Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Confidence Collection: The Trying Something New Edition (And NOT Be Afraid) – Why It’s SO Good For You

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Welcome to our new series, The Confidence Collection! There’s not a single person on the planet who hasn’t suffered a crisis of confidence at one point or another (TRUST us!). SO, we present The Confidence Collection, (click here for our previous editions!) brought to you by our pals at CaciWe’ll be covering all areas of self-belief in all areas of life – dating, work, relationships, beauty and personal growth – with practical advice, words of wisdom from women who have seen it, lived it and conquered it, and everything in between. 

In this edition we delve into trying new things – yes, they’re scary, but here’s why should we push ourselves out of our comfort zones? Growth baby, growth!

Riddle me this, dear reader: When was the last time you actually tried something new? Like, really tried something so new, you took yourself out of your comfort zone, said ‘stuff it’ and threw yourself off that metaphorical cliff of comfort?

Probably longer ago than you’d like to admit.

It’s SO easy to get stuck in a rut and stick to the stuff you know (yes, that was a High School Musical reference, hello fellow millennials).

Now, there are benefits of a routine, don’t get us wrong. But growth comes from challenge, and by doing the same things over and over again, we can plateau into the at best comfortable, at worst mundane.

But, trying new things – hobbies, skills, even finding new friends – can be bloody scary. Where do you start? How do you get up the confidence and get over the fear? And what should you try?!

Why don’t we like trying new things?

Pretty simply, studies reckon most people’s biggest barrier when it comes to trying something new is the fear of the unknown, or the fear of failure. Humans would rather know a bad outcome than not know one at all – pretty sure this is where ‘better the devil you know’ comes from – and that extends to trying new things in life, whether that be big or small.

I can relate to this BIG time – as a kid I was one of the precocious high achievers that absolutely frothed being good at something, so much so I wouldn’t try anything I knew I wouldn’t be the best at (which is why I now still can’t do long division in my 30s and why, even though I LONGED to be in school musicals, I never auditioned due to the overwhelming fear of embarrassing myself, my family, my country and my ancestors. Bit dramatic, I know – I would have been GREAT in Chicago).

It’s also a primal thing – back in the day, not looking dumb was a necessity to survival, says organisational behaviour researcher Keith Rollag.

“From an evolutionary standpoint, trying new things, for much of human history, could have been dangerous,” he says. “Your performance can have a big impact on your status, and status, in turn, affects our ability to get the resources we need… deep in our brains there’s a primeval fear of looking bad, a fear of not performing as well as others.

“One of the challenges with new hobbies is the fact that you’re meeting new people, new groups, new experiences, and that triggers a lot of that anxiety we have about being the newcomer”.

So, science.

But why should you?

We all know that trying something new can be exciting and fun and good for you, yadda yadda yadda. But it can also. be scary and awkward and God forbid, embarrassing. But, trying something new can be just the ticket to help with many issues.

Dr Juan Pablo Zapata of the UV School of Medicine says trying new things can actually help with conditions such as anxiety and depression.

“Studies suggest that people who engage in a variety of new experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimise negative ones,” he says.

Others say that trying something new can help train your brain to learn that the resulting adrenaline rush is a good thing, rather than a fearful emotion. Your creativity is improved, your resilience heightened, and your relatability broadened – after all, everyone has tried something new at some point in their life.

How do you start to try new things?

  • Remember it’s normal to feel a little anxious – this is hard-wired into our brains, so there’s no point of fighting it. Embrace it, and know that everyone else is feeling the exact same thing.
  • Identity your goals, values and ambitions – what do you want to get out of trying something new. A new skill? Something to occupy your time? Something to feed your need for creativity or balance? A new social circle or friend group? Or do you just know you need to get out of your comfort zone and be open to new things?
  • Realise no one is looking at you – we’re ALL guilty of thinking we’re the worst in the Zumba class, but everyone is so caught up in what they’re doing, no one cares about you (in the nicest possible way!).
  • Go in with a positive attitude – don’t be a self-fulfilling prophecy and declare the activity will be a failure before you’ve even tried. Give it everything, and if it’s not for you you can at least walk away knowing you gave it everything you had. That’ll mean no regrets.
  • Learn as much as you can before you do it – read up on what you’re about to do beforehand. Even if it’s not very helpful on the day, having some background knowledge will make you feel a little more confident as you navigate the unknown.
  • Make it fun – NOT a side hustle – if you’re trying a new hobby, for the love of God PLEASE don’t make it a side hustle. While we have mad respect for side hustles. hobbies should be for enjoyment, not work.

What should you try?

I offered up myself as a human Guinea pig for a whole work week to challenge myself to try something new every day – here’s my list.

MONDAY – I started bold and scary, and reached out to an acquaintance I’d met a few times at work events and whom I long admired (she’s an absolute hoot, loves a rosé and knows almost as much about Harry Potter as me). I’d been meaning to try and see if we could turn our acquaintance status into a friendship, but trying to make new things is SCARY. But I sent a text asking if she’d been keen for a wine, and she said yes. Two weeks later, we’ve met up twice and have plans for dinner next week.

New thing I tried: Making a new friend. Did it work? Yes. How do I feel? Bloody proud of myself, to be honest. Putting yourself out there in any friendship or relationship, jumping on apps and initiating connection is probably one of the hardest things out there, but you don’t strike gold until you start mining. Or some other analogy.

TUESDAY – I used my boyfriend’s oat milk in my coffee. A tiny thing, I know, but after the old ‘you should have less dairy’ chat from the doctor, I thought ‘what the hell’. Did I love it? No. Did I hate it as much as I thought I would? No. With a little sugar and a bit of persistence, I think I could almost like it.

New thing I tried: New coffee. Did it work? Yeeees? How do I feel? Relieved that oat milk didn’t taste like porridge like I thought and less fearful of having it in the future.

WEDNESDAY – Lawn bowls, baby! Now technically this isn’t a completely new thing for me, I used to play in high school and loved it. But it’s been 15 years so I was actually really nervous to pick up a bowl again – what if I forgot how to do it? What if I got the bias around the wrong way and accidentally took out an old lady’s shins? But in the spirit of trying new things, I toddled down to social bowls – a brand new experience – and gave it a nudge.

New thing I tried: Social bowls. Did it work? HELL YES. How do I feel? Like I ran into a long-lost love. One of the reasons I was so nervous to try bowls again was the fact I’ve had two ACL replacements (I know, it’s the perfect sport for old folks with bad knees but STILL) but I surprised myself by picking it up pretty quickly, and my confidence about getting back on the horse (or bowling mat, as it were) after my knee surgeries has SKYROCKETED. And I finally met my next-door neighbour and had a lovely chat, so there was a lovely new connection made. 

THURSDAY – Art. I don’t have an arty bone in my body, but I figured today’s the daaaay, and I whipped out a texture art kit I’d been sent by a PR agency months ago. After a few false starts (I had the canvas upside down, ok) I got the hang of it. To be fair the art consisted of mixing up plaster and schmearing it across the canvas but still, there was some *artistic* considerations in there, ok?

New thing I tried: Art. Did it work? Depends on your taste TBH. How do I feel? Look, art isn’t going to be my new thing. But it was super-relaxing (after I figured out what the hell I was doing) and I’m proud I created something.

FRIDAY – Gratitude journal. I’ve had one of these journals just kind of languishing around for more than a year, and I thought a reflective Friday moment might be a cool thing to try. I settled down with a cup of tea (fine it was a red wine) and reflected on the week that was – the highs, the lows, things I want to remember in the future, how I feel and what I’m grateful for.

New thing I tried: Gratitude journaling. Did it work? It actually really did. How do I feel? Like… my life is slightly more put-together? Being able to look back and analyse the week that was actually was really empowering, and a huge shot of confidence heading into the weekend and the next week ahead.

In summary, these five days have felt exciting because although most of what I did was small, they accumulated into this wonderful sense of accomplishment, creativity and confidence. I can only recommend trying something new – you might, like me and oat milk, surprise yourself.

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