What lies beyond your comfort zone?
Updated: Oct 10, 2020
There are a few things in life that we tend to avoid because they can be uncomfortable. Answering the phone when you don’t know who’s calling? Going to events where you don’t know anyone? Eating alone? Texting new friends?
We all have our ‘things’ that make us feel anything from mild discomfort to full blown NOPE and nowadays the world is making it easier and easier for us to avoid these sensations entirely. Hate calling people to order food? Uber Eats! Dislike going out and socialising with new people? Hello Netflix. Prefer a casual shag instead of committing to something serious? I see you Tinder/ Grinder / Bumble et al.
But that pathological reaction you have when you are stuck with a stranger in an elevator is actually telling you something. If you flipped the script and just said ‘hello!’ you might find yourself in new and unfamiliar territory. A space of real, honest connection.
I am living proof of this theory.
Being a writer means I am equally fascinated by and terrified of people. Meeting new people has always been especially traumatic for me, but moving to a new country means you suddenly have no choice but to interact with strangers.
In London, you are constantly surrounded by people. And yet it is known as the loneliest city in the world. I see this loneliness etched on people’s faces everywhere I go. It intrigues me. It makes me sad. I determined I was not going to be one of these sad, lonely people. And so, discomfort was the only way.
On average I would say there are about 50 to 100 networking events a night in London. You will never run out. Some of them of are obscenely awkward, while others are downright fun. I’ve been to both. But each time I came away smiling because I kept noticing the same three things. 1. Everyone in the room is feeling awkward. 2. ‘Hello’ is the most powerful word in the world. 3. Most people are actually quite nice.
Around the same time as I started attending regular networking events, meet-ups and open mics all over the city, I also discovered a Youtube channel called Yes Theory. They’re a bunch of young guys who regularly put themselves in uncomfortable situations to see how far they can challenge their own physical, mental and emotional boundaries. They do things like start spontaneous dance parties on the street, ask strangers to host them for a dinner party or go skinny dipping on the spot, and strand themselves with no money in foreign places, relying only on the kindness of strangers. Their motto is ‘Seek Discomfort’ and they currently have over 4 million subscribers and a network of 'Yes Fam' members spanning the globe. Yes Theory inspired me to keep pushing myself further and basically obliterate my comfort zone.
One such experience took me to a ‘Speed friending’ event. As a serial monogamist, I never had the chance to go speed dating but was always intrigued by the concept. The idea is simple enough. Chat to someone for five minutes and then move on to someone else.
I will admit that there is a chance that I spent five minutes speaking to a Russian serial killer, but aside from that, I had a really fun time and had some truly surprising interactions.
When you put aside all your pretentions and admit that you are just a human, looking for human connection, you will find commonality with people you never expect to.
At this event I saw a young Indian guy sitting down by himself and asked him if he was OK. It turned out he was a Muslim and fasting and was feeling a bit wobbly. I sat down next to him and ended up having a great chat and a good laugh.
While I didn’t come home with a pile of new friend requests, it was a welcome respite from my potentially lonely weekend and allowed me to nudge that barrier of discomfort again.
In a world that is giving you every reason to stay in your bubble…I am here to give you a gentle prod. Accept that invite. Take off your headphones. Smile at that stranger. Go to that event. Ignore the blood rushing in your ears and the churning of your guts and just say that most magic of words, “hello.”