And I mean figuratively, not literally.
You know the saying that the greatest growth comes from stretching beyond your comfort zone? Well the saying is the easy part, the actual doing is a whole other matter. It really is difficult, sometimes painful to do something that you are completely uncomfortable doing; the fear of the unknown, letting go of your own mental blocks and showing courage where you didn’t know it existed.
So I might be a bit melodramatic when you hear the two examples of my personal stretching, but the experiences have been profound for me.
I’ve always crafted, been creative and appreciated art. But I still consider myself a new artist. I’ve always had the voice but only recently applied it to practice. I’m still relatively new to everything and am slowly gaining the confidence that comes with time. So I was nearly paralyzed with fear when a customer asked if I would do a custom order for her. She liked my coffee cozies (which usually have very basic shapes – hearts/flowers/leaves, etc.) but wanted a custom design of a classic airplane and her name on it. Hand-stitched. Whaaaat? Do you know how complex that is?
My first thought was no. I was going to politely tell her thank you, but it was out of my realm. In truth, it was way beyond my comfort level. I really didn’t think I could cut out fabric so small and complex and hand-stitch it together; I didn’t even know how to hem a pair of pants a couple years ago. Surely it would look like a Picasso rendition. But just as fearful as I was about taking on this project, I was just as fearful at saying no…to a customer. I hemmed and hawed for a day, squeezed my eyes shut and decided to take the leap. I sent her some pics I found online until she picked one out to give me an idea of where to start. I worked on it for almost 4 hours (which makes my hourly wage, oh, about $4/hour – I really need to assess my pricing!) and was utterly amazed at how it turned out. I am soooo not trying to “toot my own horn,” but trying to explain my relief at how it came out.
Beyond feeling an immense sense of relief when it was complete, I also felt my confidence take a giant leap. It sounds like just a simple art project that turned out well, but it’s so much more than that. To stretch beyond your comfort zone and actually be successful is truly a powerful moment. I am so happy that I pushed through the fear and took on this challenge. It has helped me realize that I am only constricted by my own personal limits. And while we all have our own boundaries and those are at times necessary, it’s good to extend yourself at times.
After handstitching was complete; before sizing down/sewing the sleeve together
I hate ice skating. I know, that sounds ridiculous. Ice skating is sweet and gentile; sugar and spice and everything nice, right? And don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate the sport of ice skating. In fact, I think professional ice skaters are amazing. I just personally hate to ice skate myself. Thing is, I don’t want to hate it. I want to be proficient on skates, but seeing me on ice skates in like watching a cartoon dog walk onto on icy lake – wobbly, unbalanced and nearly splayed out on all fours.
Trouble is, my husband loves to ice skate and play hockey and has wanted me to ice skate with him for the past 10 years we’ve been together. I’ve tried, oh, about 4 times, but each time I leave the ice, swearing under my breath about how much skating sucks and being pissed off at myself for not being able to stay balanced. Strange thing is that speed skating is one of my favorite sports to watch on the Olympics. I love short track for the action, but am mesmerized by long track – the rhythmic action of the stride, the smooth and precise sway. I think it appeals to the freestyle swimmer in me. Some might call it boring but the rhythmic action of a perfected stride is absolutely cathartic to me.
I’d love to learn how to do that I accidentally mentioned aloud while watching long track, but I can’t even freaking stand on skates without waving my arms like I’ve fallen off a building. *Sigh* A lightbulb went off in my husband’s head because a couple weeks he announced that he had signed us up for an adult skating 101 class. He knew that I wanted to learn to skate but would never have the gumption to sign up on my own, so he went ahead and did it so that I would be forced to overcome my fear. I didn’t have the chance to make the decision and frankly I was relieved. I know that making the decision to move forward is part of “pushing through fear” but I knew I would still have plenty of obstacles to overcome in this class.
Last week was the first of six classes and I really did learn some great techniques to help me gain balance and be more confident on skates. I was excited at the possibilities but still nervous and fearful. I even took a good fall onto my knee, which hurt and brought up feelings of fear, but I pulled my big girl panties up and persevered.
This week we went to the public skate session to practice what we learned before our second class. I did surprisingly well and even got the hang of some of the things I really struggled with in the first class. Oh that’s how you do it, I thought once I finally got the hang of a technique. Each time this happened, my confidence soared. I left the rink feeling like I could actually be a decent skater one day (something I would never have thought before).
Then we went to the second class. Still high on my successful practice session, I stepped onto the ice. I knew right away that there would be trouble. I was wobbly from the get-go. What the hell? I did so good before…I’m supposed to keep getting better, not regress?! This shook away all the confidence I had gained earlier, and then some. To make matters worse, a new and more advanced couple who wasn’t in our class last week were now part of it. And there were about 30 other people on the ice too – other classes and personal lessons going on and several people in the overhead stands. I was feeling shaken. On top of that, our class felt like it was going at lightning speed. We’d learn how to turn on a dime (what?!) and no less than a couple minutes later would we learn stops. I haven’t even come close to learning the turns yet! And I fell…lots. I was so wobbly and stricken with fear and with each fall (5 times in fact) I could feel myself sink deeper.
And then it started to happen. I think most women can appreciate this moment. I could feel hot angry, frustrated tears coming to my eyes. DO NOT CRY I told myself. DON’T…DON’T…DAMNIT!!! Too late. No matter how hard I tried to talk myself out of it, my body didn’t care and the tears came streaming down. Luckily I was able to face the penalty box and appear to stretch (my feet have been hurting and my instructor knows this) but I know some people saw it and now I was feeling like a weenie. Crying over ice skating – how ridiculous does that sound? STOP IT I kept telling myself as I tried to pull myself together and wipe my tears. David saw me and tried to console me and cheer me on but I just wanted to disappear or at least seem as if nothing was wrong. Last thing I wanted was for a classmate or worse yet, my instructor, ask what was wrong. So I stared at the ice as if I was watching my instructors feet and learning from her moves. Hopefully she wouldn’t notice.
The pivotal moment came when I thought about skating off the rink. What’s the point I thought. I clearly hate to skate, I’m absolutely frightened being on the ice and my loss of balance makes me feel out of control and my confidence is shot. Why continue through this torturous process? It would be so easy to quit at that moment. To run, er, skate away and go back to my comfort zone.
But now I’m pissed off and determined more than ever to conquer this fear. It’s as if the ice, the skates, the sport has become a personal entity and I frankly want to kick it’s ass and emerge victorious. You can’t take me down, stupid ice.
So, with little confidence or balance left, I kept going. And you know what, I survived. And with each technique that I was able to complete somewhat successfully (aka not fall on my face), I felt the confidence level rise just a bit. And so we’re going again today to practice at the public skate session where there are never more than a couple people so the whole rink is open, no one to grade me on my falls or technique. A safe haven to try, try again.
Is there a part of me that wants to quit? You betcha. But once again, it’s pushing through that fear, stretching beyond my comfort level and knowing the rewards that exist on the other side – not only technique, but more importantly, confidence.
So, while its so easy to stay within your comfort zone, its so much more fulfilling to know that you’ve conquered a fear, that you’ve ventured into the unknown and not only survived, but often thrived. The rewards are immense.
You know I love quotes, but probably my favorite quote of all is, “Leap and the net will appear.” I have the magnet on my fridge. And whenever I’ve come to a crossroads, I always remind myself of that quote. I’ve made some pretty brazen decisions in my life that are not at all safe, but it’s always worked out. And even if the outcome didn’t always turn out to what I wanted at the moment, in retrospect, I learned something valuable along the way, it opened doors that would not have otherwise been there and life has exploded with possibilities.
So, next time you’re faced with a decision that really requires you to stretch beyond your comfort zone, ask yourself what’s holding you back?
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