Have you ever asked yourself why that which appears easy for other people to do, seems to be impossible for you to achieve? There are people whom never seem to be afraid of speaking in public nor of introducing themselves to a room full of strangers. They expel a self-assured attitude and inspire admiration; while for others in the same circumstances, the possib
ility of speaking publicly becomes totally unthinkable.
What do they do differently?
Let's imagine one of the following scenarios: that you have to make a presentation for your company; or that you have your first job interview in a different language; or that you have an oral exam. Perhaps by only thinking about these scenarios, your level of discomfort rises. All kinds of doubts start popping into your mind and you wonder why, whilst other people manage to appear so secure and cope so well with such stressing situations, you struggle and have to suffer so much. No matter how much training you have taken part in, nor how many tips you have already learned, when it comes to these kinds of situations your nerves betray you always in the same way.
How could I ever change it?
Before we can change something it's important to know the following: what is it that we want to change; the assertions and assessments that triggers our response; and finally, what are the outcomes we expect to achieve. Let's start then with the second point, having a closer look at the roots of our behavioral patterns and understanding why we react as we do.
We are what we believe
Since the moment we are born we are immersed in a world of family beliefs and social discourses. Whether you have grown up in a family where the belief was "the world is dangerous", "nothing is never enough", or "you have to work hard", you will learn these precepts simply as the way things are. Furthermore, like a fish in water, you will live according to these mandates until they become a part of you, as your natural way of thinking. These learning experiences will operate as invisible strings in your subconscious mind outlining the boundaries of "how the world is", shaping your expectations and circumscribing an area of safety in which you move and learn, and from which you will see and interact with others. However, when we face a new situation, we are pushed to cross a threshold into a new territory, in which the normal way of doing things is probably no longer valid.
In this area beyond our competences, beyond our comfort zone, fear appears to let us know that we need to be careful. If you are not aware that this is just a gate, this frontier is probably a place where you naturally don't go because the primary impulse is to stay safe. Still, things we care about are beyond the border of your current comfort zone and to get to them we need to cross the threshold. You will only know you've reached it because of the sensations in your body: you shrink; the knot in your stomach tightens more and more; you probably feel not organized enough; and most of the times we interpret these symptoms as a sign that we are not coping with the situation very well. The challenge is to take a step into the unknown and survive the transition.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - What you think matters
The important thing about keeping your head above water while crossing the edge, is to be aware of it, and recognize the pattern that is keeping you away from what you want. We don't want to get rid of the limit; the idea is to make it grow, to expand the comfort zone, taking in new learning experiences. We want to explore and go further, because what we care about is beyond this territory. It's also important to know, that we can think of fear as an alarm that's telling us we still don't know how to move well in the new situation. Actually, the fact that we tend to respond this way is not necessarily a negative quality. Ultimately, this automatic response has served us well in the past, and we can be grateful to it. However, this might not be the best way to approach situations in a new context. By being aware of this you have a choice, because you can't change the experiences of your past, but what you can certainly do is to change the way you look at them.
For instance, if according to your beliefs and previous experiences - comfort zone - what you see beyond the edge is that possibilities are closed to you rather than open, then the actions you will take are totally different. One towards success, the other one probably towards failure. The good news is that it is possible to unlearn old habits and learn new ones. Here is where your body and your language become your allies; first, because learning "to do" something new requires that we put our bodies into it; and second because learning involves acquiring new distinctions in whatever domain is involved and these distinctions live in language. Therefore Body and Language are powerful tools you can train yourself to use to your advantage in the process of stepping into the unknown. What we declare, how we move and deal with the emotions that emerge in a given situation, can help us overcome our barriers, to discover in the end that we endured the fear.
Marcel Proust said: "The Journey of discovery does not consist of searching for new landscapes, but in having new eyes." Awareness gives you that choice. The more conscious you are about your limitations, the more possibilities for change you bring into your life. That's why how you think about things matters. Because to take ownership of your life means to be accountable, to be free to decide what you want and to go for it.