I recently talked a little about getting out of my comfort zone after I ended up with a role in my friend’s play without any warning. It gave me a great deal of internal anxiety, but I survived it. And when my heartbeat returned to its normal pace, I was even proud of myself for doing something “old Amanda” never would’ve attempted. It led me to some self-reflection and the realization of what it took to get there. I was able to identify the actions that led me to do something I probably wouldn’t have done even a year ago.
Last year, I started teaching business workshops at The Voice Actors Studio. Helping others is a big part of why I started Aardvark Girl in the first place, and it was a perfect opportunity to help these students who are starting to build their own businesses. The problem, especially at the time, is that I don’t like talking in front of big groups. My voice doesn’t project well (maybe not the best trait when working with people who use their voices for a living) and I always feel like I’m awkward. But I knew it was something I had to get over.
Luckily, I was able to sort of ease into it. I co-taught the first couple of classes with friends (and other coaches at the studio) who helped me feel more comfortable. I did a few of those throughout the year, started working one-on-one with some of the students, and started teaching my own workshops as well. I still don’t love being at the front of a room with a bunch of people staring at me, but the more comfortable I became with the studio community, the less anxiety I got about these classes. In addition, getting so much positive feedback and appreciation made me realize that I am making a difference for these people, and that’s something I truly enjoy. I’m still awkward, but I don’t think anybody really cares about that. It’s just who I am, and that’s okay!
Sometimes it takes a series of small steps to get to the next level, so you just have to make yourself try a little bit at a time until you get to where you want to be.
So I changed some boundaries of my comfort zone, but then I had another realization that I think is equally important. I was having tea with another producer friend after seeing “A Star is Born” (which is excellent, by the way) and we were talking about career moves and ideas. She had a suggestion for me that was great in theory, but it’s something that would involve a lot of networking and schmoozing. That is definitely out of my comfort zone, but in a different way.
Talking in front of a large group is uncomfortable to me, but it’s something I can get used to, and better at, over time. But taking on a role that would require me to regularly be in large groups, in loud environments, in more elaborate settings, isn’t just outside of my comfort zone – it’s outside of the personal makeup of who I am. My introversion makes it so that I do best in small groups. I can force myself to be social in certain situations, but there’s a certain point where I hit a wall, get incredibly uncomfortable, and need to get away to decompress. It’s not something I can realistically change, so a career path that would require me to be in those scenarios a lot just wouldn’t be a good fit for me.
So while I think it’s necessary for us all to push ourselves to do new things and challenge ourselves to accomplish what we’re not entirely sure we can, I think it’s equally important to be true to who we are. We need to understand when it’s time to improve or change an aspect of our lives, or when trying something new is going to cause more stress than it’s worth.
It’s vital to have the self-awareness to know the difference between what we’re apprehensive about and what is genuinely not right for us.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. When do you push yourself to get out of your comfort zone, and when do you decide something just isn’t for you?