Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

It was my birthday this week. And there comes a point, when, as the day approaches, we ignore the number and instead reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. I think that’s the best time to make resolutions for the next year. To me, there’s something more personal and “obtainable” about the goals when they start on a meaningful day rather than an arbitrary one like New Year’s.

So earlier this month, that introspection set in. (Well, more than usual. Introverts are typically big on the introspection thing.) And my subconscious informed me it was time to step out of my comfort zone. “But how?” I asked.

You see, I’m not someone who’s good at making huge changes or decisions on the spur of the moment. (Although the decision to accept a job offer and move to Maryland 7 years ago was made in an afternoon….) I’m a good Libra that way, even though I don’t put any stock in astrology. But surely I could handle some tentative baby steps outside my normal box, right? Maybe get a fresh look on the world?

Maybe “steps” and “look” were literally the key. Because after years of buying walking shoes that looked like these:

Could these be any plainer?

And clothes with colors like these:

Could these colors be any “safer?”

I bought these new walking shoes:

And these new pants:

I may not know much about fashion and style, but I promise I won’t wear the new shoes with the new pants.

Some of you might laugh at such a small change. But it’s a big one for me. Bold colors attract the eye, and I’m not one to draw attention to myself. But today, I’ll wear these pants to DC. Will anyone notice? Point at me and laugh? I doubt it. But I’ll be thinking it. I’ll be stepping out of my comfort zone. Baby steps to be sure. But I’m taking them. It’s a start.

How about you? Can you try new things on the spur of the moment? Or do you need to think long and hard before you do?

67 thoughts on “Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

  1. I am the quintessential Libra as well. I have trouble doing things on the spur of the moment. I have to weigh each and every decision as though my life depends on it. I prefer that safety net because when I don’t have a habit or a routine to rely on, I flounder.

    My baby steps have a lot to do with my writing. The comfort zone I stayed in for so many years was when I simply wrote for myself. I always imagined being published and successful, but for the longest time I never did anything proactive to get my writing out there. That included querying agents. I always had “one more round of revisions” to do.

    Blogging was a baby step for me, and it turned into something that I do every day, something that I enjoy doing. Suddenly that baby step turned into a big accomplishment.

    Sometimes I wish I could be more of a risk-taker, to not think so much about decisions. When I overthink I stop myself in my tracks. Being a busy mom has actually helped combat this flaw. If I’m too busy and distracted by my kids’ lives then I don’t have the time to overthink my own stuff. I’m more likely to just jump into something because if I don’t do it right away, I know I’ll forget to do it later. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at some of the decisions I have made on the spur of the moment. Not all of them, but some.

    Enjoy your day in DC in your smashing red pants! :) I’m really relieved that you know they wouldn’t look cool with those sneakers.

    • Even a “simple” decision like “where should we go for lunch?” can be tough for me. Although sometimes I wonder if part of that is also my innate belief that I should let others have what they want first…. Ack, there’s a whole other post topic in itself!

      Blogging for me, too, was one of those baby steps. I’m not published—what do I say? Who will want to read it? But happily, it’s working out for me, too. And like you, I view it as a major accomplishment.

      I try not to think about the querying process too much for when I finish Death Out of Time. Having queried too soon with the other WIP, I’m even more hesitant to jump into it again—even though I should be feeling better prepared this time around. But if I think about it too much, I’ll probably convince myself the manuscript is still not ready. And I don’t want that to happen, either.

      Having children must really force introverts out of the comfort zone. All the interactions with their friends, teachers, coaches, and whoever else must be a workout. But it’s probably a very good thing to happen, and I’ve missed out on it. ;)

      It’ll soon be time to change into those new pants for the day. I won’t stand out, I won’t stand out, I won’t stand out….

      • So, how did it go yesterday in your new pants? I was thinking about you, actually, throughout the day, and paying attention to all the little things I am forced to do against my natural inclination to hide. There is a heckuva lotta stuff I do these days that I never imagined I’d ever do 10 years ago. Things that seem so inconsequential on the surface, but that really affect my anxiety levels.

        • It went fine, like I should have know all along it would. It was a tough day to judge fall styles because a lot of tourists were still in shorts or blue jeans. But I wasn’t going to wear those to a play. I did see a few other women with bold-colored pants (red, kelly green), and I don’t think anyone paid any attention to mine. :)

          I will wear them again and will try to add some more “out there” colors and patterns to the wardrobe. And maybe I can find additional places to take more baby steps. I think this round of Poetic Archaeology qualifies. Writing bits of a short story each week and posting them on the blog with minimal editing? That’s taking a chance, right?

          Maybe we’ll never get over the raised anxiety levels when we do something contrary to our nature. But as long as we still find a way to do it, I think we’ve made progress. We’ve both queried agents for our WIPs. A lot of introverts would never find the courage to do that. And even though neither of us had the ultimate success on the first round, we’re trying again, not giving up and hiding. We should be proud of that. :)

  2. Happy belated birthday! You know, I bought a pair of Sketchers a few months ago that look a lot like your new shoes. I think mine might be a bit brighter green. :-) My hubby said he NEVER thought I’d buy something so bold. Funny thing is, if I had the money to buy the clothes I really wanted, I’d buy bolder things, not necessarily in color but also style.

    See, I’m a Leo, through and through. My personality borders on Cancer and Leo – I’m pretty quiet until you get to know me, and then I love to talk. I walk a fine line between conservative and eccentric. I like to make a statement while remaining classy.

    I’m quite opinionated around my immediate family. Not so much around friends and certainly not strangers. I button up pretty fast, not because I’m afraid of offending anyone, but because I feel no one will give a rat’s behind what I have to say. Walking into a room and just talking to strangers is very difficult for me BECAUSE I think I’m very uninteresting and boring. I think that’s why I like writing so much. I can express, elaborate, get angry, cry, and my characters are all so willing to participate in my mood swings and act out what I think and feel. I dont’ have to worry about getting my feelings hurt or hurting others.

    If I could let go of my cocoon, I would be an amazing butterfly. After these many years, however, I don’t know if I have what it takes to shatter the chrysalis. It would be fun to find out.

    What say you, my archaelogist friend? Up for a walk on the wild side? :-)

    • Hmm, you’ve just described a few of my personality traits…. I also can’t imagine that anyone would find me or my life at all interesting. That’s one reason I’m quiet around strangers. But I’m also shy, don’t want to embarrass myself, don’t want to get into heated discussions…. Thank heaven I can get past some of that for blogging! Because I really enjoy the connections with people I’ve met here!

      I love the way so many “bolder” clothes look on other women. But it’s hard for me to shake the idea that they don’t work for me. Even when people say they love an outfit, I still wonder if they’re just being nice. If there was one personality trait I could change, that would probably be it!

      And some of my characters also get to express feelings and thoughts that I never would dare to do. Will people think it’s the writer peeking through? Maybe not—I don’t always agree with what some of those mains, supportings, and minors are saying. :)

      Ah, yes, alone in my head I’m strong, witty, and confident in myself and abilities. When I’m with others…. I’m a great listener. :)

      Give me a few stiff drinks and a group of people bold enough for that wild side, and you might find me joining in. :)

  3. I took a class once specifically targeting moving outside of your comfort zone. The instructor put us in uncomfortable situations where we were in danger of embarrassing ourselves, or downright humiliating to learn that we would survive and life would go on. She also said if you drive the same route every day to work, change it out occasionally. Part your hair on a different side. Brush your teeth with your left hand. Baby steps. A salute to red pants!

    • Good for you for taking that class! I probably would be too shy to sign up. ;) That fear of embarrassment and humiliation is really strong in me.

      One of the scariest things I ever did outside my comfort zone was take myself on the Metro to DC for a job interview with a federal agency. Somehow I managed to get through it. And it went well. Unfortunately they had decided they needed someone with specific experience that I didn’t have, so I didn’t get the position. But I was proud of myself for making the attempt. I just wish I could keep that feeling in mind more often when I do something unfamiliar!

      I’m seeing red pants in a lot of catalogs this fall. I’m hoping I’m not the one person who decided to buy into the season’s flop! ;)

  4. I’m a creature of habit myself. Although I’m decisive and can make decisions quickly, they are usually the safe ones.

    Good for you for shaking things up. I’m sure you’ll rock those red pants!

    • In crunch time, I can make decisions. And I can lead at those times if necessary. That’s probably a biological response from our ancestral days as just another link in the food chain.

      But, yes, I will almost always take the safe course of action. Although I didn’t do that with this “writing thing.” I’m glad I’m putting myself out there with the blog and, ultimately, the books. Until, of course, nobody reads them and the few who do leave scathing reviews! ;)

      Once I see other women wearing the “in” bold colors this season, I’ll breathe a deep sigh of relief. Please let others be wearing bold colors today, please let others be wearing bold colors today….

  5. I had a birthday last week too, and while I don’t put much into astrology some of the personality traits are accurate. Go Libras :) Happy birthday to you, and I think your new shoes and pants are fabulous. Everything starts with baby steps!

    • It’s tough to fit those Libra traits sometimes. All that weighing of options and resulting indecision…. No wonder we drive people nuts sometimes! Can’t we just make a simple decision once in a while?!

      Thanks for the vote of confidence!

  6. J, love the new shoes! Happy belated birthday, btw. I want some like this. Mine are plain old gray/white ones and I don’t have any red pants — I want some now. I’m a Taurus so I’m pretty stubborn about change myself, but I do love luxury. ;). Your changes have already set others in motion. :).

    • Hey, Brigitte, I really love the shoes. :) Mainly because they’re good for walking! But the color’s fun, too, now that I’m getting used to them. And nobody laughed at the red pants today—even though most tourists were still in shorts. But hubs and I were going to a play and dinner, so I wasn’t dressing that casually! A few other women were in brightly colored pants, too, so I didn’t feel like I stood out too much. Whew!

      But the red pants made me feel “bright” and that was definitely enjoyable. :)

  7. Happy belated birthday! I think some of the best things I’ve ever done for myself grew out of pushing outside my comfort zone. For me, it was taking a temp position in a field I’d never even considered. I did it because I needed a job, but it turned out very well. It isn’t easy for me to go nudge myself from my comfort zone, but I’m finding that the more often I do it and have it turn out well, the more willing I am to keep trying things like that.

    • If I could better remember the good feelings from previous trips outside my comfort zone, I’d probably do it much more often. But I have this annoying tendency to forget the good and remember the bad in those instances. Arrgh! I am working on it, and maybe now I can get myself to step out more often. Nothing bad or embarrassing happened today, after all. So I’ve got to keep going forward and push myself a little more.

      • I’m the same way. I have so much trouble remembering the good things, but I swear, I remember every bad thing that has ever happened in my life. :(

        I think we’re all working on it though. Just part of being human. We’ll all get there in the end. :)

        • As I just said to Kate above, we should be proud of the fact that we keep trying. Some people would let the bad memories paralyze them or keep them from trying something else. We may never be the “best” or have everything come more easily for us, but we’re still moving forward. :)

    • I hope other readers agree with you because I’m trying to do more posts about “me” now and again. :) And if I think red pants are a big decision, you can imagine how hard it is for this introvert to be more open in a blog! But you’re right—little changes can lead to big things. And now that I’ve started, I need to continue forward. I will undoubtedly make mistakes, but I have to remember they’re not the end of the world!

  8. Happy birthday, JM! And BTW, I spent a lot of time reading your novel yesterday… I was having trouble critiquing it because it read like a commercial novel right off the shelf!

    I love the new shoes and new pants. I am a Leo and don’t have a problem attracting attention. We kind of like it. ; ) But learning to do new things that I’m not inclined towards is very difficult sometimes. I make myself do it because I know it’s good for me. Sometimes it works out very well, sometimes not. But I always get something out of it.

    I did science-y stuff this week. It was a big step outside of my comfort zone–I was terrified that I would make a mistake and screw up the entire process. But I am happy to report that I survived. (And I’m glad to be getting back to writing this week… it’s like comfort food.)

    Have fun in D.C. in your red pants!

    • Oh, I wouldn’t mind some of that Leo confidence in attracting attention to myself! It might make the query process and the marketing work a little less stressful when those days come. ;) I guess it’s good that we all have different strengths. The science-y stuff wouldn’t bother me too much. But something like customer service would have me shaking in my boots. Dealing with people all day? Yikes! I could probably do it if I had to, but like you, I’d have a hard time because it wouldn’t be my natural inclination.

      DC was a great time, as always. And I didn’t feel like anyone was staring at me when we went to the play and dinner. Whew. Successful baby steps. ;)

      And you’ve made my ego very happy with your comments on the manuscript. :) I know it needs some more work, but I’m hoping this round of comments will lead to the last major fixes and then I can work on polishing. So don’t hold back when you notice things that need work!

  9. Right in style, baby! I just bought red shoes for my big day! The dark, plain colors provide comfort, but bright colors make you feel alive! It’s okay to have both though. ;)

    • Oh, good, ’cause I trust your fashion sense, cuz! My mom had me a little worried up there with her comment about a guy wearing them! :) I really do love color. As you say, it makes us feel alive. But I always have this nagging doubt about how it looks on me. Grrr. I want to lose the doubt. :)

    • Thanks, Char! It’s so nice to hear such reassuring comments. Maybe I should have added a poll asking if women in the audience are going for the bold colors this fall. :)

    • I did okay, I think. I didn’t die of embarrassment, and I didn’t feel like people were pointing or making fun of me—even though most tourists were still in shorts or jeans. But we went to a play, so I wasn’t going to be that casual! :) And I did see a few other women with brightly colored “bottoms,” so I wasn’t alone. I will wear them again in public. :)

  10. You know what, at some point you have to stop caring too much what people think and go your own way. Most of the time, people will think what they want anyway. For me if you had mentioned to me 6 or 7 years ago, that right now I would be married, living in the US, with a son who is almost two years old, I would have laughed at you. But that is what happened, so at some point during that period I just learned to take it as it comes and get on with it. So however weird e.g. doing pre-birth classes in the US just months after the experience of moving here was, well, that is what it was. Fun, new, weird, educational, and more.

    So good on the baby steps, and don’t let it stop there.

    • You are sounding a lot like my husband—he was telling me not to worry about other people and to wear and do things I enjoy. Logically, I know you’re both right. It’s getting past that mental block about embarrassment and not fitting in.

      Sometimes we find the greatest happiness and enjoyment on the least-expected paths. Now if I can remember that and continue with some more of those baby steps….

      • I think I’m long past the point about caring whether I fit in or not. Some people in life will like you, or find you interesting, others will not. That is just the way it is. There is no point caring about those who don’t. Try it, it is very liberating.

  11. Happy birthday, JM! I, too, use my birthday as a marker, to look back on the road traveled in the past year, and to take a bead on where I want to go in the coming year. While I don’t like surprises sprung on me by others, I have no trouble changing direction on a dime, frequently with not much apparent thought beforehand. As a meditator, however, I know that my mind goes lots of places in the quiet and stillness, and that guidance is what comes to my aid in my apparently whimsical decisions.

    Love the red pants and the sneakers. If I wore sneakers, I’d get a pair like that since green is my favorite color! My sweet husband is a Libra – his birthday is coming up this week. I’m darn lucky he found me and held on! xoxoM

    • There are times I wish I could be more spontaneous in my decision making. Really, choosing a place for lunch should not be a major undertaking! But I can turn it into one, especially if everyone around me is saying, “I don’t care, where do you want to go?”

      And then when I make a big decision, there is that nagging little voice asking, “did I make the right one?” Even when I know I did, or at least made the best decision I could at the time with the information I had. Fortunately, knowing I did the best I could means I manage to avoid too many feelings of regret.

      I enjoyed the play and dinner, and as far as I can tell, no one noticed what I was wearing. So I’ll continue to wear those red pants! :) (And the green sneakers when I do my exercise walks!)

  12. Happy Birthday! I do something similar each year around my birthday. I pull out photo albums and skip down memory lane remembering who I’ve been and who i want to be. :) I love the new sneaks and pants. Color is so in. You’ll look fabulous!

    • Thanks, Kourtney. :) Since I’m responding on Sunday, I obviously didn’t die of embarrassment yesterday. I’m pretty darn sure few people even took a first look, let alone a second. ;)

      Now, I just have to keep it up. Try another few baby steps in another direction, too. Prepare to enter the query waters again when I wrap up a polished manuscript of Death Out of Time. That is so outside my comfort zone! :)

  13. Happy birthday for last week! It’s good to go out of your comfort zone now and again. I quite often have to do that with the acting I do. Some of the things you have to do at auditions and castings are terrifying (for me anyway!) – I went to a casting a little while ago which was an advert for a bank, just photos, not a TV advert – first they asked me to pose as if I was putting coins into a money box, that was fine, and what I was expecting. But then the lady said “OK, we also want to try you out for this other thing which will be photos of people at a music festival, it’s just for examples of what fun you could have if you save your money carefully, so I’m going to put some music on and you just dance around as if you’re having fun at a music festival” – no time to think about it, she just put the music on and I had to dance around on my own looking like I was having fun, in front of 6 strangers who were just sitting there watching me, and taking a few notes and photos. Aggghhh, I’m reliving the awfulness of it again now!

    I tend to find that I can make bigger decisions much easier than smaller ones. Some of my major life decisions have been made in an instant, and yet if I’m trying to decide what to order from a menu in a restaurant, I can be there for hours!

    • Auditioning would be so difficult for me—I’m sure I couldn’t do it. I had a hard enough time with the little plays we did in grade school!

      Job interviews are stressful enough, and I haven’t had to do many of those. But it’s not like you can audition once or twice and keep them “on file” to use for other acting jobs! Nearly every job must require another audition. It’s hard for me to think that someone who can audition and perform on stage could find other things difficult to do. But kudos to you for getting through that fear and discomfort! :)

      And I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a hard time deciding where and what to eat. ;)

  14. Happy belated birthday! I know what you mean about stepping out of the comfort zone. I’m not good at that. When I bought my last pair of sneakers, I thought I was really making a drastic change when instead of ordering the exact same model as usual, in white, I got the exact same model as usual, in grey. So yeah, I understand baby steps. Good for you!! How does it feel so far?

    • When it comes to footwear, a comfortable model trumps color and style. Ryka’s work well for me, and I never should have tried some other brands. These are comfortable and have good support, so I’ll stick with this model as long as it’s available—even if a future option will only be colors I hate!

      I feel good that I survived the day and didn’t feel too self-conscious about my clothes. And I’m actually going to wear the red pants into the office tomorrow and see if anyone says anything. ;) Now to think of something else that will force me out of that comfort zone, even just the littlest bit….

  15. Happy late birthday! I’m a creature of habit: I generally tend to buy black shoes so they’ll go with everything and I don’t have to worry about colour coordination. I’m sure you’ll look great in them all!

    • Thanks, Ravena. :) Sometimes I seem to be torn between a desire to stubbornly go my own way and to be “like” others around me. It makes my brain a battleground sometimes! ;)

  16. This is absolutely wonderful. I LOVE the colours! Happy Birthday for last week :D

    I decided on Friday that I’m going to retire next year and write full time. It took me about an hour to decide/pick the date/ tell my boss /tell hubby/and start packing to go back to the farm :D

    • Wow, I can’t even begin to imagine how long the retirement decision will take me! :) My husband has spreadsheets with different scenarios set out based on where our savings could be at various dates. I think this means we’ll be prepared when the time comes. ;)

      But writing full-time would be an amazing opportunity. Or will you find yourself spending a lot of that time renovating the farmhouse?! :)

      • I’m hoping the farmhouse will be finished (yes- this is a BIG stretch of the imagination) but even if it’s not it’ll be good because I’ll need to get up from my laptop and get stuck into some physical work, which I love :D

  17. I’m a Libra myself — I guess that may have influenced my slow but steady approach toward personal growth. I started fantasizing about writing musicals more than 10 years ago, and finally started writing one, which I am currently producing, about a year ago. I’ve resolved to pick up the pace. :)

    • Hi, Chris, thanks for joining the discussion! We Libras don’t rush into things, do we? And when I first started writing my first novel, I didn’t think I’d actually finish it. Now I’ve got two I’m revising/polishing for publication—whatever form that takes.

      Like you said, the pace should pick up. And if we fail? We’ll learn from what didn’t work and move forward. Quick baby steps will still beat non-existent strides, right? :)

  18. This reminds me a little of the movie “The Man with One Red Shoe” – remember that one? Hopefully you weren’t chased around by international spies for wearing those red pants, although something like that would really get a person out of that comfort zone! I’d like to think that I’m a spur of the moment person, but most of the time I don’t think I am. Then again, I haven’t really figured myself out yet either. Now you’re inspiring me to try something crazy… Hope you had a fun birthday!

    • Ooh, if I could survive the spy chase, it would be some great novel fodder, wouldn’t it? :) I can’t say that I was chased by any on Saturday, but they could have been around…. Hey, I was in DC!

      The birthday was fun, and you should do something crazy now! Ha, that’s easy for me to say—not always to do. :)

      • That’s true – they might have been spying on you! I’ll have to think of something crazy enough now and will let you know when I do. Of course, it’s always hard for me to think of these things so it might take a while. ;)

  19. Wow! Since my stroke, I step out of my box all the time! Sometimes, it’s not even intentional!!!
    But I do remember how hard it was to do any changes and I do know now how hard it is for me to begin something due to memory and things. So, while I do it a lot, I still remember how hard it was and still is, to a degree.
    Baby steps – you got it!
    Scott

    • I can’t imagine what it would be like to have an event change my very being in so many ways. I saw an interview once with a former neurosurgeon who had a stroke. Afterwards she left medicine behind and focused on art, something she had never done. Then there are the resulting effects on the people around us. It’s hard for me to imagine.

      But even small steps forward are better than standing still or turning back from a desired goal. :)

    • Thanks, David. :) Soon, I’ll blend in here, too. The colors are starting early this fall, I think. Yellows and bronzes are dominant right now, but crimson maples shouldn’t be far behind….

  20. Happy Birthday!
    Somehow red is perfect for you now. You just seem to be that vibrant.
    Red makes you feel great – it’s energizing – and it is wardrobe basic like black. People are drawn to someone wearing red. Others assume someone wearing red is full of confidence.(One reason it’s good for shy people to wear red…it’s sort of fake it until it’s natural…)
    Wear red with those wonderful shoes – no problem!
    Can’t hide anymore, you’re a writer: gotta dress eccentric /artistic to fit the part, right? The greatest excuse to have fun!
    Anyway, have a fabulous week…maybe we’ll start calling you Scarlet?

    • It’s certainly easier for me to express myself through written words. But I can come across as sociable and vibrant in person when I need to. I’m just exhausted after the fact. Which I guess makes me a true introvert. ;)

      I have wondered about what clothes I would wear if I “made it” as a published author. I’ve read that a lot of authors wear different clothes for interviews, taking on a role themselves. Not that I’ll ever reach that point, but I can understand the attraction of taking on a “character” for those awkward events! I might try to be like some of my more extroverted characters….

      Hmm, Scarlet…. I’m not a southern belle or Hester Prynne, but it’s a good extroverted name…. :)

      • All the world’s a stage. (But can identify with the exhaustion after the effort)
        Think you would be best dressing in deep rich jewel tones…pastel just seem a little wimpy for someone strong enough to dig in the dirt?
        Really enjoyed the post

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