There’s a plethora of “inspirational” Pinterest quotes about stepping out of your comfort zone floating around on the internet. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone! Feel the fear and do it anyway! Nothing great ever came out of the comfort zone! While sometimes those quotes motivate me and remind me to participate in life, they aren’t always entirely useful. Of course, the “Ditch your comfort zone” mentality is, in theory, a great idea (I definitely have a small arsenal of quotes saved to my photo library to use as phone lock screens) a lot of the time there isn’t a lot of content on what that even means. In this past year, I’ve taken strides to define the realities of what it means to challenge yourself in ways that aren’t part of my ideal day.
For starters, I’m completely and entirely a homebody. Nothing is better for me than being at home and in my own space. I suffer from anxiety, and a lot of that comes out while I’m in public, making it hard for me to do things that might seem like normal things to other people, like ordering at a fast food place in the mall. I took a lot of time to think about where my anxiety is stemming from, and I basically realized it’s the fear of the unknown. It’s the inability to predict how someone might react to my actions, and that’s what causes me to withdraw. It’s so much easier to not put myself in situations that might trigger my social anxiety than it is to just take the risk. So, my comfort zone has become a very small and limited circle.
In probably late July the horrifying thought of my impending graduation dawned on me. I’m super excited to graduate and finally feel like “a real adult”, but I also realized that I’m not entirely prepared for the work force. I’ve only had two part-time jobs in my life, one that I still currently work at, and throughout my University career I’ve thrown myself into that job, sometimes allowing it to become a larger priority than other opportunities in my life. Unfortunately, my part-time job will not become my career, but I put enough emphasis on it that it felt like it would. So, now I’m at the end of my undergrad with not much experience under my belt. This is why I’ve taken the last two semesters to try and branch out and learn new things. There has been a lot of failures, but also a lot of success!
The first thing I thought to do was to get a new part time job. I thought if I could separate myself from the thing that I was tethered too, I might be able to see my future goals more clearly. I took to Indeed and submitted a bunch of resumes (well, more like four) to a few other places that I thought would be fun to work at. I got a total of zero responses. That was pretty disheartening. I was bummed out about it until one day I got an email from the University advertising the VIP-CSL program. Essentially, it’s a volunteer opportunity that goes onto your academic transcript once you complete the program. It’s great for those who don’t have room for co-ops in their degree audit. It also does more than just give you co-op-like opportunities; there’s workshops (also found on MySuccess that are open to anyone) interview processes, resume critiques, and presentations to help you better shape your career path. It was a really big leap for me, but I applied and got accepted into the program! I got experience working as a volunteer article writer and it really helped my confidence (ps. the program is looking for applicants now for the fall semester, so if you’re someone like me, I’d recommend giving this a shot).
Next, I enrolled in Bounce Back at the University. This program is like an extra class that gives you tools on how to manage your workload and learn methods to help you achieve better grades. It’s amazing for any year of study that you’re in, because I took three years to finally admit that the way I was handling University wasn’t working to my benefit. It was actually a bit of an emotional experience, at least for me, and really helped me become a better student. I learned things that I still apply to my everyday life, both on and off campus.
Joining Her Campus was actually another big jump out of my comfort zone. I was definitely one of those students who thought school clubs were “lame” and pretended I didn’t have any interest in them. In reality, I think I was just scared of rejection, not fitting in, or getting stuck with something that I ended up not enjoying. As it would turn out, all those thoughts were really just my anxiety trying to make me second guess myself. After finishing the VIP-CSL and Bounce Back programs without any problems, I realized that maybe stepping out and doing stuff I’d never done before wasn’t going to be as difficult as I let myself believe, and that I should stop thinking of the worst case scenarios that could happen and start imagining all the good things that could come out of a new experience.
I’ve had a few other failures other than just not getting a few interviews at jobs, like not being accepted for a job shadowing opportunity at the University. While those things did get me feeling a bit sorry for myself, I also realized even if something doesn’t go the way I wanted it to, there’s always gonna be another opportunity waiting for me. So maybe spending a little time creating motivation boards on Pinterest isn’t always a bad thing. Maybe the vague, inspirational quotes are just the jumping point to something bigger!