I have a Girl Crush

 

I know, it’s ridiculous. If you know me, you will know that I don’t really buy into celebrity culture. I have no interest in the Kardashians, I don’t watch reality TV and I’ve never really had a favourite singer/actor/model/sportsperson. In fact you could say that I actually dislike the whole celebrity thing quite a bit. But here I am, a 40-year-old woman who has a girl crush on someone I only know via social media. *Face palm*

I have no idea how I actually came across her, but one night (probably past my bed-time) I noticed myself glow-faced and scrolling through her Instagram feed. There I was, fawning over her so-called perfect life, thinking to myself “Why can’t I look like that?” “Why can’t I live there?” “Why can’t I have what she has?” And almost instantly I started feeling really down. I started feeling as though something was lacking in my life and felt down on myself about my apparent failure to achieve my dream life. At the time I didn’t associate this feeling with my mindless scrolling, I just knew that I wasn’t happy and I couldn’t identify why.

I’m not sure if it was intuition, or perhaps a bit of encouragement from my husband, but in January I decided that I needed to take a break from social media. Initially I was only planning to go off Facebook, huge resistance showed up when I started thinking about deleting Instagram from my phone. But if doing comfort zone challenges has taught me anything it is that where I feel that resistance I need to push through it. So for February I gave up Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, or as I like to call it: my Social Media Bermuda Triangle.

During the first couple of days I would reach for my phone, almost instinctively, to check my Instagram and Facebook feeds – mostly when I was bored, feeling uncomfortable or trying to distract myself. Thankfully I gave myself a bit of a head start by deleting the apps from my phone. I also noticed the pull towards them when I was working on the computer, but managed to catch myself when I found myself at the Facebook login screen. It truly had become a deeply ingrained habit.

About a week or so into the challenge I started to notice that I’d lose track of where my phone was. I would put it down and then not touch it for hours. I noticed how much time I got back by not mindlessly scrolling (and scrolling and scrolling). I noticed how much more engaged I was with the kids, because I’m ashamed to admit that I sometimes used it as a tool to escape the monotony of the day-to-day with young children. And most notably I wasn’t feeling down about my life anymore. I started to look around and realise that what I already had was pretty damn amazing. Hash tag blessed and all that jazz.

However, while I had made all these amazing discoveries, I did still miss some aspects of being on social media. Since I don’t read a newspaper I like to get my news that way; I like to see what my wider circle of friends have been doing; and of course there are always cute dog videos (what can I say? I’m not a cat person.). But how could I go back to it if when I did I started feeling down about my life? I didn’t want to covet someone else’s life anymore.

I shared this feeling with a friend while out hiking one day (the BEST way to have juicy conversations!) and her point of view has completely changed the way I look at and interact with people that I envy. She said that envy is there to help us, which, after my epiphany about intuition recently, makes complete sense. Envy, along with any of our other emotions, is just information. It’s our truest self, who we are at our core, or some may call it our soul, trying to tell us what it wants or needs. Kind of like an inner compass, guiding us in the right direction.

When I thought about it from that perspective I started asking myself “What is it about her and her life that I envy?” I won’t lie; some of it was about what she looked like. But also it was about being a business owner, the flexibility she has with her life, her ability to travel and still continue running a creative business that she loves. Not to mention that she works with and shares the parenting responsibilities with her husband 50:50. These things were indicators to me about how I’d like to be living my life.

The next step that I took was to then question the things that came up for me and see how they aligned with my own values. Why did I want to look perfectly made up and be a size 8? Is that my own true desire or just a societal pressure influencing me (this is more likely to be driven by the ego than your soul)? Why did I want to have my own business and flexibility? From a body image perspective, being an unnaturally smaller size (for me) actually does not align with my values around body positivity. I don’t believe in diets and nor do I believe in struggling to shrink my body to fit a cultural ideal. I believe in health at any size and I believe in intuitive eating. So once I became aware of it that aspect of what I was envying naturally fell away. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean that it goes away completely, I still have to remind myself of this at times but I have gotten better at removing my triggers (this is a whole other blog post entirely).

Finally, I asked myself “Am I willing to do what needs to be done and make the sacrifices required in order to achieve what I envy?” Do I want to have beautiful hair, makeup and style? Yes. But am I willing to blow dry my hair and spend a tonne of time in the bathroom applying makeup each day? Um, no. I am WAY too lazy for that. However, when it comes to the idea of building a business and creating a life of flexibility, creativity and an equal parenting arrangement, I am prepared to make the sacrifices, to stay up late, hustle and to do the hard yards and most definitely get outside of my comfort zone.

Now that I am listening to myself and trusting my inner guidance I’ve got something to aim for. As a result I have created a vision board for myself and the next step is to get to work. If you want to live a more intentional life, it’s absolutely vital to know what it is that you want. Sometimes it feels like you don’t even know what you want, I’ve certainly felt that way before, but the signs are there. Your body and your emotions are giving you clues everyday – you just have to listen, observe and playfully ask yourself questions.

So for now my girl crush and I are going to remain Insta-friends (and by that I mean I’m going to watch her life from afar and she won’t ever know who the hell I am – so weird), but as a result of my one-month hiatus my relationship with social media has changed. Social media, like so many other things, is not inherently good or bad; it’s how we interact with it that matters. We have to remember to use it in a way that serves us; otherwise we will end up being its servant.

Are you on Facebook? Instagram? Let’s be friends!

Cold Shower Heroes: How to live a broad life

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Welcome to the second instalment of my Cold Shower Heroes interviews. Today I want to introduce you to Tim and Erin, an American couple who are embracing life outside their comfort zone by travelling the world with their 18 month old daughter and 4 year old son (yikes! I hear all the parents exclaim).

I first came across Tim and Erin on Twitter, which led me to their blog: Abroad Life. Tim’s article Daedalus Rising really captured my attention. I felt that it was a perfect metaphor for the situation many of us find ourselves in after reaching a certain number of milestones we’re meant to achieve in life and feeling like “Is this all there is?”

So Tim and Erin decided to reassess what was important to them and courageously decided to leave their comfortable life in Boston to travel around the world. I spoke to them about some of the challenges and rewards of their adventure.

What prompted you to take this trip?

Erin: We always wanted to do some extended travel and we’d tried previously to come up with different ways that we could take three months or more off work. So the idea wasn’t something that totally came out of the blue for us. But as far as actually deciding to do it, that happened in one email.  We had a really tough winter in Boston last winter, where we got 8 feet of snow in the month of February. We had three major snowstorms that winter – we couldn’t even get out the door for one of them. In February we were snowed in and the whole city was just a mess, even all the way through March. Then in April we all got sick and we had stomach bugs and intense sicknesses that never ended, it was just awful. Then I read some travel blog article about someone who quit her job to go travelling and I was just like “What are we doing?” We’d already been doing all this budgeting stuff and I was like “Why are we spending all this money next year on childcare when we’re just miserable.” Well, we weren’t exactly miserable – but I was sick at the time I said that. (Laughs) That was the tipping point and I just threw my hands up and said “Well let’s just do something else”

How did it go from being just a concept to reality and how long was it between making the decision and going?

Tim: So Erin sent that email to me (the one that’s on the website) on May 1st I think and then we came home and that night and started looking at the budget.

Erin: Well we’re big budgeters, so we already had something to start with.

Tim: Yeah, so every year we go through our budget so we’d been doing all that anyway and thinking about what we wanted to do with our house and we just started Vera in childcare three days a week and had been working out how that affected Erin’s work schedule. So we just added another column for what our costs would be and how do our costs change if we do this travel? Then we got to a point where we said “Hey, this might actually be workable” if one of us could keep an income.

Erin: Then within a few days my parents came to visit and we dished this whole travel idea. And of course I grew up travelling so they were like “Yeah, do it!”

Tim: And then while they were still there we started sorting out the house with them.

Erin: We were basically prepping our house for rental, all within days (of having the idea)! And then within a week I was interviewing realtors and having them come through the house. Within a week and a half we had a realtor signed up to list our house… and at this stage I don’t think we’d even talked to our companies yet.  We basically just decided that with such a limited window of time that we could actually do these things that everything was all ‘GO’

Tim: Unless we hit a deal-breaker.

Erin: So we started our trip all within four months. It was August 21st that we left. We had a vacation planned for that time anyway and we had the flights booked so we thought that if we just change the return flight then we’d paid for at least one portion of the trip.

Tim: And the other part of that was that in Boston, September in the rental market is important because of all the universities and colleges. In order to get someone in September you have to have the house agreed to in June.

Erin: That was really why we were moving so fast. I mean we had to rent our house, that was a deal-breaker. There would be no way that we could support the trip with it not rented out.

Do you think having the time pressure made it easier?

Tim: Definitely, I think that because it was so quick there just wasn’t any room to second guess yourself. We were just kinda throwing all the balls up in the air and seeing where they landed.

Erin: Yeah and although it was four months, we actually rented the house within a month of deciding, so that was the point where we realised “Ok, this is actually happening”.

Did you have to resign from your jobs to take the trip?

Erin: Well we spoke to our employers about working remotely and Tim’s employer had said no because they couldn’t support it. Tim said that he may consider doing the trip anyway and they said they understood that.  And I’m a self employed contractor anyway and I had been working a bit from home anyway, so it wasn’t as ‘off the wall’ of an idea for me.

Tim: Yeah, Erin had already established the principle of remote work after having the kids. I’d been doing that to some extent by working from home one day a week, but for a longer term commitment and for what I do, it’s pretty hard. I’m an architect and project manager so I’m going to client meetings and job sites, and all that so obviously I can’t do all that remotely.  So yeah, technically I resigned.  It’s all on good terms though, so I’ll be talking with them next Summer and most likely they would want to have me back, but you never know.  We’ll just have to see where things stand when I get back.

Was having to quit your job scary?

Tim: Yeah, that’s still a big unknown at this point. I mean I’m not too worried that I couldn’t get a job, but part of it is that I did actually like my job. I liked what I was doing and the people that I worked with, it was 10 minutes away from our house, which was a really good set up. And I’d been there 13 years since I graduated from college so I had really put my heart and soul into the company.

Erin: At the point when Tim realised that he was going to have to quit his job that was the point where I was like “Are you really sure, really?” Because I was afraid that this was my ‘brilliant’ idea and Tim’s the one leaving his job, I thought ‘oh no!’

Tim: Yeah, I did like my job but I was also at a point personally where I was feeling like I wasn’t getting the time with the kids that I wanted. And that we were stuck in these routines between both our jobs and the kids routines and it felt like there was just one path forward and we had no other options for what we wanted to do with our time and with our lives. I was just trying to set priorities and work out what has to be sacrificed. I mean do you focus less on career and focus more on your family? You kind of have this time pressure of your career and your family and of course your own personal interests, and at some point something’s gotta give. So I was really ready for a break and to try to take a step back and think more deeply about what we want from our lives.

Now that you are a few months in to your travels, has it been everything that you had hoped for? 

Erin: Yes!

Tim: I think so, yes. Obviously there are still challenges, but they are much different than the challenges we had at home. The travel days are tough, with the kids. All the packing and everything that comes with moving every two weeks. Ideally we’d like to stay in places for up to a month, which will makes things easier.

Erin: Yeah I think we’ll probably do that come January, we’ll have some longer stretches.

Tim: At the moment we’ve been doing housesitting where we stay at someone’s house while they’re on vacation and mind their property. Based on the way those things have been spaced out it’s been two week stints in each place. Mostly that’s been fine, it’s enough time with the kids to get them settled in and see enough of where we are without feeling rushed, but two weeks comes about fast.

Do you have an itinerary for this big adventure?

Erin: Actually the biggest question that we got before we left was “Oh, where are you going?” And we’d sort of just say “I don’t know” because where we were going didn’t really matter. This trip was never about where we were exactly, but really more about having the time to spend together as a family and experience something new. As much as I’d love to say it’s about where we are, it’s not as much because of the age of our kids. I mean we’re still dealing with two naps a day, so our outings have to be scheduled around that. We knew going into this, and still understand, that we can’t put too much into each outing otherwise everyone’s going to get cranky. You just have to have low expectations for what you’re going to achieve that day. Tim’s joke is that we generally only see 30% of what we would be able to see if it was just us travelling together. But we don’t feel disappointed by that, we don’t feel that we’ve missed out on anything because that’s not the main reason we’re here, so we’re just going with it.

Tim: Yeah, what we’re really finding is that now that we’re here, how much this trip is about the time we spend together and sharing experiences in these amazing new places.

What has been the biggest lesson that you’ve learned from this experience so far? 

Tim: Probably the biggest thing has been the way that it’s changed our way of thinking about what we want to do and how we live our lives.

Erin: It makes the future seem like there are so many more possibilities. I know it seems cheesy, but it’s got us thinking outside the box a little bit about what we’re going to do and where we’re going to go with our lives. When we were at home it was so pre-determined, it was like everyday was “Erin has to get both kids to daycare, sit in rush hour traffic to get to the office and then go home, go to the grocery store on the way home, Tim’s got to leave the office early to get home – even though it’s not even early – and then it’s into the evening routine.” And that was just it, the way things are supposed to be. But here, we’ve starting to think in a different way and look at how we can sustain this, or at least some of the time we spend together.

What have been the biggest challenges of the trip so far? And how have you overcome them?

Tim: Well there are two parts to that: the challenge of getting here, and then the challenges of actually being here.

Erin: Yeah the challenges of getting here were pretty big. We had a checklist of something like 200 things we needed to do before we left, and there were big things that we needed to figure out. Sorting out health insurance for example, which luckily Tim handled because I just can’t cope with that kind of stuff because I just get angry at the health care system. Urgh.

Tim: All the big decisions had a potential to derail everything, but I think what kept us pushing through was knowing that we just really wanted this, and that we were really committed to it.

Erin: Yeah, by that stage we’d already rented our house!

Tim: We kind of threw ourselves in the deep end…

Erin: Also by that stage we’d already figured out what needed to be done and made the assessment that nothing on that list was too scary that we couldn’t handle it. Having said that some of it was so stressful, I felt like I was breathing from the top of my chest for two straight months. But as soon as we left it was fine – and I went back to breathing normally. (laughs)

Tim: Then since being on the road it’s really been about logistics of travelling with kids and general problem solving, plus making sure Erin can work remotely.

Erin: Things like making sure we have internet access is important, plus some type of cell phone use and things like that.

Tim: And like we mentioned before, the biggest challenge on the road is the long travel days, getting packed up and whatever.

Erin: Yeah, physically moving with two kids is hard (we wrote a blog post on it) because we have to carry everything as well as the two kids. And we packed surprisingly lightly – I mean we’ve basically only got three outfits on rotation! It’s actually kind of silly. So it’s not like we packed heavy, there is just a lot that you have to bring having kids. I always get a bit stressed the day before and day of, but we’re getting pretty used to packing and unpacking and we’re pretty good at giving ourselves more time and not rushing.

What have been the sacrifices that you’ve had to make to take this trip? Have you found it difficult not being able to go out just the two of you, for example?

Erin: Actually, just being somewhere different makes you feel like you’re out anyway. When you’re in a different city or staying in a rental that you like it feels like a special occasion.

Tim: Yeah, when we’re at home it sometimes feels like you have to go out just to spend time together because in our normal routine there’s no time to spend together, just the two of us. But here it’s different.

Erin: There just feels like there’s less to do when you’re not in your own house. It’s taken the cleaning thing out of the equation, when you’re here for two weeks you just do a final clean (and a little wipe of the highchair each day) and then you’re all done!

Tim: For me my biggest concern is with Oliver, having him miss out on his pre school experience and not having collaborative experiences with other kids. But then the trade off there is that he gets us, full time, engaging with him. It’s not the same, but that is a struggle, keeping him engaged and interested in what we’re doing.

Erin: As for our friends and family I think that if we were gone for the full year (we’re going home for a visit for Christmas) then I think I would have felt a bit more feelings of angst or separation. The other day I got a bit sad thinking about Thanksgiving, but then I thought “At least we’ll be home for Christmas” because I think we would have had a hard time not seeing everyone for a whole year. Especially because we’re close to our family and we’ve got a good group of friends who we spend time with.

Tim: But we also Facetime a lot and have the blog and Instagram where we can connect with everyone – including new people, like you!

What do you think that you will do differently once you get home as a result of having this year away?

Erin: Well, that’s an ongoing conversation.

Tim: The biggest question for me is what happens career wise.

Erin: I think it would feel wrong to jump right back in to what we were doing before. But I’m not sure just yet how to re-align things to something a bit different.

Tim: Mostly it’s around how we can change the amount of time we both work so we can spend more time together and as a family. That both of us working less might allow us to have a life that allows us a similar experience to what we have over here. But at this stage I have no idea what that looks like at the moment.

Erin: I think that we could possibly do more travel, possibly for three months or so. I’d like to take a bigger chunk of time to take these trips, instead of just having a two week vacation somewhere. Actually making it part of our lifestyle.

What advice would you give to other people who may also want to do what you’re doing but think it can’t be done?

Tim: I would say “Think big”. For us we had to look at all the things that were supposedly big and sacred in our lives – careers, home, schooling (or pre-schooling actually) and we had to burn all those bridges to realise what actually was important. So I think you need to look at your life try and find a way to make the most important pieces fit together a bit differently. I also think that while it’s important to be comfortable with the concept and what needs to happen to get there, you also need to realise that you don’t need to answer all of the questions now. You just need commit to a plan and then trust that you’ll figure the rest out as the experience unfolds.

You can read more about Tim and Erin’s adventures on their blog or follow them on Instagram and Twitter.

And a big thanks to Tim and Erin for taking time out to chat to me. I really enjoyed our conversation and love following your inspiring adventure.  See you in Sydney next time, right? 😉

 

Vulnerability 101

IMG_0075I do this thing. Whenever I meet people for the first time I have this act that I put on. It’s sort of hard to explain, but I have this weird way of talking and I hesitate giving my opinion, mainly because I’m wondering what it is that the person wants to hear. It’s safe to say that in those moments I am anything but my authentic self. Sometimes I hear myself talking and I think to myself “Who IS this person?” Sometimes I can snap myself out of it, but often the more I want to impress someone the more I do it. The thing is, it’s like trying to sell someone a diamond by showing them a piece of glass – seriously, no one is convinced!

You may have read my previous post about going to Gwinganna. When I booked it I thought that the only comfort zone challenge I was going to have was shelling out the cash. Yeah baby, I thought, it’s all foot massages and sunning myself by the pool from here on. Umm, yeah, about that….

A few days into the Gwinganna experience they announced that one of the activities that morning was ‘Tribal’. I’d heard from a lot of the returning guests that Tribal was one of the best activities of the retreat, and it involved dancing, so I was sold pretty early on. So naively I headed over to the Pavilion where Tribal was being held. I chatted to everyone, thankfully less painfully than the girl in the first paragraph, but I definitely still had on my protective armour. We got started and it was SO much fun! The energy in the room was great. While some people held back to begin with, by the end everyone was smiling and going crazy with their dance moves. It was exhausting but exhilarating. Sounds great right? Definitely not out of my comfort zone yet.

Then it happened. Our Tribal ‘leader’ slowed the pace, we started moving slower and slower until eventually we moved out bodies to the floor and just lay there, releasing all the energy of the last hour and a half. He led us into a meditation and I felt myself just… letting go. Letting go of expectations – mine and other peoples; letting go of fears – of not being likeable, of not being enough; I let go of the stories that I had been telling myself about who I was, and who I wasn’t. It really is a very difficult thing to explain, but being in that meditative state I was able to let go of these things that were holding me down and it felt like such a relief. It was such a relief that I started to cry, the tears just kept coming. They were streaming uncontrollably from my eyes – who knew you could cry with your eyes closed? But it felt good, it felt SO good. The not-so-good part (read: really freaking uncomfortable part) came when then meditation finished and we had to stand up to face the room.

I stood up, with my face firmly down to hide the by now very obvious signs of crying – you know, the really attractive red blotches and snot dripping out your nose. Oh-so-glamorous. We stood in the circle and all I felt was an overwhelming urge to run. To run as far away as I could get, to splash cold water on my face and ‘snap myself out of it’. The urge was SO strong, but I held my ground, but not quite ready to look up. And of course the point was to look up, to allow yourself to feel and share whatever raw emotion you were feeling with the people in the room, that you look into someone else’s eyes and, more importantly, that you allow them to look into yours. Allow them to see the real you, to see your fears, your insecurities, your imperfections.

Despite every urge in my being not to, I eventually managed to look up from my feet and across the room into the eyes of these people who I hadn’t known from a bar of soap just a few days ago. And not only did I see compassion and caring in their eyes, but I also saw them too. Each individual person, unique and scared and vulnerable. Yes, we are all different, but sometimes it takes moments like that to realize that we are all the same. At our core, we are all the same.

I felt a noticeable shift in the energy of the group after the Tribal experience. The whole group felt closer and more open with each other. I felt like I could drop my act of little miss perfect and just be me. The wonderful thing about it was that I truly felt like I connected with people more – although admittedly that was after taking a good few solitary hours in the bush to absorb what had happened.

I got a lot of clarity out of the Tribal experience, but probably the part that affected me the most, the message I most needed to hear was around what is probably my biggest insecurity: people liking me.   How can I expect people to like me if I don’t show them who I really am? I am starting to realize now that I am enough, exactly as I am. I don’t need to pretend to be someone else for people to like me. As long as I let my guard down and allow people to see who I really am then I give myself the opportunity to be loved.

Are you giving yourself the opportunity to be loved?

 

The Ego And Connection

Amigos...
Amigos…

In Spanish the word Embarazada does NOT mean what you think it means. When I first started learning Spanish, I tried to explain to people that I was embarrassed when I spoke Spanish. Turns out that I was telling them that I was pregnant… when I spoke Spanish. Probably not the best way to encourage people to speak to me! It may have been those early experiences or just my fear of looking stupid that meant that I never really progressed past the basics of the language. But I never realised how much that fear held me back from making new connections.

As a reformed know-it-all I am mostly humble enough to know that I still have a lot to learn.  But having always valued the idea of being smart, it’s kind of hard to let that go. For some reason I’ve always attached my identity and my self-worth to my intelligence and therefore my ego was always dependent on how intelligent other people thought I was. But the ego is driven by fear, and I’ve found that fear never gets you very far.

I have always loved travelling, and I’ve always wanted to speak Spanish fluently, but my fear of other people thinking that I am stupid has always held me back. When I was in my late 20’s I managed to get around South America with what I knew, but also relied quite heavily on my now hubby, whose first language is Spanish. Being back in Australia I lamented the fact I would never learn it because I just didn’t have an opportunity to speak it (I now realise what a lame excuse that was). However, we moved house a couple of years ago and I discovered that our neighbours were from Colombia. How perfect I thought, I can practice my Spanish and I’ll be fluent in no time! But every time I spotted my neighbours I became a total weirdo: I avoided them, I tried not to make eye contact or I just pretended I was ‘really busy’ to avoid having to speak to them for any conversation that progressed past ‘Hola’. What is wrong with me I thought?

It was more than a year and a half later, as a result of making it a comfort zone challenge, that I actually stopped avoiding my neighbours and started practicing my Spanish. Jorge is one of my neighbours. He moved to Australia with his wife and two boys from Colombia without knowing anyone – literally (and not in the Kim Kardashian type of literally). A pretty brave move I thought, especially considering how many excuses most people give for not moving from Bondi to Manly. What’s more none of them spoke any English, apart from the most basic of words picked up from American sitcoms.

I found out that Jorge works in the mornings and evenings and so has the middle of the day free. As I don’t work Mondays and Fridays I also have a few hours spare in the middle of the day while my daughter naps. So I decided that I needed to invite Jorge for a coffee and a Spanish/English chat. So that I wouldn’t talk myself out of it I walked straight over there. As I got closer to his door my heart beat harder and harder and I started getting really nervous – what if he speaks Spanish to me and I can’t understand him? What if he thinks I’m stupid? There was no rational reason why I should have been nervous, Jorge is a really sweet guy, but that’s the monkey brain for you!

After my ridiculous psychosomatic overreaction, Jorge wasn’t even home! Gutted.  But I left a message with his wife and eventually we arranged a catch up. Jorge came over one Monday and I made him what was probably a pretty terrible coffee – I mean, is there any greater pressure than making coffee for a Colombian? And I’m a tea-drinker! Anyway, we started speaking in Spanish, and to my surprise the words actually came out quite easily (possibly because I had been practising certain phrases in my head for the past few days). There were definitely a few fumbled sentences and plenty of confused looks and clarifications, but for the most part I made myself understood and I understood Jorge.   The more we chatted the more words I started remembering and the more easily things flowed. I learnt more about him and about Colombia. I had finally made a connection with my upstairs neighbour after living so close for almost two years. How ridiculous that it took me so long.

After speaking Spanish for a while we switched over to English so that Jorge could practice his English. Once again, with all the fear I had about how I would sound or how I would feel I forgot that one of the best reasons for me to be doing this was that it was important to Jorge that he improve his English skills.  As it turns out Jorge’s level of English is around the same level as my Spanish, which made me think… I was not judging him for his level of English, why would he be judging my Spanish.  Why would I think that not being able to speak another language would make me seem stupid anyway?

While there is a lot that can be drawn from this particular comfort zone challenge there are two main lessons that I have taken from it. Both come from reflecting on my avoidance behaviour prior to doing the challenge. I guess you could say that it’s a kind of procrastination, a way of avoiding feeling the discomfort of awkwardness, or the fear of looking stupid. I always thought of procrastination as a result of being lazy, of not wanting to do the hard work. But the only reason the ‘work’ is hard is because it forces you to face a fear. Cleaning the house instead of studying? What are you afraid of?  Scrolling through Facebook instead of applying for that job? What are you afraid of? Sometimes I procrastinate when I’m meant to be writing a blog post – probably because of the fear that the words, the creativity, won’t come. The answer is there, you just have reflect and be open to hearing it.

The second realisation, which is tightly woven in with the first, was that if we let our fears control us then our behaviour closes us off from making connections. If I hadn’t pushed through my fear of looking stupid then I may to this day still be avoiding Jorge and his family and I would never have made the connection and learned more about him, his family and his culture. Humans so often fear the process of making a new connection, but in my experience a lack of connection with other people is a major driver of unhappiness.

Jorge and I have agreed to regular coffee dates so we can practice speaking our respective second languages. As a result I’m not only learning a new language but strengthening a new connection and learning so much more about myself as well.

Do you procrastinate? I’d love to hear how – and maybe even why, if you are open to sharing.

Hasta la vista,

Jane xx