Stepping Out of my Comfort Zone
By Melissa Martinez
If the person I am today were to meet the person I once was four years ago, it would seem like two completely different beings meeting for the first time. The person I was four years ago might look exactly like me today except she lacked confidence and motivation for her studies. She had no set goals for her future and lived with the thought of whether she chose the right career path or not. The me four years ago walked the university campus with headphones plugged in, in hopes that no one would speak to her and hopefully make it through her classes to then head back home. She felt anxious and intimidated by her male colleagues that filled the majority of her classrooms. If the present me were to walk up to the past me to tell her about my whereabouts now and the countless times I had to step out of my comfort zone, she would be filled with so much anxiety that she would probably dread the years to come. Stepping out of my comfort zone had always been a difficult task for me to do for as long as I can remember. As much as I wished I could play the role of a leader, I grew up playing the role of a follower which always felt more comfortable to do. As the years went by, I slowly started to take small steps out of the comfort that I knew until I found myself completely out of that zone at times.
Being apart of Bridge to Connect has challenged me to not only just walk out of my comfort zone, but to also not be afraid to take giant leaps to where my comfort zone is nowhere to be seen at times. I had to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable until the point where I no longer minded the anxiousness and discomfort. In the beginning of this journey with BRDG I found myself constantly pep-talking myself through a lot of activities, events, and networking opportunities that I felt were a bit of a stretch from my comfort zone. I remember in specific attending the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Networking event as an event that not only challenged the way I viewed my feeling of uneasiness but also made me change the perspective I have as a student to one as a future professional. I realized how from that moment on, I was going to have to get used to being in a professional setting and speaking to people often with a common profession or special interest. I realized the importance of networking and just how beneficial it is to go out of your way and speak to professionals who have a story of their own. I found that these stories can be taken as simply just that, a story to go in through one ear and out the other. However, if payed close attention they have a life time’s worth of information that can be a form of insight and advice for a student like me just barley starting their own professional journey.
When we first arrived at the event, I recall the feeling of anxiety and nervousness I felt. Before even arriving to the event, I had already created a mental image in my head of a room filled with intimidating men in suits that ignited a sense of panic inside of me. Once entering the room, being the analytical person that I am, I remember standing there observing the people around us to see how they were carrying themselves and speaking to one another. Although I appeared calm and put together, I remember thoughts running in and out of my head such as “don’t say the wrong thing”, “pretend you know what you’re talking about”, “remember your 30 second elevator speech”, and “don’t come off as too shy”. All these thoughts soon disappeared from my mind as soon as the first person walked up to have a conversation with us. Soon it was a second person and then a third one. slowly I began to feel a weight lifted off my shoulder as I realized that everyone there was there to support one another and help everyone succeed, not put anyone down. No one there wanted to see anyone fail and everyone we spoke to were all more than willing to give out advice and offer their help in any way they could.
Gathering up the courage to even attend this event was something that was really difficult for me to do however, to my surprise, made me realize that my comfort zone was almost like a prison keeping me from growing and flourishing into the person I am meant to be. With the attendance of this event I realized that sometimes it is a little difficult to make that first step out alone. For that reason, I am grateful I had the opportunity to have such wonderful and supportive coaches by my side to help me get out of my head and into the present moment. I found that staying in my head too long caused me to overthink my plan of action which ended up scaring me from following through with what I had planned. I also realized, how for the longest time, I had lived with the excuse that I was “too shy” to be able to do certain things and that it was just in my nature to be this way. From experience, I now see that growing up shy doesn’t mean you will remain shy for the rest of your life. There are moments I reflect on now and wish I hadn’t turned down certain opportunities because of this mental block. This all goes back to living in a comfort zone where these excuses “protect us” from things that most of the time we don’t need protecting from. A comfort zone is a dangerous place to live in and we will only see this once we have stepped out and taken a breath of fresh air of what is outside this zone. Stepping out or expanding my comfort zone is what I needed to do to help me progress from where I was four years ago. This decision allowed me to take on many wonderful opportunities that otherwise I would have continued to turn down If I hadn’t outgrown my comfort zone.
For me this event really broke the ice for the many event and opportunities to come. This event was one that really made me reflect on how far I had come from when I had first started college to where I am now. For once, I came to the realization how the scenarios I created in my head were often the scariest part to anything I did. after this event, I could finally picture myself as one of the professionals in the industry carrying myself with confidence and ease. This event allowed me to finally accept the emotions and nervousness that filled my body whenever I was in any unfamiliar situation and I knew that if I could go back and tell the me from four years ago, she would be so proud and know it would all be worth it in the long run.
“Being a part of BRDG has challenged me to not only just walk out of my comfort zone, but to also not be afraid to take giant leaps to where my comfort zone is nowhere to be seen at times. I realized the importance of networking and just how beneficial it is to go out of your way and speak to professionals who have a story of their own. I found that these stories if payed close attention can be a form of insight and advice for a student like me who just barley starting their own professional journey.”