Let Them See You Sweat

When was the last time you did something so far outside your comfort zone that it made you anxious? I’m not talking about “What if this recipe flops and we have to order pizza?” jitters. I’m talking about “What if I made a complete fool of myself and have to cry it out in the master bathroom tub when I get home?” anxiety.

You can’t remember?

Me neither.

Like me, you probably stick relatively close to your comfort zone most of the time. When expansion happens, it is usually gradual – and (hopefully) private. We try new things in our safe spaces and wait until they are at least passable before exposing them to others’ scrutiny. No one wants to embarrass herself in public or even in front of friends and family members. We want to feel competent and confident in our interactions. And that means focusing on what we know and what we’re good at much of the time.

Today I am leaping outside my comfort zone in a big way. There are butterflies in my stomach, and I laid out my clothes last night, like a college grad prepping for an important job interview. My hubby and I start classes (separately) to learn Swedish, so we’ll know at least some words, grammar and go-to-phrases before moving to Sweden a year from now when he starts his 3-year work assignment there. The stakes feel high: At the end of this course, the government will test my proficiency in the language to see how much bang they got for their buck!

Now, I know I’m a great student. Ten years of college transcripts and a Ph.D. tell me that. And I’ve got some background in languages – In 1987 I received the award for Foreign Language Student of the Year in Spanish at Clovis West High School. But it’s been 25 years since then! And Spanish is a lot different from Swedish. (Although, as my 5-year-old points out, both of them start with S and end in “ish”!)

What worries me most about today’s new adventure is that it’s a one-on-one language learning program. That means it’s me and a Swedish teacher for 4 hours straight every day. No other students to watch (and learn from); no time to rest my brain while someone else answers the instructor’s questions. And let’s face it: My only exposure to the Swedish language comes from the Muppets. In the 1970s.

Despite these jitters I am also excited to be learning something completely foreign (no pun intended). My kids get to see their parents try something new and challenging and I’m sure they’ll get some laughs listening to us practice at home. And I get to find out (again) that looking stupid isn’t the same thing as being stupid. In fact, it usually takes some discomfort, failures, and fortitude to grow.

I’m looking forward to that.

How about you? What new pursuit will take you far away from the familiar this year?

Let others’ see you sweat. Bold action and hard work are better than a life of unexplored possibilities.

3 Responses to Let Them See You Sweat

  1. Cheryl says:

    Loved this post Heidi. Way to go on stepping outside that comfort zone. I laughed when I read your reference to the Swedish Chef a la the Muppets. I too remember that – many of those clips were my favorite. Love that singing fruit. Anyways just wanted to say that yes I too am taking a huge step outside of my comfort zone this year. I have begun to teach art workshops in the evenings. I did two before Christmas and each time it made me feel like crawling out of my skin. So I can certainly relate and empathize to how disconcerting it is to try something new and challenging. Will be sending you good thoughts for your lessons! PS – just thought you might like to have a boo at this… the Swedish chef at his finest. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbs64GvGgPU

    I just watched it and laughed my head off. Can laughing help us work through those jitters? I’ll try to replay a few of these clips in my head at my next workshop. Good luck to you in your lessons!

    • Heidi Smith Luedtke says:

      Teaching is definitely a “let them see you sweat” kind of activity! Congratulations on your jumps beyond your comfort zone. And thanks for the link to the Swedish Chef from the Muppetts. I laughed out loud at him shooting those donuts and talking about muffins. My husband says the language class is like drinking from a fire hose so far…the teacher is not speaking any English. If it gets too intense I will bring in donuts to throw in the air. Or maybe I should just picture that it my mind. ;-)

  2. Lori Wilhite says:

    Several years ago I fully embraced the fact that at some time or other I’ll make a complete fool of myself. And that it’ll happen more than once, even if I’m the only one who thinks I’ve done it. I remember yelling to a couple of co-workers my frustration about another co-worker. Afterward I was so embarrassed for my melt down and I apologized. I’ve also introduced myself to someone important that I’ve met before and should have remembered, gone back to college, taken different jobs, and lived in foreign countries. I fully realize I’ll survive my embarrassment from my bad memory for names and faces, being older than the other students’ parents, having people realize I’m not as smart/quick as they thought, and speaking a language so poorly that I’ve made the native speakers groan. I probably grow a bit from each experience, or not. Either way, I’ll continue to step outside my comfort zone—whether or not it’s intentional—and count on the kindness of friends and strangers to realize I’m not intentionally rude or mean and to accept me for who I am.

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