How I got outside my comfort zone this summer
Most people who know me know that I’m a very outgoing person. So some might be surprised to learn that I spend quite a bit of time by myself.
Since I quit my full-time job and started working from home, I’ve had to make a greater effort to get daily human contact. There have been days where the only interaction I had was with the guy painting our garage. We made eye contact and smiled. It was very exciting.
When I had a full time job, I always complained that I never had enough time or energy to do anything else. It was work - eat - sleep - repeat. But with my schedule much more flexible, I've found myself with a lot of time to myself. This summer, I resolved to fill my free time with events and activities that I otherwise wouldn’t have found the time to do.
I started clicking ‘Yes, I’m attending’ to more Facebook events. Some were ones organized by people I only vaguely knew. Others I didn’t know at all. As one often does, I tried to recruit some of my friends and family members to come along with me. The only problem was, my unconventional schedule often didn’t match up with those working full-time, and sometimes my friends just didn’t have any interest in the things I was signing up for.
That’s when I had a moment of realization: Why should I deprive myself from an enjoyable activity just because I can’t find a someone to tag along with me? I decided it was time to push past my comfort zone and let go of the crutch of a buddy as a buffer. Besides, it would be a great opportunity for me to expand my social networks for the business I was trying to build.
I’m very lucky that I don’t suffer from social anxiety. I know that I’m good at small talk, and I have an uncanny ability to fill silences with meaningless conversion. But no matter how confident I am, those feelings of insecurity always manage to creep in when I arrive at an event where I know no one. It’s like being the new kid on the first day of middle school all over again — standing at the entrance of the cafeteria trying to figure out how to find a spot without looking like a total loser with no friends. That feeling can be so overwhelming for some people and enough of a deterrent to avoid those situations all together.
But what I learned this summer is that it is ALWAYS worth it to endure that awkward beginning and push through to enjoy the experience. Over the past few weeks, I watched a play by myself, went on a group outing to the Science Centre, joined a book club, attended a young professionals networking event, joined a free walking tour while vacationing in Barcelona, and enjoyed many iftaars (Ramadan dinners) with total strangers. Once I realized that no one could see the flashing neon ‘loser' sign above my head but me, it opened the door to some really cool experiences. I met some interesting people who I built great friendships with, and others who I may never talk to again. Either way, I had a lot of fun in the process.