October 1, 2018
I never really got why that was a saying and why it was supposed to be good for you. Why would I willingly step out of my comfort zone? I wanted to be comfy!!!! When I was a young girl, my “comfy” was my mom! I was a mama’s girl, text book. And I was kind of a wuss kid. At some point I was a tad tomboy too. Always balancing that fine line and learning to stand up for myself. I grew up with a mom who encouraged travel and independence. For a while I wasn’t sure if or why I needed that in my life.
When I look back, I realize two huge, life changing experiences that involved travel and independence and without a doubt shaped me into the me I am today. The first was my junior year of high school, Fall 1992, when I hopped on a plane to study abroad through the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program. I was among friends, four to be exact, and on my way to live in Israel for 8 weeks. I was ready, I was nervous, I was excited, and I was a smidge maybe even scared to be so far away from home. This was an adventure I would remember for the rest of my life. It grew me tremendously.
The second experience was the summer of my junior year of college, July 1997. I again hopped on a plane for another study abroad program, but this time through Florida State University. I got to live in Paris for a month with about 30 other Noles to study the language and the history. None of us knew each other, but that quickly changed.
With both experiences, I found myself very slowly developing and soon embracing a subtle leadership quality that came from a place of genuinely wanting to make friends while also genuinely wanting to create a place for others to feel comfortable and feel that sense of belonging that we all want. We would explore the city in large groups, all looking out for each other, and sticking together, and making memories, some that should never be put in writing. We grew close fast. We were all in the same boat. We traveled outside our home country to explore another. The experiences are a part of me still.
In Israel, it took me the first 4 weeks to realize there were more than 70 other people in our group and I hardly knew them. At that point, I easily stepped out of my comfort zone (my four friends) and took interest in everyone else. And I still have a handful of those friends in my life today! What if I didn’t take that chance? And in Paris, I knew no one….not one single person. What did I do? I talked to people and made friends, this was really outside my comfort zone. We were all in it together. And I still have a couple friends from that group too. They all have a place in my heart.
Then the biggest jump of all (it was way more than a ‘step’) was moving away from my mom and my roots, from FL to VA, in Dec. 1999. I still can’t believe I did that!!!! I was in between jobs and needed one. It worked out perfectly that I landed one here in Northern VA. I could not have done it without my sister who already lived out here. She took me in and gave me a wonderful foundation to build my new life.
I since learned that it is these huge, life changing “steps” outside my comfort zone that grew me most. They put me out in that briefly uncomfortable spot only to have an opportunity to shape it into what I wanted, and what made me feel comfortable with the newness of it. It was creating new experiences, and new opportunities. It was meeting new people and making new choices. All in tune with the three pillars of boosting confidence: (1) try something new, (2) make a new friend, and (3) learn a new skill. I was constantly toggling from one pillar to another, being fueled by the process, and found growth within me as a curious human being wanting to make a better life for myself and those around me.
I tried something new when I traveled abroad, twice at different stages of my life. I learned new skills when I tested out my independence and made choices where I only needed permission from myself. I heard my mom’s voice in the back of my head saying I trust your judgement. And I began to let myself trust myself. I made new friends, hand-picked by me. I learned to be more of an adult and manage my life, education, time, and money more responsibly. I learned I like to challenge myself to always grow as a person.
With that, I felt more confident as I entered each new chapter of life going forward. I built more confidence as I learned about myself from each experience, and that confidence cultivated more confidence to take on the next chapter. It is a continuously fabulous cycle of growth that gives me the tools to always move forward and learn more. I want to share it with the world that it is okay and even healthy to step out of your comfort zone. It nourishes your mind and thirst for the world. So I challenge YOU to step out of your comfort zone and tell us all about it!