THERE ARE SO MANY write-ups out there about how to step outside your comfort zone in big ways. Try a new class! Go skydiving! Find an unexpected hobby! Turn your hobby into a career!
In my own experience, the biggest changes don’t come in the big, grand moments – they come in the small details. Once those details accumulate, amazing things begin to happen.
For too many of us, the focus on those big-deal moments (like jumping out of a plane or trying that acro-yoga class down the street) means that stepping outside of our comfort zone becomes more of a “sometimes” thing than a tolerance we build or a habit we form. We go for the big, flashy moments because they’re a bigger, flashier story after the fact – when it’s really the missing mini-details that would make our existence exponentially more fun, bold and meaningful in much more than a “sometimes” way.
The mini details that have gotten me out of my own comfort zone and made my life more fun, bold, and meaningful are far from big or flashy. But they’ve got their own stories attached to them, and those stories live just as close to my heart as the stories of the big mega-moments…if not closer. And most of those stories can be traced back to an interaction or instance involving a woman in my life. Usually, my mother.
Growing up, my mom would traverse my younger brother and I around town as her two trusty sidekicks. And while I was proud to be her trusty sidekick, there was one thing that never failed to make me run and hide: the department store dances.
My mom was (and still is) not one to give a hoot about what anyone else feels is the “proper” way to behave. These…let’s call them freestyle routines…didn’t just happen in department stores (Target was a common dance location) and they weren’t confined to just dancing (a good self-made karaoke sesh usually ensued simultaneously), but the juxtaposition of high-end outerwear carousels and my mom’s IDGAF attitude was particularly mortifying to elementary school-aged Me. Here’s how it usually went down: we’d walk into this fancy space with bright-but-not-blinding overhead lighting to pick up school uniforms or a new pair of shoes. Undoubtedly, there would be a fancy piano player on the ground level, pounding away at some upbeat Billy Joel tune or 11 o’clock Hello Dolly number underneath the bright-but-not-blinging overhead lighting. And my thirty-something mother, sandwiched between Youth Apparel and Sale Boots, would sing and dance in the loudest way possible. My brother had three fewer years of life experience than I, which had not yet taught him that this was an absolutely mortifying event. So of course, his 4-year-old self would join my mom in her crazy antics as I ran and hid behind the denim rack.
My mom might have grown up amidst the fineries of Brentwood, CA life, but she’s always had a confidence and craziness about her that’s all her own. And no one – NO ONE – tells her what to do or who to be.
I inherited my mom’s strength and determination at a young age, but it took me a very long time to become ME instead of who I FELT I should be. I was uber-cautious and highly self-conscious. I considered myself “shy” around my peers, when in actuality I was just so longing to fit in that I squelched any impulse that would get me labeled different or odd. I approached life with fierce determination, but my inner Department Store Dancer was locked away in a vault somewhere, lest she should sabotage my attempts at being fabulous.
What a surprise it was to learn that when we let go of trying to fit in, THAT’S when our unique puzzle pieces find their place in the big picture. When we quit censoring our impulses, THAT’S when we become truly fabulous. But there’s no way those impulses will ever start to feel comfy if we stand with our feet firmly planted in our comfort zone.
Maybe you’ve been told not to take yourself so seriously. I get the intention. But I ten-thousand percent disagree.
Take yourself seriously. Take your life, your goals, your loves, your actions – take them all very seriously. But make sure not to confuse always taking yourself seriously with always being SERIOUS. There’s no way you’ll ever expand your comfort zone if you don’t take advantage of the wacky, bold impulses you have to simply be YOU.
Take yourself seriously. Take your life, your goals, your loves, your actions – take them all very seriously. But make sure not to confuse always taking yourself seriously with always being SERIOUS. Click To Tweet
Here are some of my simplest go-to comfort-zone-expanders (which happen to also be mood boosters and boldness-builders!) when my world seems a bit too stoic and blah:
- Paint your nails a bright color. I’m not talking red. I’m talking electric blue.
- Sing out loud if you’re running outside. And run so fast that you don’t have time to notice if people turn and stare.
- Have a dance party in your car.
- Or the subway.
- Or while walking down the street. If you live in NYC like me, you’ll blend right in anyway.
- Learn the lyrics to at least one guilty pleasure song. Don’t forget to practice it every time it comes on: at the gas station, in the grocery store…you know the drill.
- Then for bonus points, make a game out of singing it while imitating someone completely unexpected. I prefer Carol Channing or Britney Spears. It’s a fun party trick to have in your back pocket (or to put on the “Special Skills” part of your resume, if you’re me)
- Wear a bold pop of color. Royal Purple leggings? Alright alright alright! Neon green socks? OWN IT BB.
- Strike up a conversation with a random stranger. Like, an actual conversation. Weather and bonding over complaints don’t count.
- Make corny jokes casually, just to see who catches on.
- Learn moves from the 80s/90s and do them very imperfectly, very often (I still cannot do the running man properly, but that doesn’t stop me).
- Three words: LOUD. BELLY. LAUGHS.
- Use the weirdest, most offbeat filters on Instagram Stories you can find. Zero cares about how it makes you “look.”
- Send a long text to a random friend or family member praising them effusively, knowing it’ll make them smile.
And if all else fails, make a trip to your local department store – and DANCE.
What are some of your favorite comfort-zone expanders? What is ONE tiny thing you do regularly that helps boost your mood and build boldness? Comment below – I’m always looking to add to the list!