I'm living outside of my comfort zone a lot these days. This was a cognizant decision I made several years ago when I first decided to face my demons and get sober, and in one way or another, I've been practicing being slightly uncomfortable ever since. And like with everything else, over time, the things that once seemed scary have become increasingly less so, and as a result, over time, I've been able to deepen the level of discomfort I can tolerate. This practice has had tremendous rewards and has enabled me to have incredibly rich and exciting experiences all because of my ability to utter the word, "yes," even when my "fear brain"- that voice in my head that is constantly trying to hold me down and keep me scared- is screeching, "No! No! No!"
Saying "yes" isn't always easy, and sometimes I've even said "no" first, even to things I knew I really wanted to do, and after some careful consideration, changed my mind, pushed my fears aside, and said "yes." A few of the extremely rewarding opportunities I initially said "no" to but later changed to a "yes" include:
-Teaching an undergraduate psychology 101 course. The idea of this was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating, and though I nearly had a panic attack on the first day, I am so incredibly happy that I allowed myself the opportunity to engage with undergraduates in this way. I learned so much from them and from that experience, and as a result, I gained a great deal of self-confidence in my abilities.
-Going on a solo vacation. This was something I had wanted to do for YEARS, and finally, about 6 months after getting sober, I booked my first solo trip to The Virgin Islands, which turned out to be an incredible experience. Yes, there were moments of loneliness and fear and uncomfortable scenarios, but the rewards far outweighed these fleeting feelings. I've since gone on several more solo vacations and have learned so much about myself during those trips.
-Running my first marathon. This had been on my life bucket list, and I had NO idea how I was ever going to run 26.2 miles. But I faced my fears, did my research, picked a training plan, and just kept putting one foot in front of the other (literally & figuratively) and since doing that first one six years ago, have since completed another full and five halves.
-Asking for things I've really wanted. This is a big one. And this is the area I'm really working in right now. I can truly say that I am happier than I've ever been, and a big reason for this is because I have a pretty clear image of what I want out of life, and I'm taking the steps I see necessary to achieve the goals associated with that image. And, listen, sometimes the perfect opportunities will come your way (and you need to be ready to say yes at these times, regardless of how you feel), but a lot of times the opportunities DON'T just appear, and in those cases, sometimes you just need to ask. Some of the really fulfilling things I'm doing right now are a direct result of me asking the Powers At Be, "Hey! Can I do this?" Sometimes I've gotten a "no," but usually I receive some sort of answer in the affirmative (though, admittedly, this doesn't always happen on the timeline I would prefer! But, that's OK. I'm also working on patience...)
So, the next time you find yourself saying "no" to something because the idea of it makes you uncomfortable for whatever reason, take a step back. Allow the lens to zoom out, and really ask yourself, "Why am I saying no?" If, after some soul searching, you realize it's because of fear, I encourage you to change your mind, say yes, and figure out the rest after you've allowed yourself to accept the opportunity. You can also start re-labeling the "fear" as "excitement." This is another trick that has worked a lot for me. It's sometimes easy to mistake the physiological symptoms of excitement for fear because they are basically the same, but a simple reframing is often enough to begin propelling yourself closer to the goals you've identified for yourself.
"No" is a very powerful and closed-off word. Use sparingly as it relates to achieving your best self.