Saturday, September 24, 2011

When You're Forced Out of Your Shell

Everyone likes to be in their comfort zone. It is so easy to be happy and carefree in that zone because there is nothing to challenge your happiness. When you're out of your comfort zone, there is a lot of fear involved because you are on unfamiliar territory. I believe that being out of your comfort zone is a challenge to see if you are truly happy and to see if you are able to hold onto that positive attitude through any uncertain situation. Essentially, we fall into the habit of negativity when we are out of our comfort zone because we are experiencing something new and our brain is imagining the worst possible outcome. This is actually a mechanism our mind uses to protect ourselves because it is preparing us for what can happen. But as you all know, most of the time when you are scared or you worry about something, it never turns out as bad as you imagine it. So, is it a good thing that we try to think ahead and prepare ourselves for the worst, or is it unnecessary stress and negativitiy?

Once I take the time to think about the situation rationally, I always realize that I am just causing unnecessary stress. But, how do you remember that and stay positive in the moment when you're in a downward spiral of worry and fear? I bring this up because this happened to me recently to the point where my whole mood was affected for the entire day. Of course, this was something that I would have liked to avoid, but by having this happen, I learned a lot about myself and discovered some things that I could do to feel better next time those feelings arose. I start to worry and stress when I feel overwhelmed, and I tend to feel overwhelmed very easily. When I start thinking about every little thing I have to do before a certain time, the negativity begins to creep in. It helps for me to write everything down so it is all on paper rather than jumbled around in my head. Then, I try to just focus on one thing at a time. I like to circle my three most important tasks (MITs), and those tasks are the first things I accomplish in my day. I got this idea from Leo Babauta's book, The Power of Less, and it has worked well for me in dealing with my stress.

The only reason you get stressed about doing a certain task, at least in my case, is because it is something you would rather not do or you feel uncomfortable doing. This goes back to the fear of being out of your comfort zone. For me, this would be singing and acting. I have to take singing and acting classes as part of my program at Broadway Dance Center, and before now, I have never practiced either one of them. As a dancer of 16 years, I have always been able to rely on my body and my movement to tell a story. Even when I dance, I struggle with my facial expressions and performance qualities in front of an audience because I am naturally an introverted person. So having to stand up in front of my whole class and not only sing a song, but perform it as well is absolutely terrifying when you haven't had any training. We also have to memorize and perform monologues for acting class, which is also out of my comfort zone. I know these experiences will benefit me because they are forcing me out of my shell that I have lived in for so long, but getting me to do something that I'm uncomfortable with is like pulling teeth. I will be the first one to admit that if I don't want to do something, I immediately figure out how I'm going to get out of it. But that is not productive because there are some things in life that are essential to your growth, and you just don't realize it until it's over.

I was trying to memorize my monologue on the subway the other day and once I started to imagine myself getting up in front of the whole class to perform it, I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. Something that helps me relax is simply taking a break from it for a while. This doesn't work if your deadline is the next day, but if you have a while to work on something, don't overwhelm yourself if you don't have to. Now, this is going to seem like a contradiction, but another tool for eliminating fear is to be prepared. So for me, I am going to be prepared by memorizing my monologues, practice it outloud, do my vocal warm up exercises, perform my songs in front of a mirror to practice facial expressions, etc. But, I am going to do this in my own time. I'm not going to do it all at once because I'm pretty sure I will have a stress overload. When it comes to performing and I'm really nervous, I find that it helps to tune everyone else out. This also works for public speaking or any type of presentation. Something we learned in both acting and singing is to close your eyes and really imagine the person you are singing to or the situation you are acting out. See it, feel it, smell it, taste it, hear it, and it will be easier for you to give a genuine performance. Whenever we did acting exercises and I imagined someone I love in that scenario, it felt like they were really there and I forgot about everyone else in the room, therefore, I forgot about being nervous.

I wish that I could go through life without ever encountering a situation that makes me scared, but that is almost impossible. The best thing to do when you're feeling negative is to try to find at least one benefit of the situation and think about how it will change your life. Everything happens for a reason. When you think about the big picture, what is honestly the worst that can happen? Someone will laugh at you, you'll mess up your lines, even losing your job is not that bad because it gives you the opportunity to find another one that you might like better. When you see everything with a positive light, even the potential negative outcomes don't seem that bad after all.

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