Un-comfort zones point to our true fears

by Paul Goodchild on June 19, 2010

We fear what we don't understand, and I don't understand what this is!

We fear what we don't understand, and I don't understand what this is! (taken at the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Anyone who has read my blog for a while will know I’ve mentioned the “comfort zone” more than once and how wonderfully important it is in our self-growth and personal development.  ‘Seek them out‘ I say, explore them and become one with yourself etc. etc.

That sounds a little over-the-top, but that’s the truth.

As I travel I am forced into situations unknown and unpredictable.  But it isn’t always easy to recognise their benefit at the time, even when you know they’re the right thing to do.

In the last few day I’ve been wrestling with a dilemma that boils down to me exploring a territory that until now I’ve completely avoided. I have even gone so far as to publicize it as part of who I am notmy identity.

This isn’t because I’m adverse to it in principle, or that I think teaching is a wasteful cause, I’m just afraid.

FEAR – the single biggest inhibitor of our lives.

The Fear of English Teaching

So what is this great beast that I am afraid of?

…English teaching.

Yes, that’s right. Many English teachers will scoff if they’ve forgotten how daunting it was at first.  But to be fair, I’m not afraid of teaching English – in fact I think I will quite enjoy it.  The prospect of English teaching exposes more deep-rooted anxieties – English teaching lies outside of my comfort zone.

Admitting to yourself the reasons that English teaching prompts so much resistance is difficult enough, never mind publishing an article on it.  But then, we develop our characters and our confidence best by sharing our earth-shattering discoveries.

So you are free to giggle as you read along, but as you do, consider activities that you have been putting off doing for a long time. You may feel the reasons for doing so are plausible, but are they really?  See if any of the following resonates with you.

I’m afraid of…

  • acceptance from children, or rather lack thereof.  I want to go into the classroom and blow their little socks off.  I want them to laugh, smile, giggle, make silly faces, and walk out of the room thinking, “Dammit! Teacher Paulie is the coolest teacher I’ve ever had!”.  I don’t want them to think I’m a tyrant that forces them to learn crap, that my teaching style is booooring, and I have little or no imagination.  I want to be COOL!
  • acceptance from teachers, or rather lack thereof.  Oddly, this isn’t as big as the former reason, but fear of peer acceptance is there.  What do they think when they see me muddle my way through a class?  Am I fraudster – a lucky native-English speaker who just happened to be born in the right place at the right time?
  • failure – and here’s the big one.  I don’t want my cracks to show in public.  Ya see, I’m not perfect, I can’t do everything wonderfully well all of the time.  I don’t ever profess to think to be perfect either publicly or to myself, but I know the areas within which I’m confident and those that I am not, so I simply appear more confident by avoiding situations that will expose my weaker areas.  In this I’m not unique, I know, but nevertheless it doesn’t make it an acceptable trait to perpetrate.

It comes down to not giving a crap what people think of me.  I should care more for what I feel is best at the time than worry about the consequences. This isn’t a comfortable place to be, but it gets easier.

Haven’t I been talking that talk for ages already?  Well yes, but sometimes we can’t see our own issues as clearly as we need to.

The Cure to Fear is to Act

Yesterday when I arrived at the school to start teaching, or least to introduce myself, the headmaster wasn’t there.

Fun times.

So I wandered around under the watchful gaze of awe-struck kids who could count on one hand how many real-life westerners they’d ever seen. I eventually found a teacher whom I’d met previously. I somehow managed to discern that she was on the way back to her kindergarten class and she asked if I would like to join in and teach them something?

Eerr, let me think about that… “NO!”, I screamed inside.

But of course I didn’t say that, I mumbled something like, “Er, well, I, er, I don’t have any sort of plan.”.  She dismissed that out of hand.

I took one look around at the children gawking at me, saw the gaping chasm that was the border of my comfort zone, and knew there was nothing else for it but to get stuck in teaching.  So I did.

It was surprisingly not as torturous as I believed.  The kids smiled, laughed, giggled and learned (again) how to count from 1 to 10.

They learned my name, learned how to spell it and I also wrote it on the board as: “Paw-l” so they could maybe grasp the phonetics.

After I sat down to observe the Karen teacher at work, I noticed the girls in front of me tearing off tiny pieces of paper from their jotters, writing something on it, giggling and passing them to one another.  I lifted one, and on it was written “Paw-l”.

One of the wonderful joys about children is that they’ll find fun in some of the most unexpected places and will show us how complicated we make our lives. They show us how much joy can be found if only we’d open ourselves to it.  My cheeks were beginning to hurt from the grinning by the end of the session.

There is only 1 solution to fear, and I hardly need to even write it down.  You know it; I know it; we all know it.  You just have to get stuck in!  I haven’t yet faced the 7th/8th graders, but that’ll come on Monday morning.

As our Comfort Zone grows, so do we

Just writing this article out, and the brief spell with the kindergarten kids has eased much of my anxiety.  I know that in a week’s time I’ll be looking back and wondering what all the fuss was about, but then that’s life, right?  It’ll be absorbed as my comfort zone expands and I’ll be the better man for having faced into it.

Fingers crossed.

Put a name to your true fears, accept them, and step boldly forward into an uncomfortable world.

What’s your take on fear?  Are you fearless, fearsome, fearful?  Please feel free to comment what you think below.  Also, if you like this article and think other people will too, please click the links below – you can share it on Facebook with just 2 clicks!  Thank you for visiting.

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