Confidence and stepping out of your comfort zone

Have you ever felt yourself hold back because of confidence, nerves or self-consciousness?

I certainly have.

Confidence has always been a big thing for me. When I was at school, all my reports said that I was doing excellently, but perhaps I’d put my hand up more to speak out in class?

Confidence is key to letting yourself be heard which is why a lack of it can make us feel like we’re on the edges looking in.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve got better at speaking out. I’m developing more belief in myself and my ideas, and I’m no longer holding back when I have something to say. After all, people can see you in the room already, why not let them hear you too?

Over the years, as I’ve put myself in different situations, I’ve realised that confidence, self-belief and self-consciousness are all linked.

The fear of failure is often what holds us back. Looking bad in someone else’s eyes or looking stupid – whatever it is – it’s restricting us from living our lives to the fullest.

Surfing is a great example of this for me.

For years I wanted to learn to surf, and when I had my first lesson in Newquay, I absolutely loved it.

So the following year, Luke and I booked a trip to Lanzarote and enrolled on a three day course with the brilliant Lanzasurf.

But despite the fact I was excited and keen to get back in the water, on the morning of our first lesson, I dragged my heels.

Inside I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was worried I’d repeatedly fail to stand up, and look stupid in front of other people on the class and the instructors.

Looking back, the crucial thing here was the other people on the course.

If it has just been Luke and I with an instructor, I’d have been fine. Some nerves, sure, but no major lapse in confidence.

What was holding me back was the concern about how I would look in the eyes of other people.

The reason I loved Lanzasurf so much was because they realised this and they pushed me to get past it.

It happened again in Newquay, when we did lessons with the equally amazing Escape Surf School. I insisted to Luke that I needed a group lesson rather than just hiring a board, and I willingly put myself in the beginner category. But as we did some theory on the beach, I quickly realised I was one of only a few people who had actually surfed before.

The instructors kept an eye on me when we first entered the water, and after naturally heading further out than anyone else and catching a couple of waves on my own, I got told to head out back with another of the instructors. Out back where the intermediate group were.

I pulled a face which was met with, ‘What? This is too easy for you! Go!’

And you know what?

I had so much fun being challenged that the next day, Luke and I booked a private surf lesson with that instructor and for the entire lesson, we were out back.

When I got to Newquay, my surfing had improved thanks to the lessons I’d had in Lanzarote, but in my head I was still that nervous beginner. I was refusing to push myself out of my comfort zone (little whitewater waves), despite the fact that everyone else could see that was far too easy for me now.

Luke repeatedly tells me not to care what other people think. If we’re skating on the beachfront, I’ll often stop and walk past large groups of people rather than skate by them.

Why?

Because I’m worried I’ll make a mistake and stack it in front of them.

Or, because I know I’m still learning, and I don’t want them to see my nerves.

But seriously. This shouldn’t matter and thoughts like this are precisely what holds many of us back.

I’m learning to care a little less about what others think of me and whether I’m being judged. I’m also learning to have more confidence in my abilities and myself as a person.

And I honestly think that surfing and skating have taught me a lot about this.

So if you’re holding yourself back from being the best you can be, or feeling the fear about stepping out of that comfort zone, don’t.

Here are some tips learnt by yours truly (with some nabbed from an inspiring article on the Surf Girl website…)

  1. Identify what’s causing your confidence crisis – are you scared what other people will think, worried about failing, or simply feeling too shy? Working out the cause will help you focus on overcoming it.
  2. Remember that everyone makes mistakes so not being good at something isn’t a problem. Everyone starts somewhere and the only way we learn is through our mistakes.
  3. Before a big meeting or a session in the water, whenever you feel those nerves or the fear creeping in, draw your attention back to the present. Take in your surroundings, listen to your breath, and focus on what you’re about to do. Visualise yourself doing it – and doing it well. By rooting yourself in the present, you’re putting those fears and nerves in the past. They do not define you and they certainly can be stopped and put in a little box marked ‘past’. This act of becoming present can be done anywhere – it’s all about controlling your mind and focusing on your thoughts. The more you practice it, the easier it becomes!
  4. Rationalise. What’s the worse that can happen? If you’re surfing or skating and you fall off your board in front of people, they’re most likely going to empathise. And if they laugh? Laugh too. If you feel embarrassed, own it. Are you ever going to see some of these people again? If not, what does it matter? Pick yourself back up and try again – usually that’s what people are most admired for. It’s not whether you fall down, it’s whether you can pick yourself back up and try again.
  5. Remember that the best surfer out there is the one having the most fun. And this is true in all situations. As long as you’re enjoying yourself, giving something a go, and doing it with a smile on your face, you’ll realise that it doesn’t matter if you fall down, make a mistake, or look silly in front of others. Because if you’re having a good time and you’re happy, harness that feeling and don’t let it go. Banish negative thoughts that try to creep in and hold on to the enjoyment of whatever you’re doing. You got this.

Confidence is something we can develop, and having the courage to step out of our comfort zones and push ourselves is something we can also learn to get better at.

So think positive and get out there. Never be afraid to jump right in. Who knows what the result will be.

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