• Kathryn Foot

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Throughout my career I have had to push myself out of my comfort zone to progress, and despite my confident facade, I have had so many fears and a nagging inner critic always there, telling me I am not quite good enough, or I can't do it...

Where this comes from I am not sure, but I know I am not alone.

For the past 18 months I have had the pleasure to train women from all walks in life, and one thing that never surprises me is their lack of confidence - to apply for that role, to get that promotion, to ask for that payrise - it's all too familiar.

When I look back on my career, there are so many things I have been scared of.

As a twenty-something, I hated delivering presentations, in fact I actually avoided them and delegated this task to anyone and everyone but me - yet I am now a trainer, and I'm told I'm a good one too.

I recall the first time I had to appear on camera, delivering an online course, and I cried the rain because I just couldn't do it. I mean I was actually awful. Now I train staff to deliver online, and can confidently talk to camera and deliver webinars without hesitation.

These are just two examples (trust me there are so many more). Both left me feeling sick to my stomach and caused me genuine anxiety.

I relunctantly faced these challenges. I developed coping strategies to improve and I celebrated the smallest of steps when progress was made. For example, with online delivery, I learnt my script, verbatim. Knowing the content gave me some security. And when I successfully filmed one section, I gave myself a virtual high five. The next section was then easier. I became more aware of my destructive inner voice, and would answer it back "don't tell me I can't do this, who are you to judge me?!" - a bit cheesy I know but my goodness it worked. Finally I accepted that it was OK to make a mistake. When I deliver webinars now, I get tongue tied and trip over my words,or forget to say something and have to go back, but it doesn't affect the message and participants know to err is human right? No need to beat myself up.

As a result of pushing myself, I have done OK - well better than OK, I have actually found my passion and love what I do. Who'd have thought it eh? And where would I be now if I hadn't?

Think about times when you have felt "the fear": maybe it was because of a job interview, a presentation to your peers, having to deal with an awkward colleague, or making that career change. Do you hear that nagging voice?

Listen out for it...

  • What does it say to you?

  • How does it make you feel?

  • How do you react.

Note these feelings down.

Once they are out of your head, you can start to try and make sense of them. Think about how you might respond if a friend was sharing this with you. What advice would you give them to make them feel better and believe in themselves? Then act on it. The more we are in tune with our inner critic, it will become easier to manage.

Consider possible outcomes

if you were to face the challenge ask yourself "what's the worst /best thing that could happen?"

Get yourself a mentor

Sometimes finding a trusted person to talk your fears through with can be so helpful. Mentors won't solve your problem for you, but they can certainly help you work through it and give you the motivation and positivity to move you forward.

Celebrate the smallest of achievements

We are often quick to critisise, but slow to recognise and reward ourselves when we have done well. Small steps mean progress and you need to celebrate all of them.

In order to progress in life; to become better friends, partners, colleagues, employees, managers or leaders, we all need to face our fears and anxieties and look for opportunities to push ourselves out of our places of comfort. Because when we do we feel energised and as a consequence we are more fulfilled and our self-confidence improves. Change becomes less daunting, failure becomes easier to cope with and we know we can achieve more. We also become an inspiration to others.

"Comfort zones foster an attitude of learned helplessness, making progress harder. Learning, creating, growing happen only when you step outside your fortress and venture into the wilderness" Tom Murko