A couple weeks go, I felt myself go into a funk. After a long and crazy summer of international travel and reconnecting with old friends, I began settling into a routine with new job responsibilities in a new location. And with that came a certain amount of uncertainty about myself and about my future.
Life shifts are exciting, but they carry with them the pressure to re-establish ourselves. You may be coming from a place where you are known to a place where you are new. In the midst of insecurity, two things can happen: a) your confidence can droop as you struggle to prove your identity, or b) you can take the opportunity to remake yourself: not to lose your identity but to reconsider parts of yourself you thought were immovable.
I’ll give you an example: just recently, I broke the funk by taking a surf lesson in Huntington Beach with my old college roommate. Let me first make this clear: I love the ocean, but I have never surfed. Instead, I grew up watching others braver than I am, including my brother, take on what seemed impossible. Surfing has always been appealing but intimidating, especially for someone as petite as I am. Turns out, I am not a natural-born surfer. After fifteen minutes of glory (stood up once or twice), I became totally exhausted and struggled for the next hour and forty-five minutes (guess I need to work on my upper-body strength). But it didn’t matter. For one morning, I got outside of myself, and I left tired, salty and very, very happy.
Step outside of the zone
“The zone” is anything that feels totally familiar, natural or expected for you. It’s something you can take on without any trepidation. So, here’s the catch to stepping out of the zone: if you like to hike, don’t go to a new trail. If you love the city, don’t explore a new city block. If you always hang out with your coworkers, don’t make a new friend in the same field. Here’s what I mean: do something that makes you just a little uncomfortable- and I mean that in the best possible way.
Here are a few examples:
1. Try a new sport or physical challenge.
This has been one of the most significant comfort zone-busters for me. If you went to elementary school with me, you know that I have not always been especially athletic. As a very petite and not-very-competitive little girl, I could not understand what the point of playing a game with a ball was (still trying to figure that out). I wasn’t very good at sports, and that’s putting it nicely. Fortunately, as I got older I discovered athletic activities I was good at. But still, putting myself outside of my physical comfort zone continues to push me in the best way possible. In the past year, I’ve taken trial courses in muay thai, capoeira, physical defense and kickboxing all to push my boundaries. Push your body- and your mind- and put yourself in a class, course or game that you thought you would never do: rockclimbing? crossfit? ballet? Yes and yes and yes.
2. Hang out with someone different from yourself.
A lot of people tend to spend the majority of their time with people just like them. With good reason- you’re most likely to connect with those who have similar interests, priorities and backgrounds as you. But there’s something about spending time with someone totally different from yourself, making conversation, discovering that person and learning from them. Maybe that someone is much older or younger than you, or has a radically different set of beliefs, or is from a different country. Or maybe it’s just that he or she is from a different socioeconomic class. Here’s the rule: it’s got to be a little bit of a stretch to relate to that person. But in the challenge, you’ll discover more about yourself, humanity and what it looks like to “love thy neighbor”*- even when that neighbor looks, acts and thinks a lot differently from you.
3. Participate in a course, club or faith-based activity.
I spent the first nineteen years of my life with very defined ideas of what interested me and what didn’t. Interested in: school, pop culture and my friends. Not interested in: sports, politics and religion. In college, however I became more interested in faith. This was a huge step for me, and when I first began to go to church in college, I was very uncomfortable with some of the aspects of the way people worshiped and prayed so expressively. But in exposing myself to an environment that challenged the way I felt it was appropriate to worship God, I learned that I ultimately wanted what had initially made me feel uncomfortable. You may be interested in something you never considered: take a college course in a topic you know nothing about (recently, I’ve started reading about business); participate in an art club if you’ve never considered yourself creative; or visit a house of worship. You may discover a part of your inner world you never knew existed.
In my own journey with God and with myself over the past ten years, transitioning from teenagehood to adulthood, I’ve found again and again that when I’m in a funk because of certain fears or insecurities, this one thing will break it: stepping outside of my comfort zone. Why? I think when we do something that stretches our minds or our bodies, it makes us forget ourselves a little more in the process. And on the other side- we find ourselves again, maybe stronger, bolder and more creative than we knew.