Growing confidence: How to escape your comfort zone

Written by Varouna Baroud on Wednesday, 06 September 2017. Posted in Self development

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The real risk is doing nothing

Do you thrive in front of the camera?

Do you always know exactly how to behave?

Do you easily strike up casual conversations in big groups?

If your answer to those questions is yes, you and I are very different people. 

I am a naturally shy person. That's not always a handy feature, especially in my line of work. It can make it difficult to step out of my comfort zone. But a while ago I had to do that twice in one week: I posted my first blog and taped my first vlog.

Expanding your comfort zone

Don't get me wrong. I love being a trainer. I love doing research and developing workshops. I love sharing experiences with participants. I feel butterflies in my stomach every time I see someone having an “aha-moment”. I love it so much that I gave up a great job  (that I also loved) to pursue training as a fulltime a career. 

But just because I am passionate about something, doesn't mean it all comes naturally. It doesn’t.  As I discovered, being a coach comes with some major challenges for my personality. Challenges that at times make me wonder: why do I do this again?

I know why I want to share our message about ownership and being passionate about life. But as everyone knows (and as I probably should have realized sooner) the accepted way to get a message across in a workshop is being in front of a group of people and talking about it. And that is exactly something I am not comfortable with at all.

comfort zone 1

Exposure

When I just started, it was bad. I would get so worked up, I felt physically sick. My mouth got dry, my voice squeaky and I knew everyone noticed. But I wanted to be a trainer more than I wanted to hide so I learned some tricks to control my nerves. Like telling myself that that nervous feeling is not pure angst (it is though) but excitement about what you are about to do. (Honestly,  this really helps, so thanks, Simon Sinek). But still, those first few minutes, that sinking feeling always creeps up on me. 

The second thing I overlooked is that nowadays THE way of delivering your message to “your market” en getting sign-ups for workshops is blogging and Vlogging.

I love writing as much as I love training. In fact, when I was younger I fantasized about being a writer. I even wrote a letter to a famous Dutch, elderly, children book writer (Annie MG Schmidt) saying I would take over her writing after she died. (I know, not very subtle but I was ambitious). I never stopped enjoying writing. So blogging itself isn’t the problem. Posting my blogs is. Obviously, pretending that you are a reasonable writer is a lot easier when you avoid any chance of people criticizing you.

So when I posted my first blog I did what I do best when I feel insecure: freak out. I was stressing about some editing mistakes I couldn’t change right away. Luckily my friend was there to reassure me that it was ok because (in his words): “Really Varouna, no one is going to read them anyway”

 Being vulnerable

He meant that night (I hope) but it helped me to put things in perspective. It wasn’t like the world was glued to their screen, awaiting my blog, pen in hand, ready to start sifting through my mistakes.

Although indeed not many people read it (yet), some did. I get some really nice feedback that helps me improve my writing.  Also, I learned that if you want to reach people with your message, giving them a chance to actually read what I write, turns out to more effective than just keep saving my blogs on my desktop folder. Who knew....

Vlogging is my Everest though.  Since my teenage years, I've resented every picture taken. Of course, it wasn’t the photo’s I felt unhappy about. It was myself I didn’t want to be confronted with. Every “”say cheese” moment was a reminder that deep down inside I didn’t feel I was beautiful enough, likable enough, worthy enough. 

Since then I worked hard on getting comfortable with myself. For the most part, I can say now I am quite content with most of being me. With the me that is self-conscious about her southern accent, that always spills food when she is wearing white (or clothes in general), even with the me that over-shares when she feels uncomfortable.

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Experience = growth

Nevertheless, I never became a fan of my own image. So I stubbornly came up with every excuse I could think of to avoid vlogging. I felt sick, I was busy, I didn't have inspiration, let someone else go first. Unfortunately my manager just as stubbornly ignored my apps about stoically kept rescheduling the appointment until I ran out of excuses. 

I had no choice to collect all my courage and face my fears. And I was not a natural talent. I stuttered, waved with my hands, frowned a lot. But when I was done, I felt so happy!  As always when I try something I think I can’t do. I didn't care about the result, I was proud I tried. Granted, that high usually lasts a day and then I go back to pick it apart. But that initial feeling that is why I try. Despite my nervousness, my discomfort, my insecurity.  It might be a cliché, but it works.

Avoidance will never grow confidence in yourself. Sticking your neck out and risk making a fool of yourself or failing will. You need to offer yourself these experiences to be able to discover what you are really capable of.

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