Saturday, March 16, 2013

Comfort Zones and Strangers



What is your comfort zone when it comes to socializing?  Do you meet strangers easily?  How comfortable are you going alone to a social event in which you know almost nobody?

I am going to a St. Patrick’s Day party tomorrow.  I only know two people there, the host and her husband.  I’ve known the host for about six years; I’ve met the husband once.  It is unlikely I will know anyone else at the party.  I don’t know the neighborhood very well so I am taking the subway to a stop a few blocks from their house.  In honor of the day I’ll be wearing a green shirt and a green hat.  All of these factors take me right to the edge of my comfort zone.  Two reasons why I am going … I like the couple and I’m trying to expand my comfort zone.

It’s kind of funny that I can walk into almost any situation with great confidence when I’m in my ‘media person’ mode.  I can speak in front of large crowds, I can walk up to total strangers and introduce myself, I can do a live radio show from a bar, restaurant or concert.  Some of those things initially make me nervous but it’s easy for me to mentally flip a switch to “ON” and walk right in.

On a personal level, however, I am sometimes intimidated by those situations.  All my stress and insecurity triggers will be present tomorrow.  Meeting total strangers, venturing out to unfamiliar neighborhoods, wearing obvious St. Patrick’s Day clothes on Metro.  Stop laughing at my over-thinking.  Or are you someone who goes through this same process in the face of this situation?

Let me be clear: I am NOT nervous about going to this party.  I like the host and I first met her in my ‘media person’ mode.  We don’t know each other all that well but we do have many things in common, including politics, family ties to Louisiana, a love of country music and mutual acquaintances in the local chapter of a charity organization.  The time I met her husband was the result of my own invitation to them to catch up because I hadn’t seen her for a year or more.  Her husband works in a field loosely related to mine, so we had some things to talk about.

That is where my comfort zone ends.  The expansion of the zone will come from walking into their house and meeting total strangers who are not strangers to them and with whom I might have nothing in common except them.  I am looking forward to that interaction.  In my past I would usually go to an event like this with a date but this time I am going alone.

A goal I set at the beginning of my self-discovery journey a few years ago was to push myself to expand my comfort zone.  I have a picture in my head of who I want to be and how I want to be perceived and activities like the party tomorrow serve as the perfect vehicle for me to achieve that goal.  I am a loner by nature but I also love to be around people.  At this point in my life I still have to push myself to be around people, but the results are usually what I expect them to be; and the more I do this the more comfortable I’ll be doing it.  Does that make sense?

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