considered.
But that’s the thing —even when things go bad, now you know it’s temporary, you know you can bounce back, and you’ll learn what you’re made of.
Don’t settle for the mediocre just to avoid leaving your cocoon. Your challenges and experiences are cumulative. Every time you try something new, do something that makes you uncomfortable, you are learning and expanding your life skills. You’re learning more about yourself. You are also growing the size of your comfort zone, your cocoon… each time making it easier to DO HARD THINGS.
And looking at the bigger picture of life, if you can’t ever step out of your comfort zone you may experience difficulty facing change, growing, and ultimately, transforming. Your “real life” is out there waiting for you, and it exists beyond the bubble of your own personal thoughts and feelings. It is the total of ALL of your experiences, not just the easy ones, the one’s that end the right way, or the ones you’re comfortable with. Time to stretch those wings!