I am a naturally cautious and anxious person. I'm an over-planner and an over-thinker, considering every angle and possible outcome. I'm also a people pleaser who cares far more than I should about what others think of me. All of these things add up to my *not* doing new or scary things very often, because my comfort zone is very, well, comfortable. But, in the last year, I've had to face a few fears head on, and also chosen to tackle a few more - and it has taught me a valuable lesson about feeling the fear and doing it anyway...
It'll Never Be As Bad As You Think
If you're anything like me, your imagination is your own worst enemy - it'll run riot for days and weeks imagining disastrous scenarios, but in my experience, nothing is ever as bad as you're imagining.
True story: I almost didn't have a baby because I was so freaked out about the medical side. I have a fairly serious medical phobia, which has caused me to pass out in doctors' offices, dentists' chairs and hospital rooms all across the land. Luckily, I am a fairly healthy person, so I have managed to avoid a lot of medical procedures thus far - but there's no getting around it when you're having a baby. It took me three tries to have my first blood test - the first two times I was too hysterical from fear. And you know what? It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. My brain was far more awful to me than the very kind nurses who actually wielded the needle.
See also: my first ever podcast interview. For very different reasons, I was incredibly anxious about interviewing someone for the very first time. I was worried I'd be terrible, that I'd let them down, that I'd ruin my dreams of podcasting and have to go and live in a pit of shame. I was worried it would be awkward, or I would say something inappropriate. You know what? None of those things happened. It was fun and easier than I thought. Do I have room for improvement as an interviewer? Of course. But I don't have to go and live in a pit of shame, which is a positive.
The Worst That Can Happen
If you think about it, what's the *actual* worst thing that can happen if you give something new a try? It's unlikely, unless you are giving brain surgery a go for the first time, that someone will die - which is really the only thing that matters at the end of the day, right? Sure, you might be embarrassed and need to borrow my pit of shame - but if you think about it, how many times have you crawled your way out of that pit before? There have been many times in my life when I have felt embarrassment and shame, and I'm sure you're the same, too. And none of those times killed me, or ultimately impacted my life in any meaningful way - I am still here, still standing, still happy. So if the worst that can happen is a red face and the desire to cringe really hard, you can survive that. I have before, and so have you.
If You Always Do What You've Always Done...
... you'll always get what you've always got. They say that you should do something every day that scares you, but that seems a bit extreme to me (and whilst I am a scaredy-cat, even I don't have a new fear to face every day of the year). That said, if you never step outside of your comfort zone then you'll never grow or change, and you'll never get where you want to go.
It can be difficult if you don't know *where* you ultimately end up, but I'd take a bet that your fear of trying something new is a sign that you should do that thing and see where the path takes you. If it's not something you really want to do, then you're probably not that afraid of doing it. Unless it's bungee jumping - I don't really want to do that *and* I'm afraid of it. But I don't think that it's essential to getting me further in my career or life, which is lucky.
You Have to Begin to Be Great
There are a few things I do that feel like they come naturally. Writing a blog post. Baking a pan of brownies. Doing my job. But, those are all things that I was afraid to do in the beginning. Your current comfort zone was formed from things you were once not that comfortable with, even if you can't remember it. I don't feel anxious about doing those things, because I know I can do a decent enough job at them - and sometimes even an excellent job. But I can't expect to be amazing at something I've never done before, and there's only one way to get good at something - actually doing it. If you wait until you're competent and skilled, and therefore no longer afraid, you'll never start - and so you'll never get great.
Go on, what are you afraid of?