Please enjoy one of my more lighthearted posts while I’m away this week. Original post date: June 20, 2011
Every once in a while I’ll refer back to my comfort zone challenges that I used to do last year. This is one of those days. For those of you who are newer to my blog, I’ll provide a short recap:
Late last year I spent some time working on stepping outside my comfort zone. Each week I’d choose one thing that I found difficult to do; I’d do it, then post about the result. One challenge had me going to a party where I barely knew anyone. Another challenge led me to eating lunch at Panera all by myself. And then there was the time when I decided to go out and speak to strangers at random.
If you recall, that particular challenge didn’t go so well. I wasn’t very good at small-talk, felt out of place, and considered my experiment a flop. HOWEVER, just because the post ended, it didn’t mean that I gave up. I continued to work on talking to strangers and have a story to share about my progress since then.
On Friday morning I made a trip out to our local pet store. On my way there I had an allergy attack which left me sneezing every 10 seconds until I arrived, where I pulled into a parking spot and promptly blew my nose. I checked my appearance in the rearview mirror to make sure everything was in order and went inside.
I went to the stall, pulled out a cart and began wheeling down Isle One-Dog Supplies. I saw a woman who was looking at dog brushes and stopped beside her.
“What kind of dog do you have?” I asked. This question led to a nice conversation on various brushes and how a German Shepherd’s fur is different than that of a Golden Retriever. I wished her good luck on finding the right brush and happily continued down the aisle where I successfully found my life-or-death items by remembering the conversation the dogs had with me before I left:
Brulee: “Hey, brown-haired lady? Could you please bring home another stuffed fish? I seem to have put a hole in this one – again.”
Emmie: “Yeah, and while you are there, do you think you could get one of those rawhides with the knots on the ends? I’d look so cool carrying one of those around, don’t you think?”
I proceeded to the checkout where I chatted with the cashier about the weather and how pretty her nails looked. But my main order of business was afterward, where I walked over to the manager where I wanted to ask about ordering a special dental powder for Emmie so I could stop paying Mafia-like shipping fees for it over the Internet. I was warm, polite, and listened in great detail about her own dog for the better part of 5 minutes. She took me back to another worker and together we chatted about the best way to order my product for the least amount of trouble.
After another 5 minutes or so, I thanked all the workers for their help and followed the manager outside where she was heading for her 10 minute break. We continued to talk for another few minutes, I thanked her again, and happily rolled my cart out to the car, all the while thinking to myself, ‘Ellen, look how far you’ve come. You weren’t apprehensive at all. You were GREAT!’
I slid into the car, started the engine and looked into the rearview mirror before backing up the car. My face went pale.
Did I mention that I sneezed one more time before entering the pet store?
I put the car back into park, all the while, never taking my eyes off of the
booger that was hanging out from my right nostril. I know, I know…the word booger is off-putting; it’s gross, but it is the ONLY word that comes close to describing just how disgusting this, this……THING was; and it wasn’t just there, hanging half-way out of my nose – oh, no; it was suspended in midair, delicately hovering in the center by my nose hairs. Oh, the humanity!
By now, you are probably wondering the same thing I was at that very moment (after the initial feeling of sheer horror): why oh why, didn’t someone say something??!! Well, forget that for a moment; it’s not relevant, really. Here’s what is so important about this story:
After grabbing a tissue and thoroughly blowing my nose, I did freak out for about a minute. Then I started the car, put it into gear and instead of carrying around complete humiliation for the rest of the day – which is what I would have done just a few short months ago – I felt…well, pretty darned GOOD. Instead of reliving the experience over and over? I spent the rest of my day focused on how unbelievably comfortable I felt while talking to people I didn’t even know. Back during my comfort zone challenges last year, I would have had to force myself to do it; and I would have felt extremely self-conscious about it. I felt none of that on Friday. Instead, I felt free from my fear. Who would have thought I’d finally ‘graduate’ from a challenge on the same day I happen to parade around a store in complete ignorance with dried snot hanging from my nose?
It’s OK to cringe, laugh, shudder, be glad you weren’t me, and be happy for me all at the same time. That seems to be how my husband feels as well. I can’t tell you how hard we laughed over this story when I told him what happened (yeah, me laughing about it showed just as much progress, I think).
The obvious lesson in this embarrassing story? The next time you choose to challenge yourself beyond your comfort zone, please PLEASE – for the love of Mike, check your nose first! You don’t want to end up like ME!!
No, I’m just kidding – that’s not it. Seriously, just remember: our unwillingness to do things, is in part, due to how we feel we’ll be perceived by other people. We don’t want to look foolish and we don’t want to fail. Really though, it’s about how we perceive ourselves. Not how others perceive us. At least, that’s my lesson in all of this.
That, and having a pocket mirror handy. Just in case.