We all have insecurities. We all long for the day when we can go about our routine without even a smidgen of self-consciousness. To those of you who don’t – kudos to you for mastering them. Teach me your ways!
I’m an anxious person. I worry a lot. I go through worst case ‘what if’ situations in my head for almost everything do. I’m often afraid to tackle something out of fear that it will not go well. I don’t talk to new people because I’m afraid that they won’t want to talk to me. I don’t go through with things I want because I don’t want to fail at getting them. It’s not rational, and I hate it. I hate that I love the comfort zone – and I hate that it takes incredible mental effort to step out.
There are a few things I have no problem experimenting with. Food is one of them (obviously…). I eat a great deal of foods that many people would be afraid to try – and I love it, it’s near effortless to me.
Fashion is another. I wear odd combinations of colors and styles, and I’m not afraid to do so. Sure, I get weird looks, but I have fun putting the outfits together. Sometimes I do it to make myself feel better, prettier, or more productive. If I lounge around in sweats all day, nobody has to see me. I get dressed up especially when I’m feeling insecure and uncomfortable in my own skin. I try to get dressed up on bad body image days, to force myself to get out of the house and show off my ‘style’.
But I hate pictures of myself. It is a huge step for me to post pictures of myself on this site – especially unedited ones like the one above. I could tell you at least ten things I find wrong about that photo, but that would be counter-productive.
Unfortunately, this often applies in my social life as well. I turn down invitations if I think for a second that I don’t have time, or won’t enjoy it, or have to change my original plans around for this new thing. Control freak, much? Probably.
In the past year or so I have made incredible progress. A few months ago, I would never skip a workout for a meeting or study group. I would not change my schedule to fit in a dinner event. My grades suffered, as did my mental health. A year ago, I would never have gone on a trip to California on a whim – with real plan or arrangements. My trip this summer was one of the most fun things I’ve done in a long time.
So, what am I getting at? Next semester I’m doing something big, and way out of my comfort zone.
Study abroad is a huge part of college these days. It’s a fantastic way to experience a new culture, and so convenient with all the programs offered. One of the reasons I chose to attend my college is for the satellite study abroad campuses they have in 12 different cities around the world. Even though it seriously freaks me out, I promised myself I would study in another country for the spring semester of my junior year.
At first I was just going to make it easy and apply to one of the satellite sites. All you have to do is send in a short online application – without any essays or recommendations – and everything transfers. Credits, housing, financial aid, tuition, everything. But after looking at the courses offered, there were no programs that I wanted to do. There were little to no offerings in the sciences. The non-specific ones all revolved around language and culture – which I enjoy, but not in classes.
So I toyed with the idea of setting up an international exchange – a semester abroad where I could design my study program, and still take classes for my major. The only catch is, I’m completely on my own. It’s up to me to make all contacts. It’s up to me to arrange all applications, documents, permits, payments, housing, etc. My fear or failure was screaming at me – “don’t do it, there’s no way it’s going to work out there are so many things that could go wrong!”
No. I would not let that fear-voice win. I almost let the application date slip past me, but I pushed myself to just do it. I would not be any worse off but handing in the application and not getting accepted.
Just a few weeks ago, I got the official acceptance letter for Stockholm University, Spring 2012. That’s right – I’m studying in Sweden next semester, and I’m excited and terrified at the same time. It’s going to be a completely new experience, and I’m completely on my own. I’m the ‘representative’ from my university in Sweden, and there is not going to be a single person I know.
(sorry, this is turning out longer than I had originally intended – almost done I promise!)
Just this week, I traveled uptown to the Swedish Consulate to hand in my student residence permit application.
Until this week, it hadn’t really set in. There was still room to back out, still a chance to play it safe. I was really tempted to take it – but I knew I’d hate myself for it. Yes, I’m nervous as can be, but I stepped out of my comfort zone – and I’m thinking it was the right thing to do.
And, while I was in Bloomingdale’s neighborhood, I decided to give myself a little treat for stepping out of my comfort zone instead of playing it safe.
Little treats are a great short-term reward for pushing myself not to play it safe all the time.
Are you a risk taker? Or do you like to play it safe?
Have you ever lived in a country other than your home country? What was it like for you?