Discomfort Zone

Someone who doesn’t know me particularly well recently accused me of being fearless. While I was deeply, deeply flattered (I may have blushed and patted his arm saying “Oh, youuuu!”) I assured him that he was laughably wrong.While I’m not afraid of public speaking, singing karaoke in front of drunken crowds, dancing on tables or traveling through developing countries by myself, I am afraid of the following things:

1) parties full of fancy strangers I don’t know
2) sitting at a bar by myself and getting hit on
3) making a fool of myself in front of people I respect
4) water snakes. puuuuuuke.

While three out of those four aren’t deadly (numbers 1, 2 and 4 if you’re keeping track) I’d rather chew off my own arm than deal with any of the above. They make me really, really uncomfortable.
Now. I know that getting past hang-ups numero one and two would probably be beneficial to my personal and professional lives. And I can, if need be, fake my way through both of those situations with (what what I hope to be) a passable level of competence. But deep in my heart? I’m squirming with discomfort and wishing I was home, stirring a pot of soup and listening to Lily Allen.
My question to you, friends, is when do we acknowledge to ourselves that certain situations and skills sets are just not our bag? And when do we push ourselves out of our comfort zone because we know it’s good for us? What constitutes “good for us”? How many times do you try something before you admit that you just really, really hate it, regardless of how healthy/impressive/socially acceptable it is?

For an example, let’s look at dancing. Personally? I looooove dancing. I will dance, with one friend, on an empty dance floor, surrounded by tables of gawkers, while I’m completely sober. However! I know many, many people who would rather have their toenails plucked out than dance in public.

Various studies show that we perceive good dancers as being more outgoing, more fit and more sexy than their non-dancing counterparts. So, it would follow that forcing yourself to become comfortable with dancing would be socially and personally beneficial. But what if you just really don’t like dancing? At what point do you stop trying to step and clap in time to the music and just lean against the wall?

Where is the line between comfort zone and I-hate-this space? What makes you uncomfortable? When do you push through it and when do you throw in the towel?

30 Comments

DanaiShips

Dancing is definately in my discomfort zone, although I've spent a good deal of my life in dance schools, doing ballet and latin. I just feel I want to dance so much, but when I get up there…freeze…horrible feeling of selfconsciousness.
Also, in that discomfort zone: speaking in public (although lately I manage better), asking somebody for a favor, dealing with civil cervants, letting people sweep me off my feet (literally, not emotionally. I have a fear of leaving the ground, or even leaning backwards)eating dessert alone in public (I seriously believe everyone will be thinking "oh, that's why you're fat).
Maybe we should start a group?

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Euforilla

I think you make a good point here. There's a lot of stuff saying we should try to raise the level of our comfort zone, we should question ourselves on why something bothers us, and all that jazz…

But I also think that it is so important to know that you don't do some things because you simply don't want to, or don't like them at all.

In the end if you like it, go for it, if not maybe question yourself, if the answer is still no, keep doing the things you love!

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Darcie

you forgot about stand-up comedy… i think you're also afraid of that đŸ˜‰

hope your day is looking up, buddy! gimme a ring if you wanna do stuff later.

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Chrissy

Sarah, I know for me its all baby steps… Hell 5 years ago I never thought I'd try online dating! and at my age? sheesh… I did learn that I was the one being persued which in a way was flattering… Now 5 yrs. later I tried it again ( non paid subscrip) just to see…. Things haven't changed as far as the opposite sex.. in fact rather sad- since men my age still think women 20 yrs. their jr. will be attracted to older…
As for me, I've withdrawn from that site- and conceded that dating for me is out for now or maybe 4 ever? As long as there are males out there who think they will be wanted by younger women my age don't have a chance.

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Canadian Twentysomething

Oohh I agree with so much of this. Dancing is the worst. My friends will try to pull me to the dancefloor, my response: "I haven't had enough to drink yet". Lately it's been better though. It only takes 2 drinks. I used to be TERRIBLE with public speaking. I was in plays, and I would do fine DURING a presentations. But leading up to it? I'd want to puke, I'd shake. It was bad. Being a TA really helped though, not sure why.
Also, asking for favors, bumping into ex-bfs (shudder), or singing in front of anyone (parents included!). All things to avoid.

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Vanessa

I thought of my boyfriend at the dancing part. We're still in college, so there are still formal and informal dances we can go to, which I enjoy and he dreads. I often harp that the time in our lives that we can acceptably dance around inappropriately and/or like idiots is coming to a close, but he doesn't really see that as a bad thing. He obliges and goes to some things with me, but he really dislikes it. He'll dance a LITTLE to make me happy, but it still feels like pulling teeth. I think when guys are willing to dance, it's really attractive, even though he thinks he sucks at it and that it's stupid.

Thing I don't get: why guys still think certain things are so "stupid" and refuse to do them when they will obviously get them mad girls.

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goatygoat

Singing in front of people is my greatest fear. I've occasionally said I'd rather poop in front of someone than sing in front of them.

Flash back to about three months ago: I was at work, and it was my boss's birthday. A cake was purchased, and midafternoon I was in the lunch room alone, just me and the as-yet-unsliced cake.

Bossman comes into the room, puts candles into his cake, lights them, and looks at me…

…expecting me to sing Happy Birthday, solo.

So, I did. And you know what? It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

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Elle Sees

If I'm around my friends and family, I'm a regular ole chatterbox. But put in me in front of ppl I don't know, and I'm suddenly shy. I try to interject into the conversation but it never works out. Plus, I have a "bitch face" meaning if I'm just sitting there, I look mean eventhough I'm not in the slightest. So I sit with a fake smile the whole time to appear friendly. HA!
And I'm completely fine with karaoke or public speaking, but social stuff freaks me out. I'm a quiet observer. But yes I do dance. A little alc is involved though!

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Melanie

Vanessa's comment made me think of my husband. He has danced in public ONE TIME in his life. ONCE! He didn't even dance at proms and such in high school before we met. The First Dance at our wedding two years ago was his grand debut (to Marc Cohn's True Companion). We'll see if I can ever get another dance out of him…

Things that make me exceedingly uncomfortable, to the point of physical discomfort:
– public speaking
– calling strangers on the phone
– meeting strangers about important things, like jobs
– running into ex-coworkers or casual acquaintances in public places and having to speak to them

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Andrea

Hello all, I think we all have fears and I can honestly say a lot of the fears listed I can relate to.
I have a fear of spiders I see one and it has me going the other way. Shudder, I am afraid of heights I can fly but don't put me anywhere that is too close to a drop off that I can see. I may never over come those fears. I know in my mind many spiders can not hurt me they just creep me out.

But my other fears, talking in front of a group of people, being the only one dancing, singing in public, are all fears because I am not very good at it. They are there because I worry about what other people might think of me if I do them.

Should I push myself more, I think so but at 48 I have pushed myself to speak in front of groups and I still hate it. Public speaking will never be my thing I accept that limitation. Singing in public will never happen I am always out of tune but to my ears I sound great.

But to answer your question, When having a limitation that is caused by a fear bothers you then you should push yourself to try and over come the fear. If you can live a happy and good life without ever having to sing out loud then belt it out in the shower and be happy. đŸ™‚

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Kelsi

Good questions and post. I am THEEEEEEES close to being married to a ballroom dance instructor, whom I met in college because I signed up for a dance class and he was my teacher (tee hee!) I love to dance, but sometimes feel uncomfortable dancing with him because I know he's amazing and is "dumbing down" his performance to dance at my n00b level. I love watching him dance with female pros (I'm not jealous… is that weird?) because I get to see him working at the top of his game.

I also have no problem with public speaking, karaoke, talking to new people, making a fool of myself, or touching slimy things.

Things I am REALLY uncomfortable with:
– having to tell someone who's trying to help that they are not helping
– having to remind someone that they owe me money or that I am not made of money and cannot pay for their dinner every time we hang out
– phoning people I don't know
– going out in public without at least a little make-up… hello, shiny face!
– and I second the stand-up comedy thing. I NEVER find them funny, and I feel like I have to fake-laugh to make them feel better. Improv, on the other hand, is totally hilarious to me.

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Amy --- Just A Titch

I think about this a lot, because I never want to keep myself "boxed in" because I'm afraid of trying something new. That said, I also don't enjoy feeling badly about myself. For example, I've always wanted to be a runner. I've tried running on my own, joining a running club, reading all the books, and yet, I never, ever enjoy one minute of it. So, I can now say I gave it the old college try and enjoy the hell out of spin class, which I happen to love. I'm all about pushing myself—but if it still feels icky after that initial battle with fear, I'm perfectly content to hang it up.

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iris

So, I hate dancing in public, but I wish I didn't. It doesn't make any sense, and gets me in awkward situations all the time, haha.

Anyways, I think there's some things that if you just exposed yourself to them more, it'd sort of dull the awkward-power they have over us. But what's the point of exposing yourself to something you hate doing? Maybe it's only worth it if you really actually want to get over it.

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Gillian

I loooove dancing in public. I like to pretend that I'm a good dancer. Public speaking? I hate it. Want to know the worst part about it? I've been told by several people that I'm a really good public speaker. So even though I kick ass at it I can't even let myself enjoy it.

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Marthe

A lot of things put me in the discomfort zone, but I try to push myself if I know it will be good for me. How I decide it will be good for me just comes naturally. Kind of as an instinct.

Some things, however, scare me so much that I know pushing myself will only make it worse.

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Alice

That photo! great blog đŸ™‚
Comfort and I-hate-this…my line is where I could seriously be hurt. If I know it's harmless (or relatively so), then I'll take a stab at something. But if there's a serious danger involved, no thanks!

xx
AZD
http://www.xAZDdesign.com

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Raquel

I am an extremely confident and outgoing person. I can talk to anyone and usually charm the pants off them. That is however, only if we're in a situation where it's 'ok' for me to approach them and talk to them. Alone at a party? I will come over and talk to you! Cool and interesting looking person at the library who is checking out a book that's on my to read list? I want to talk to you! But I'm afraid!!!!!

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Liv

Wow. Melanie's list was dead on for me… to the point of being kinda spooky.
(Get out of my head!)

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Gem

Moving to a new country with no concrete plans in place (eg. no job lined up, no place to live lined up) is DEFINITELY outside of my comfort zone, but I'm doing in anyway! That doesn't mean that I don't get stressed out and scared about it from time to time, but my excitement about it far overpowers my fears.

However, one thing that is way out of my comfort zone and I don't even really know why is singing in front of other people. I can sing just fine, I have a decent voice, but if someone else is within hearing distance? Hell no. My boyfriend thinks it's weird, as he can't even sing in tune but still sings along at top volume to the radio when we're in the car. I dunno why, but I just can't bring myself to do it.

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Corrine/Frock And Roll

I hear you, Miss Sarah Von!

I will usually try something three times. After that, if we're STILL not friends? (Asparagus? Trying to encourage an extremely surly person to see something from another perspective? Not spilling anything on my all-white clothing?!) Forget it! I'd rather have fun and move onto trying something else!

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MakeItAwkward

My motto is: if there is only a small percentage of a chance that it will kill you (because let's face it, almost everything can kill you) then try it. If you don't like it, try it one more time. If you still don't like it, then it's just not for you.

You should never conform to other peoples opinions, BUT you should always have evidence to back your own.

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Nina

i used to be so terrified of public speaking that the night before a job interview where i had to do a 2 mintue talk on a science topic (for a job in a science museum) that i actually got tearful.

now i do it for a job. have done theatre shows, teach classes, whatever. a wonderful addition to my skill set that i wish i'd of had during uni.

as for public dancing…. love it, have very little shame as i'm convinced of my own skill

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Alison V

When it comes to public speaking or dancing or kareoke I'm pretty okay. I've always been the extrovert but when there are situations that I can't control I'll pretty much freeze. Before I became an EMT I realized I had that fear when I did my first ride-along. I learned a bunch of techniques that helped me feel like I'm in control of the chaos around me but there are times that I will laugh and make a joke here and there but I'll be freaking out on the inside.

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Ana Lore

Well, if it's something that you actually want to try or a fear you want to face, then it's definitely worth crossing the line of comfort!

Like you, I also love dancing, but i get really nervous when someone asks me to dance something close like salsa haha, i just can't move gracefully anymore. But most of the time, it's worth facing the fear đŸ™‚
And food, i love eating "exotic" food, I've even had grasshoppers, so I'd try anything…anything BUT mayonnaise. I just don't like it.
That's a line I won't cross even if it's embarrassing to say "No, thank you [some lame excuse] " and stay hungry!

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somewhere else

There are lots of scary things I have no problem with, sky diving, snakes, dancing like a lunatic, travelling to costume parties on public transport on my own, talking to strangers all among them–
but cute guys I cannot do.
Nor can I cope with church. The former I want to deal with, the latter I've realised is an indiciation that it's just not for me. I lived in a Christian college and it was so hard to explain to my housemates that faith isn't something you choose! I can't choose to jump that divide of uncertainty, and I felt really guilty about it until I realised that if I feel that deeply uncomfortable about being at their service then clearly it's not meant to be!

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citygirl

I think you know when to give up on certain things when you realize you've never been interested in them.

For me that means throwing dinner parties and participating in sports, among other things.

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Alejandra

I think you push through it when in the inside you're dying to do it (for example getting on your feet and dancing), because you fantasize about doing it when you're alone in a safe space (like your room) and dream of showing people your fabulous dance moves for that song.
I think you are allowed to throw the towel if it's something that you just don't enjoy at all, not even doing it when there's noone watching. I think if you don't even want to do it when you're surrounded by people you trust, nor when you've already warmed up and feel confident, then you shouldn't push yourself, but accept that that is just not you :).

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