When I think back to college and university days it was full of firsts. The first time I’d lived away from home, the first time I was going back to class (I had a gap year) and the first time I was having to fend for myself. It was rife with terrifying moments that took me completely out of my comfort zone. The most notable was the dreaded weekly (or monthly, the memories are hazy – vodka will do that kids!) presentations we had to give at uni in front of our whole year, tutors and fashion industry insiders. It was horrendous. We would be so anxious and nervous that we’d look for excuses not to go. The best day ever was when the whole uni had a power cut, delaying the dreaded event by an hour.
Beyond the classroom, I’ve moved jobs a lot and each time have found myself in new, unchartered territory. Meeting new colleagues, learning new procedures and taking on a new commute are all things I started to take in my stride with every new role. As time went on, breaking out of each comfort zone was becoming easier to swallow. It wasn’t until I worked as a marketing executive for a luxury hotel group in Mayfair that I changed the most professionally and personally.
After being made redundant from a national magazine at the height of the recession, I had three months out of work and I have never felt so panicked and scared. With a year in editorial, going back to marketing in an industry I had no clue about, left me reeling. The term ‘fake it til you make it’ had never been so apt and I had never been so far away from my comfort zone. Luckily, ideas and strategy come pretty naturally for me and I can think at a hundred miles per hour. But even I struggled to wing this one. It was corporate, sexist and very much a numbers game – three things I’d never experienced before. I wore pencil skirts, heels and was thrown into a boardroom with a table full of middle aged suits on a weekly basis to pitch my ideas.
After a few months, I made the decision to stop letting the unwavering nerves and all-consuming anxiety take hold every Monday morning while I prepped my pitches. Instead of deep breathing, pretending they’re all in their underwear or generally trying to stop these feelings, I leant into them. I decided to sit with it and feel it all because it’s those moments of feeling so desperately uncomfortable that mould us into people that are better at our jobs and are more confident in ourselves. For every shitty thing that’s happened in and out of that boardroom, it has made me a stronger person.
And it worked. Doing this every time I prepped for that meeting, feeling it, accepting it and doing it anyway, each week got easier and easier until I was totally bossing that boardroom. It got to the point where my voice didn’t shake, I didn’t clam up every time suit number 4 threw a question my way and I didn’t fiddle with my hands when selling my ideas. Instead, I promised myself to be a bit more assertive and tell myself that they hired me because I’m good at my job. They interrupted their golf morning or PT session to hear me talk and they will listen to what I have to say.
Starting my own business has made me think about these scenarios so much lately because I feel very much out of my comfort zone again. I’ve gone from a 9-5.30 pm Mon-Fri job where I could do my role with my eyes closed, to a job where no two days are the same and I’m effectively making up my schedule. It’s liberating and fun but terrifying and strange at the same time. I spent the first two weeks in a panic, not knowing where to start, what to do and wondering if this was a terrible mistake. But ultimately anything that makes you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing – whether it’s a new job, being a new mum or buying a house for the first time, are the things that shape you as a person. It’s awkward, frustrating, maybe upsetting but these are the things that make you stronger, wiser and more confident.
As time goes on things are starting to sit a bit better. I’m more comfortable shooting blog posts in public and am actually enjoying people being so curious as to what we’re doing – they’re supportive and complimentary and it’s making me more confident in what I’m doing. I’m learning that there will be quiet spells and busy times and slowly accepting that rejection (mostly) isn’t personal, it’s circumstantial and time sensitive. And above all I’m easing the pressure on myself, the present and my future. Sometimes we just need to be patient and trust in what will be.
Stepping out of your comfort zone may be scary, it might even take you a long time to make the leap, but you will collate new skills you didn’t even know were possible. Things that no one can teach you or tell you how to do, they just happen and will become invaluable to you. And that is worth being momentarily uncomfortable for.
THREE REASONS TO BREAK OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
YOU’LL KNOW YOURSELF BETTER
The term ‘face your fear’ is such a cliche but for all intents and purposes, it’s true. Feeling uncomfortable, nervous and scared are all valid reasons not to do something, it’s what stops us being in danger, as humans. But if it’s a case of not going for that dream job because you’re worried about the interview, it doesn’t count! Sit with those feelings, acknowledge them and let them go one by one.
YOU’LL BE MORE PRODUCTIVE
Comfort kills productivity – fact. By doing the minimum required to get by we lose the drive and ambition to challenge ourselves. Pushing your boundaries and losing your comfort zone will force you to hit your stride and get more done.
YOU’LL HAVE AN EASIER TIME IN THE FUTURE
How many times have you done something you felt uncomfortable with and thought “that wasn’t so bad” afterwards? Every time you step out of your comfort zone you’ll be better equipped to deal with tougher circumstances that might come your way later on.
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