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10 Small Things You Can Do To Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

10 Small Things You Can Do To Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

According to one description, the comfort zone is a “behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk” – the operative words being stress and risk. There is a sense of familiarity, certainty, and security in familiar territory. When we step outside our comfort zone, we are opening ourselves up to the possibility of stress, pain, and even failure. We are in essence taking risk and are not quite sure what will happen and how we will react.

Why then would you want to step outside your comfort zone, you might wonder? Well, the greatest lessons in life are learned by taking risks and branching out of our comfort zones. Most of our greatest achievements and most memorable growth moments in life happen outside our comfort zone. Besides, living outside your comfort zone makes you come alive. It’s exciting and great fun. Besides, what does it profit a man or woman to go through life without having scintillating fun at least once in a while?

Here are 10 things you can do every day to step out of your comfort zone and live your life to the fullest.

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1. List things that scare you the most and do those very things

Make a list of things that scare you the most and do them one by one, day by day. If you fear public speaking’ for example, take lessons and practice speaking in front of people daily. If you fear facing someone who hurt you terribly, go ahead and just face them. If you fear asking your boss for a pay raise, go ahead and just ask them. The worst thing that can happen rarely happens. If the worst actually happens, you’ll discover a power and strength within you that you never knew existed. Imagine what good things would transpire if we would all face our fears instead of running away from them. What would happen? Restored friendships? Better offers? New opportunities? The possibilities are endless. Just face your fears. Do it.

2. Learn a demanding life skill or improve on one

A 2013 study found that learning new and demanding life skills, while also maintaining a strong social network, can help people stay mentally sharp as they get older. So push yourself everyday to keep learning new things and mastering more and more skills. For instance, push yourself to learn how to play different musical instruments or a new computer program that seems daunting to you. It may be challenging to learn (or improve on) a new skill every day especially when we are older. However, it is only when we are confronted with continuous mental challenges that we improve ourselves.

3. Make a new friend or new acquaintance every day

This might seem hard, but making a new friend or new acquaintance daily is not impossible. Just start by saying a simple hello to a new person every day, maybe during your lunch break. You can follow it up with a heartfelt word or two about the weather, the food, or whatever is appropriate at the time. Don’t forget to smile and show genuine concern about that person. Most people are nice and will appreciate authentic human interaction. Who knows, that new friend may turn out to be someone valuable in your life.

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4. Ask someone new to constructively criticize your behavior or work habits

This is another tough one – ask different people to constructively criticize you on a regular basis, if not a daily basis. That’s tough because hearing your faults and shortcomings from others and discovering some of your unconscious habits can be frightening. However, if you have the patience to look at yourself through the eyes of others with no holds barred, you can learn a lot and improve your relationships. The truth really can set you free – free to work on being better and free to forgive yourself for being human. That said, always put yourself first. You’re unique and you don’t always have to conform to get on in this world. Putting others second means giving other people their due respect and not totally ignoring them.

5. Give a total stranger a genuine compliment every day

People love compliments and saying something nice to someone can give them the lift that they needed to feel good about themselves. It’s a wonderful gesture that makes the human experience pleasant. Plus, you’ll also feel good for giving the compliment. Again, don’t forget to flash a warm smile to the “stranger” when complementing them. It may be outside your comfort zone, but it’s totally worth it.

6. Hit the gym and change your physical appearance

Our interior world – our thoughts and beliefs – have a big impact in our lives, but so does our exterior world as reflected in our physical looks and behavioral patterns. Hit the gym daily to get in shape, lose weight, and reinforce your physical image. Get a new style haircut and wear brighter clothing than you have always worn. It may be scary to make these changes at first, but you will send a powerful message to your inner self that you are strong and worthy. A simple makeover can really boost your confidence!

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7. Read literature your friends wouldn’t guess you would read

Some people don’t like to read very much. Don’t be one of those people. Read as much and as widely as you can. That includes reading material that your friends wouldn’t guess you would read. They may laugh at you for doing so, but you will open your mind up to new ideas and new perspectives that will broaden your horizon. Besides, studies show lifelong brain-stimulating activities like reading could help stave off cognitive decline that comes with age, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.

8. Unplug from technology for a no-tech day

Let’s be honest – our lives are being completely overrun by technology. We behave like quite the tech addicts. The questions that run in our heads all day are: “What’s in my e-mail?” “What’s going on on Instagram?” “Who has updated their status on Facebook?” This might explain why people are more stressed today than at any other time in history. Shut everything off — the phone, the laptop, the iPad — everything! Truly disconnect from technology and go about your business not connected for a few hours each day. Even if you only unplug some hours before bed, knowing to how sucked in you are to your digital life, do it. You’ll avoid much stress and take control over what consumes your time and attention.

9. Take a short power nap in the afternoon

Napping in the afternoon may sound crazy, especially if no one else around you does it, but it brings hefty dividends. Just 20 minutes of nap time boosts alertness, 30 minutes helps you feel physically recovered and 50 minutes heightens creativity, says Michael Breus, Ph.D., sleep expert and author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan. Depriving yourself of adequate rest and sleep because you want to always appear busy at work is bad and doesn’t really help anyone. It actually hampers your productivity.

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10. Purse hobbies that involve physical movement

It can be dancing, jogging, swimming, yoga, or even just walking the dogs. Create time for the things you love that involve physical movement. Over the weekends you can go sky diving or bungee jumping – whatever ticks your fancy. Also, write down all the things you would ultimately like to do in your lifetime like travel to certain places, run a marathon, or ride a zip-line. Start taking appropriate steps every day towards making that major goal a reality. This is a great way to step out of your comfort zone.

Remember, the best predictor of success and achievement is an openness to new experiences, which is characterized by qualities like the drive to explore the world, intellectual curiosity, and fantasy interests.

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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