The comfort zone hokey cokey -The cast of the SB Players Christmas Pantomime waves from the stage as the curtains close.

January 13, 2020, by Charli

The Comfort Zone Hokey Cokey

You put your whole self in, your whole self out…

If there’s one thing you can say about signing yourself up for a five year long university course located in a city you’ve never set foot in before, it’s that it’s probably going to take you a little outside your comfort zone.

The Comfort Zone

A friend of mine once compared their ‘comfort zone’ to a giant bubble – conjuring images of one of those zorb balls that people braver than myself climb into and run around in like hamsters for several hours. She explained that when you do new things, ‘pushing’ at your comfort zone, it expands outwards. But as you spend more time safe in the middle of your bubble, it shrinks and shrinks until things that used to be manageable become very scary again.

The University Effect

I’ve found university life to be a constant push-and-pull at my comfort zone. Jetting off to Nottingham, to a university campus I’d only visited once before, was a huge step! Add to that the pressure of trying to make new friends, moving into university accommodation with total strangers, and starting a very high intensity course (veterinary medicine) surrounded by very intelligent people… It was extremely nerve-wracking. (More on that in another blog post here)

Eventually cooking for myself, attending lectures, and joining new societies all soon became things I felt comfortable doing. But as those things became contained within the bubble, I stopped trying new things. And then the bubble started to shrink again.

The prospect of a shrinking bubble…

Placements are a compulsory part of the veterinary course, and even though I had happily done work experience before university, I found myself really nervous as placement dates edged closer. Before Christmas, I was due to start a new placement at a practice I hadn’t visited in 6 years. I’ve completed 21 weeks of placement in the last 3 years, but the anticipation of going to a new location and meeting new people made me feel incredibly nervous. It was as if I was a complete newcomer! My comfort bubble had shrunk again, and even though there was no need to be anxious, I was terrified! But here I am now, having completed 2 weeks of equine placement. My worries were proved wrong, and I’m 2 weeks closer to becoming a vet!

How to push the bubble

Two pantomime characters dance together, smiling widely.

Mrs Potts and her mischievous son, Chip (me!)

The biggest way I push my own personal bubble, is by taking part in the drama society on campus. Being on stage can make you feel very vulnerable, and I still get a little bit of stage fright every single time I step out in front of the curtains. But I’m slowly getting braver. And so I’ve gone from being scared of looking silly on stage in my first year, to playing a child in this year’s pantomime. I was perfectly happy dancing clumsily and pretending to pick my nose in front of an audience of 300 people.

What does it all mean?

It’s really easy to forget to push yourself when you get settled into university life. Even things that you know (logically) you are capable of, can become very scary and intimidating when you’re not used to trying new things. And it’s so important to keep doing things to push at the boundaries of that bubble. As the bubble grows, you become capable of doing so much more. You let yourself in for wonderful experiences, making incredible memories. So, four years into university, I’m still trying to meet new people, visit new places, and experience new things.

Perhaps some zorbing would be a good idea…?

Posted in Charli