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Life Is About How To Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Life Is About How To Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone. Change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” -Roy T. Bennett

Ever wonder why some people seem to glide effortlessly through life, handling problems as if they were riding waves on a surfboard? They always appear cool, calm and collected during those intense stressful moments, like college finals or business meetings, while you and everyone else break into a sweat. You wonder if they possess some secret elixir of awesomeness or 24-hour access to a personal self-confidence life coach. Chances are, they do have the formula for success, and some of them may not even realize it. It doesn’t come in powders or pills; it comes through pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone with regular, intense exercise.

Rethinking Your Comfort Zone

Comfort zones are cozy places defined by the familiar things with which you fill your daily lives with.  They are the stuff you don’t question and go through the motions of doing. They are predictable. Unchallenging. Comforting. Like meatloaf and mashed potatoes. And like eating meatloaf every single day, staying within your comfort zone all the time can be bad for your health.

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Athletes who physically push themselves, whether they are training for a marathon or a long distance swim, break through the barriers of that comfort zone, holding on until they reach their goal: that 5-mile run, that 5th lap, the top of the climbing wall. They achieve their athletic goal, but something else happens in the process: they are rewiring their brain to accept physical discomfort.

Society today is geared towards removing obstacles from your life. Remote controls change the television channels from afar, room temperatures are altered with the flick of a button, cars start themselves without you turning a key (some even drive themselves). In the process, you are losing touch with yourself and when faced with a difficult task, it can appear more daunting and stressful than it actually is because you’ve been weaned off of dealing with obstacles.

While interviewing top professional adventure and endurance athletes, Brad Shulberg of Outside Magazine noted in his article[1] that despite their different life choices, from mountain climbing to long distance swimming, these highly successful athletes physically pushed themselves to their limits to reach their final goals—completing the race, reaching the summit. And they had one thing in common: they taught themselves to embrace life outside their comfort zones. They became comfortable with being uncomfortable.

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Change your game, change your brain

If you have ever attained a physical goal like a 10-mile mountain hike, a 3-mile run, or whitewater rafting Class V rapids, a curious thing occurs. When you reach the end, you feel exhausted yet elated. You feel hot and sweaty. Your muscles are aching, maybe even screaming, and your body is shaking. Your heart is pounding. But you feel happy. You came, you saw, you conquered! Yes, it was difficult. Maybe even terrifying. That last part you pushed yourself through, just to reach the end, like Indiana Jones stretching out to grab the golden idol before the temple collapses.

Afterward, you may have high-fived your fellow rafters and chugged a quart of water, feeling like the king of the mountain. It was hard and you survived. Somehow facing the boss on Monday morning doesn’t feel so daunting. And that kid who got your sandwich order mixed up at lunch? You laugh it off. Your perspective on life has altered. Your brain has changed.

Psychotherapist and Counselor, Angela Percival explains[2] that the human brain continuously labels and uploads information. It constantly compares any new information it receives to its “library” of collected data, so when you are faced with something outside of your comfort zone like those finals or the dreaded meeting with the boss, it has nothing with which to compare it, and you get that uncomfortable, queasy feeling—your fear of the unknown.

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Percival goes on to say “the more uncomfortable and new experiences you go through, the more your brain realizes that you will be okay, because you did the unknown before and you survived,” so by all brain-logic, you will survive this too. As a result, you feel less stressed and more confident when venturing outside your comfort zone because you have made that place your new norm.

How to get comfortable with being uncomfortable

The more you wade outside of your comfort zone, the easier it becomes. Partaking in regular exercise to reach an athletic goal—whether it’s training for a marathon or building up the stamina to hike the Appalachian Trail, will improve a plethora of areas throughout your life.

Make a goal and write it down. Set up an action plan to work towards that goal. Use the baby-step process if you are a beginner; in other words, if you want to run a marathon and you don’t jog, start by walking. Download a health and fitness app on your phone to track your progress. Join a gym. Consider hiring a professional trainer. Enlist friends and family to help. And always consult your physician before partaking in any rigorous exercise.

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When you do something on a regular basis, it becomes a habit. If you exercise regularly with a set goal in your mind, you will push yourself towards that goal and it will become easier to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Reference

[1] Science of Us: How Exercise Shapes You
[2] Counselling-Directory.Org: Fear of the Unknown and How The Mind Works

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Sally White

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Last Updated on January 16, 2020

12 Simple Ways to Boost Your Confidence Right Now

12 Simple Ways to Boost Your Confidence Right Now

The way you feel about yourself greatly influences how you live and interact with others. If you are confident about yourself, you tend to see yourself positively and actually enjoy spending time with and around people. You don’t feel self-conscious or awkward around others, and that allows you to live your fullest and happiest life.

However, if you’re drowning in a sea of self-doubt, hesitancy and shyness, you often withdraw and isolate yourself from others and avoid interacting and connecting with people. That anxiety you feel in the pit of your stomach when you are around people is holding you back greatly and it is not good for your emotional health and overall well-being. You need to do something about it if you are low in self-confidence or have friends or family members who are not confident.

“Confidence isn’t walking into a room thinking you’re better than everyone, it’s walking in not having to compare yourself to anyone” – Anonymous

Here are simple, practical tips to boost your confidence right now and make you feel and act your best.

1. Stop labeling yourself as awkward, timid or shy.

When you label yourself as awkward, timid or shy, you sub-consciously tell your mind to act accordingly and psychologically feel inclined to live up to those expectations. Instead of labeling and entertaining negative self-talk, visualize and affirm yourself as confident and strong. Close your eyes for a minute and visualize yourself in different situation as you would like to be.

Be your own cheerleader. Experts believe that positive affirmation and good mental practices like picturing yourself winning or achieving a goal can lead to greater feelings of self-assurance and prepare your brain for success.[1] As the saying goes, “seeing is believing.” Picture yourself as confident and soon enough you will begin to manifest behavior that gives evidence to this new ‘fact.’

2. Recognize that the world is not focused on you (unless, of course, you are Kanye West).

That means you don’t have to be excessively sensitive about who you are or what you are doing (or not doing). You are not on the center stage; there is no need for preoccupation with self and perfectionism. As rap music star Rocko sings, “You just do you and I will do me, aight?”

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Forget about trying to please everyone or being perfect. Trying to be perfect and being a people-pleaser puts too much pressure on you and creates unnecessary anxiety. Besides, people are too preoccupied with their own issues to pay much attention to your every move unless, of course, you are a mega famous, super celebrity like Beyonce or Kanye West.

3. Focus on other people as opposed to yourself.

If you are low on confidence, self-conscious, nervous and shy in social situations, focus your attention on other people and what they are saying or doing instead of focusing on your own awkwardness.

For example, think about what it is that is interesting about the person who’s the centre of the party or the guy or girl you are talking with. Prompt them to talk more about themselves and be genuinely curious and interested in what they say. You will instantly come across as confident and warmhearted.

People generally want to talk about themselves, be heard and understood. They will love it when you’re eager and willing to listen to them and really hear what they have to say.

This habit of focusing more on what you love in others as opposed to what you dislike in yourself will not only help you become more assertive and comfortable in virtually all social situations, but also instantly make you feel great about yourself.

4. Know (and accept) yourself for who you are.

Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu, author of the internationally acclaimed book The Art of War, said, “Know yourself and you will win all battles.” Even in the battle with lack of confidence, you will need to know yourself to win.

Knowing yourself starts with understanding that people are not all the same, neither are all social situation suitable for everyone. You might not be confident in large gatherings, but you could be bold and confident in one-on-one and small group interactions. We all have our own unique gifts and unique ways of expressing ourselves. Embrace yours!

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Introverts, for example, have a quiet confidence that is, unfortunately, often confused for shyness. They are naturally low key and prefer to spend time alone. However, this natural disposition affords them certain unique gifts, such as an ability to listen better than most people and notice things that others don’t.

Your uniqueness is where your strength and advantage lies. You won’t be comfortable and confident in all situations all the time. Albert Einstein said,

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

5. Crack a smile.

If there is one sure way to instantly boost your confidence, it’s cracking a smile. Christine Clapp, a public speaking expert at The George Washington University, says that flashing those pretty, pearly white teeth will immediately make you appear both confident and composed. But, the effect of smiling is not just external. Studies show that smiling can also help nix feelings of stress and pave the way for a happier and more relaxed you.[2]

Not a bad return for something seemingly so trite, wouldn’t you agree?

6. Break a sweat—with exercise.

Working out is another great way to make yourself feel amazing and confident. Science has shown that exercising increases your endorphins, helps reduce stress, tones your muscles and makes you feel happy and confident.[3]

And hey, all you have to do is take a walk a few times a week and you’ll see the benefits. What seems to matter—as far as your confidence goes—is whether you break a sweat, not how strenuous your session is, which is pretty cool. Start working out now.

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7. Groom yourself.

This might seem mundane, but it’s amazing how much of a difference a shower and shave can have on your confidence and self-image. And when you spritz on a scent, the boost on confidence and self-esteem is incredible. As it turns out, your favorite fragrance does more than make you smell oh-so-nice.

A study found that a fragrance can inspire confidence in men. Interestingly, the study also found that the more a man likes the fragrance, the more confident he might feel. Another study found that 90% of women feel more confident while wearing a scent than those who go fragrance-free.

8. Dress nicely.

Another one that might seem trite, but it works. If you dress nicely, you’ll instantly feel good about yourself and give your confidence a real boost. That is largely because you’ll feel attractive, presentable and sometimes even successful in nice clothes.

While dressing nicely means something different for everyone, it does not necessarily mean wearing $500 designer outfits. It means wearing clothes that are clean, that you are comfortable in and that are nice-looking and presentable, including casual clothes.

9. Do activities you enjoy.

Whether it is reading a book, playing a musical instrument, riding your bicycle or going fishing, do what you really enjoy and what makes you truly happy often. It will boost your self-esteem, soothe your ego and allow you to identify with your gifts and talents. That will in turn bolster your self-belief and grow your confidence exponentially.

You might not become popular for doing what you love, but you might not even want to be popular at all. Being popular doesn’t make you happy; doing what you love does.

10. Prepare for the possibility of rejection / setback.

Late World No. 1 professional tennis player Arthur Ashe said, “One important key to success is self-confidence. A key to self-confidence is preparation.” You need to prepare for the possibility of rejection and setback.

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Why?

Everybody suffers rejection and setback at one point or another. You are not exempted. The question on your mind, therefore, should not be if you will be rejected, but how you will handle rejection when it comes.

Prepare yourself adequately in every situation to minimize the risk and effect of rejection and so that your confidence is not broken. For example, learn public speaking and rehearse what you are going to say beforehand if you have landed a public speaking engagement. That way, you are sure of yourself and confident you have what it takes to hack it. If you are rejected, don’t take it personally.

Rejection and setbacks happen to the best of us. Take it as a learning experience. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

11. Face uncomfortable situations square in the face.

Don’t run away from uncomfortable situations. Running away from people or situations because you feel scared, shy or timid only confirms and reinforces your shyness. Instead, face the situation that makes you uneasy square in the face. For example, go ahead and talk to that person you are afraid to approach, or go straight to the front of your yoga class! What’s the worst that can happen?

Prepare and be ready for any eventuality. The more you face your fears, the more you realize you are stronger than you thought and the more confident you get. This simple, yet admittedly courageous, act makes you unstoppable. You get comfortable being uncomfortable and begin to feel like you can take on the world. And that is the hallmark of someone destined for great things.

12. Sit up straight and walk tall—you are awesome!

Yes, sit up straight and believe you are awesome. Don’t slump in your chair or slouch your shoulders. Experts say the right stance can not only keep your self-esteem and mood lifted, but also lead to more confidence in your own thoughts.[4]

The way to sit is to open up your chest and keep your head level so that you look and feel poised and assured. And when you get up, stand tall and walk like you’re on a mission. People who sit up straight and walk tall are more attractive and instantly feel more confident. Try it now: you’ll feel fierce and confident just by sitting up straight and walking tall.

Featured photo credit: Freshh Connection via unsplash.com

Reference

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