Ever wish you had more confidence when it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone? Change can be scary, especially when it involves putting yourself out there – as Sheridan Smith recently highlighted.
“I think maybe I was scared to step out of my comfort zone, which was being an actress,” Smith, 40, said in an interview about her new role as a judge on ITV’s musical talent show, Starstruck.
“It’s scary because I’m just not used to it. I get really nervous and I think most actors do when it comes to being themselves,” the Gavin & Stacey star added.
Ultimately, it was something she really wanted to do, and Smith says having her son, one-year-old Billy, inspired her: “It’s about making him proud and if I push myself out of my comfort zone, that’s good.”
From new jobs and career changes to starting new hobbies or expanding our social lives – life is full of opportunities to step out of our comfort zones. But if we’re used to holding back, how can we make it happen?
It’s normal to be nervous
It’s easy to think everyone else has it all together, or there’s something ‘wrong’ with us for being scared to try new things.
But it’s completely normal to find stepping out of our comfort zones daunting – our brains are wired that way.
“Any type of change brings out a natural resistance in us,” says career and work coach, Jimi Wall.
“There is a natural boost of protection, where we’re thinking, ‘Oh crap, can I do this? It’s comfortable where I am’.”
Accepting fear is a normal part of being human can help reduce the hold it has over us. And rather than spending loads of energy trying to stop feeling those fears – which won’t always be possible or even necessary – we can focus on moving forwards.
Try a journaling exercise
Wall says this exercise can be helpful: “Identify what the pros and cons are of staying where I am, versus the pros and cons of taking a leap.” If it’s something you genuinely want to do, typically the pros outweigh the cons, he adds.
You could do this as a list, a chart, or a journal exercise, where you ‘brain dump’ all your thoughts – whatever works. It’ll help you get clear on what you really want to do, why you want to do it, and all the rewards you stand to gain from going for it.
Embrace baby steps
Stepping out of your comfort zone can be hard. But – spoiler alert – you’re allowed to make it easy for yourself. Could you take baby steps instead of one giant leap?
Diving in the deep end might not always be practical anyway – so find ways to dip your toe and build up from there.
“Small incremental daily actions lead to big results,” says success and manifestation coach Chanelle Fry.
“Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the thought of the really big stuff. If you struggle with overwhelm, then break your goals – and the actions required to achieve those – into bite-size activities that stretch you, but you can do every day.”
‘Stretching yourself’ is a really good way to look at it. Language and how we frame things can have a big influence on our mindset.
“We want to be moving into the ‘stretch zone’ — where we learn and grow — not our ‘panic zone’,” says coach Helen Jane Campbell, author of Founders, Freelancers & Rebels (coachingbyhelen.com).
“Our brains are ‘wired’ to keep us safe from danger and if our fight, flight or freeze instinct kicks in when we try something new, it can lead to sensations of panic or not feeling in control. The idea here is to soothe our minds into a feeling of safety.”
How can you do that? Campbell suggests, for example, “Wearing familiar clothes to a job interview, not a new unfamiliar outfit.
If you can identify what helps you feel safe, then adapt that to bring it into the new situation. So, you might want to bring your favourite travel mug with a comforting warm tea in it when you’re feeling anxious, or listen to a song that helps you to feel calm.”
Finally, take the pressure off. Taking that step to try something new doesn’t need to be a big test of our worthiness or ability, a ‘win or fail’ situation.
Remember, everybody is a beginner to start with – and that’s OK. Building up confidence takes time.
“See it as a learning experiment, rather than the be-all and end-all, boom or bust,” says Wall.
“Hold the change as lightly and self-compassionately as possible.”
Pat yourself on the back and celebrate the small wins along the way, too.
“Be proud. When you give yourself praise for overcoming challenges or facing fears and – for the small achievements, not just the big milestones – you create a ‘cycle of success’,” says Fry.
“This cycle perpetuates more confidence, more action and ultimately bigger results.”