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Pink NHS glasses, an eye patch and a home made donkey jacket.

Author: Michelle Fitzsimons

Be brave and put yourself out there. There are huge benefits and rewards from regularly placing yourself on the edge of your comfort zone.

My ramblings on here are often fuelled by an office rant. Something that has well and truly got up someones nose. We unpick it (not the nose) work out why and then usually come up with some good ideas about how to make it better. We were discussing how “kids these days all look the same”. I am sure you can imagine the tone with which that was delivered. It was ignited by a request from one of my teenagers for a certain branded hoodie.

He, along with many others, has a fear of comparison to others, of being “different”, judged or even just noticed. It seems everyone has to fit in with their own group. I know it is deep rooted in our psyche from back in the days where being seen could be dangerous and we needed the fight or flight response to protect ourselves. Evolution hasn’t quite kept up with the pace of change so our fight or flight response is now too extreme in most cases. So what if your hoodie is different?

Whilst the need to have a certain hoodie damages my bank balance the problem is potentially bigger. That fear also prevents us from trying new things and therefore having the positive boost and a sense of achievement. Those experiences and successes build self esteem and confidence which are key to be able to remain resilient when faced with difficulties. If we avoid these opportunities for different experiences and challenges we are missing the chance to develop essential skills in dealing with pressure.

If however, you put yourself at the edge of your comfort zone regularly the comfort zone will eventually expand. By expanding your comfort zone you are naturally become equipped to deal with more and different situations. I am not suggesting you launch yourself right outside it but regularly put yourself at the edge. You start to believe you are able. Confidence is boosted and the ability to deal with difficulty and frustration, your resilience, is increased.

So the hoodie. That teenage need to fit certainly hasn’t changed. It was present in the 80’s. I remember being 14 and somewhat upset that my donkey jacket was homemade and not exactly the same as everyone else’s! The difference was I still wore it. No way was my Mum “undoing all that hard work and buying some cheap poorly made rubbish”.

It was at this point that one of our colleagues, who shall remain nameless, chipped in with:

“That’s it though Janie you wore the coat. Believe me, after wearing pink NHS glasses and an eye patch at school everything else has been breeze. We are fuelling the problem”

You will have to be of a certain age to appreciate that but she does have a point. It is our experiences that teach us that its OK to be seen at times. Its OK to feel uncomfortable and to be seen. Just do it gently and take time to reap the rewards. These days neither of us are concerned with standing out or being judged. What is normal anyway?

It upsets me how many times I have conversations with people, about their fear of being judged and compared to others. I witness it holding them back, not contributing and missing opportunities to progress their career yet others, often less able, will confidently put themselves forward? I work with adults to tackle it a lot and it is successful but its a lot easier if we can instil it in our young people so I am doing my bit and starting with my own children.

I’ll let you know how the conversation goes about the non branded hoodie another time. Wish me luck!

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