Before the pandemic, I lived a lot in my head. I spent too much time worrying about what other people thought about me and how they perceived me. This often meant I would not reach out to friends, make plans, or put myself in new situations out of fear of being ridiculed or rejected. However, once these choices were taken away from me and interacting with people (at least in-person) was impossible due to the pandemic, I found myself craving social interaction in a way I had never experienced before. I felt I had wasted so much precious time not seeking out interactions when I could have had them.
In a world where it already feels like there is never enough time, it is challenging, to say the least, during this pandemic to avoid feeling as if I am watching my life pass by me. Being in your early 20s is meant to be a period full of growth, excitement, and youthfulness, however, I could not help but feel negatively about missing out on experiences and wishing I had done more before the pandemic began. I was angry at myself for all the times in the past that I cancelled plans or made excuses to get out of an event.
Eventually, I realized I could not go back and change my past, but I could change my future. I could choose to worry less and spend more time living. After all, life is too short to spend it worrying so much. Once in-person activities started again, I resolved to care less about what others thought about me. I decided I would step outside of my comfort zone, which meant saying yes to new friends and new experiences, saying what was on my mind, and going out of my way to build and strengthen relationships. This completely changed my life.
Stepping outside of my comfort zone in this way and letting my guard down has allowed me to build deeper connections with others. For example, instead of worrying so much that someone would say no to making plans with me, I pushed myself to ask anyway. Instead of saying no to new experiences out of a desire not to put myself in uncomfortable situations, I said yes anyway. Saying yes to new things and new people dramatically changed my relationships. My existing relationships grew stronger, and I was able to build new long-lasting connections that would not have otherwise happened, all thanks to this mindset shift about stepping out of my comfort zone.
While I may have thought I was in control of my life by never putting myself in uncomfortable situations, in reality, I was holding myself back and letting my anxiety control me. While the pandemic came with many challenges, I am grateful for the time it gave me to reflect on the areas of my life that I wanted to change I know it may not be easy, but if I can impart any advice to you, it is this: get comfortable with being uncomfortable; it just might change your life.