Shaking up my comfort zone
February 5, 2016 4:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm after a bunch of things I can make to challenge myself that aren't expensive or dangerous that will give me some level of discomfort.

my therapist calls this the "stuff it up challenge". There are 4 categories.
* Making a "wrong" choice - like choosing something off a menu that I wouldn't normally eat (but I already do that -so that's not going to challenge me) or wearing clothes where the colours clash.
*Doing something out of character - like saying "How do you do?" instead of "G'day" when meeting someone.
* Do something in a different order (I don't think I have any particular routines, but I guess brushing my teeth before I get in the shower would be a bit weird)
And making a mistake on purpooose. (do you know how difficult it is to leave the M in the first line as lower case? but at this point, I'm stuck on typos - I need others.)

If your discomfort challenge doesn't fit those categories, that's fine - the point is to get used to not being able to control situations, and being okay with it, to not catastrophise over non-issues (what will they think of me, how will I manage). What doesn't fit is a long-term goal strategy like running a marathon - yes, that's a challenge that's outside of my comfort zone, it's true, but it's not something I can easily throw into my daily experience, and it requires a level of committment that is not part of this thing. (Also, this is from the guy who taught me that it was important to do things half-arsedly in order to move away from perfectionistic traits).

You don't need to categorise your idea. Like I've decided to go to the beach and wear a bathing suit without covering up all the lumpy bits. It's both out of character and a "wrong" choice.
posted by b33j to Health & Fitness (47 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
How do you feel about doing things in front of other people? Karaoke, acting classes, and improv classes are all things you could do in the immediate future - I tried an acting class with my local community college a few years back to try something out of my comfort zone, and it was good fun.
posted by DingoMutt at 4:39 PM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "Improvise" a recipe, maybe? Make it a meal that's just for you - something not so complicated that if you screw up it could potentially burn the house down or anything, but something a little....funky. Like, if you have a cookie recipe that involves chopped nuts thrown in at the last minute, try replacing the nuts with....something totally different. Like candied bacon, or popped popcorn or cheerios or something. Or try making jambalaya with bratwurst instead of andouille. Something like that.

Potentially it could be really good in a "this is weird, but I like it" kind of way. And if it's not, you could decide to just eat it anyway if it's edible, or if it's not you can say "eh, I tried" and that's that.

Or try cooking something that's just a little out of your comfort zone. In a home ec class in junior high I tried making no-bake cookies, which was the first time I'd ever tried that concept. and for some reason, even though I'd done everything right, my cookies melted. Even the teacher was stumped and couldn't explain what had gone wrong, and to this day I still don't know. I ended up mushing them all together into this vaguely log-shaped thing that I brought home left in the fridge and would cut slices off of it and put them on crackers until it was used up.

But - it was a flop, and it was a low-impact flop at that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:44 PM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Socks with sandals (it just ain't right).

If you're a crafty maker type person, depending on your craft what about working with "wrong" material choices to make something? Using reclaimed and recycled materials can push your creativity, but if you're the kind of person who usually won't even begin a project until you have all the right tools and materials researched and acquired, it can be really rewarding to overcome that and make something wonky but unique out of old things or unprofessional level materials. (Some of my favorite art is made with cheap ballpoint pens on newsprint, for example.)

This is super low bar in the discomfort range, but you could pair wines, foods, and cheeses "improperly".
posted by Mizu at 4:53 PM on February 5, 2016

Best answer: Go to a bar and don't drink alcohol.

Color something the "wrong" colors.

Don't brush your hair one day.

Every once in a while, on a walk outside, stop and look UP.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:53 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do you walk or drive to work? Travel another slightly longer route.

Shop in a different supermarket for your weekly shop. That always throws me out of my routine, heck the same "brand" supermarket in a different suburb can be throw you off a bit too. Go to a different coffee shop for your daily coffee. Drink a different type of coffee/tea/daily beverage. Don't use sauce/ketchup with your chips/fries. . . .or do depending on what your normally do or try mayo with them. Normally get a certain brand of something, try some new ones, even if it's just hitting up a different bakery for your bread.

Wear lipstick/makeup if you don't normally or visa versa. If male or not wanting to go the make up route even just putting on (or not putting on as the case may be)some lipgloss or hair product.
posted by wwax at 5:03 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Making a "wrong" choice: Choose a book from the bookstore or library at random. Or commit to ordering exactly what the person in front of you orders at a coffee shop.

Doing something out of character: - like saying "How do you do?" instead of "G'day" when meeting someone. This seems like super low-hanging fruit. Are you looking for challenges like that or with more risk, like asking someone you're not friends with for a coffee or going to a Zoo or a film by yourself?

I don't know about your street culture, but I grew up in New York, lived in London, and then moved to Cork, where everyone makes eye contact on the street and says hello to total strangers when passing on the street. The first time I said "Nice day!" or "Hi" in the local manner was very very uncomfortable but I do it all the time now. You could try it!
posted by DarlingBri at 5:09 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Definitely improv. It hits pretty much all of your categories pretty hard. You get the idea of "wrong" choices knocked out of you very quickly!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:09 PM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

As has been suggested: improv is the answer. Find a class that meets for 8 weeks or so. The cost will probably break down to $10-$20 per 2 hour session. Which you may already be dropping on entertainment anyhow. A lot of locally owned troupes will give you discounts if you explain you can't afford it. Many locally owned troupes also give out passes to see troupe shows while you're taking classes.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:10 PM on February 5, 2016

Best answer: Go out in the rain or snow without umbrellas or gloves or parkas, just get soaked (but don't go to far then go in and get warm).
posted by vrakatar at 5:10 PM on February 5, 2016

Best answer: Use chopsticks to eat cereal/use a fork to eat yogurt/etc.
Use your non-dominant hand for writing/drawing/eating/etc.
Pick things up off the floor with your feet instead of your hands.
Eat dessert first/dinner foods for breakfast/etc. Combine weird foods together like cereal in OJ instead of milk.
Park in the parking lot the opposite way that you're used to - if you back in, drive in forwards, or vice versa.
Bundle your socks in a different way in your drawer.
Wear sunglasses inside a store.
posted by vegartanipla at 5:13 PM on February 5, 2016

Best answer: If you put both socks on before your shoes, try putting one sock and shoe on before the other sock and shoe.
posted by Night_owl at 5:26 PM on February 5, 2016

Best answer: --Make a MeFi comment deliberately using a homophone or a homonym for one of the words.
--Go into a restaurant or bar, sit down. . .then get up and leave without ordering anything or any explanation.
-- You're going to have a routine in the shower, the way you get dressed, what you do when you get home or wake up, how you get on the internet, the order you unload the dishwasher or clean the kitchen. . . So wash your hair at the point you wash your face. Put on your pants when you normally put on our shirt (in order). Check Mefi before you check your email. Put your coat away before you put your keys away. Etc. etc.
-- Look for things you do every day and don't do it. . . or do it twice. If you take a shower every day, don't do it one day. If you buy a coffee every morning, don't do it.
-- Buy different brands or kinds of something you're normally brand or loyal about. So if you always buy spearmint gum, buy peppermint. If you buy Crest, buy Colgate.
--Take different routes to places you go all the time.
--Tell random people on the street hello (if it's safe!). Don't talk to the server? Chat them up. Always go to the ATM? Go inside and withdraw cash from a teller.
-- Make lists. Switch the list organizing midstream (i.e. go from bullets to alphanumeric).
--Watch TV shows, films, or read books you normally would not choose.
--Buy some cheap flowers/plant. Let them die. Leave them for much longer than you would normally.
-- Use something not purselike for a purse; change up your wallet (don't use one or buy a cheap one at a thrift store); use a backpack instead of a briefcase: change up how you "carry" things out of the house.
--Don't take your phone somewhere you normally would.
--Deliberately call someone by the wrong name. Text someone else than the person you meant to. Email the wrong person.
-- Move artwork in your house to different spots. Move furniture around if you can (move a chair to the bedroom, take a chair from the dining room table and exchange it with an outdoor chair, that kind of thing).
--Fart in front of someone you normally wouldn't.

(on preview: sorry some of these are repeats)
posted by barchan at 5:27 PM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: These are all really great answers, thank you. I've been really pleased with the discomfort some of these low-risk things are arousing (like dinner for breakfast - OMG that's so wrong - yes!)

In response to DarlingBri's question, yep, some stuff is really low-hanging fruit - to you. For me (lifelong social anxiety and other mental health issues), it's quite difficult and uncomfortable. I wouldn't have mentioned it as a challenge if I found it easy. This is not about torturing myself. It's not about forcing myself to be something I'm not. It's not to make me "normal" or to "knock" my concepts out of me. It's to desensitise me to things that make me anxious, and to build my sense of myself, the confidence in my ability to deal with the unexpected.

However, all ranges of answers are great - both low-hanging and top of the tree. maybe one day I'll be so super confident I'll come back to the thread, and take on stand up comedy as a challenge. So all good.
posted by b33j at 5:29 PM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Go on a 1980s roadtrip with someone.
I was alive in the 80s, so I know that this is a thing I knew how to do, and I know the infrastructure is still there to do it, but I've forgotten a lot of how to make it work. Even the simplest things like "What is a place we might like to go to?" and "What things can we do when we get there?" take on an extra order of magnitude of wildcard when you can't use GPS or Google or the internet or arrange to meet people in realtime via cell service etc. When the unexpected happens, you just have adapt; figure it out and continue!

Then call it an Adventure :)

Alternatively, go on a 21st-century roadtrip with someone, but you all get in the car and start driving with no prior planning and no known destination, and you figure it all out together on the road using cell service and GPS and Google.

Then call it an Adventure :)
posted by anonymisc at 5:34 PM on February 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Talk to strangers.
Wear an outfit that you think is cool, but not something you'd normally wear.
Wear an outfit that doesn't match. Or two different shoes.
If you are a woman, or a makeup-wearer, change up your look -- like, if you normally have a natural look, try red lips or a smoky eye.
Skip down the street.
Sing as you walk down the street.
Invite someone to do a recreational activity that you normally wouldn't do -- go to the rock gym, go to a poetry slam, whatever.
Invite someone you don't know very well to do something you'd normally only do with a close friend, like just come over and hang out at your house.
Paint something in your home a bright color.
Tell someone sincerely how you feel about them, and not a close family member or intimate friend.
Write a letter to the editor.
posted by chickenmagazine at 5:37 PM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

This doesn't answer your question per se, but I'm going to mention Oblique Strategies. It's a way of approaching problems differently.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:37 PM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you live in a city with public transit, get on a bus on a route you've never ridden before and take it to the end of the line or at least a good chunk of the route. If you have to ask someone where to catch the reverse-route bus, all the better!
posted by rtha at 5:38 PM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The classic that came to mind right away is to do something that frightens you. That is, by definition, something outside your comfort zone. As an example, I can't tell you scary and yet empowering it was for me to go snorkeling off a boat, despite my truly pathetic swimming skills and my tendency to panic in deep water, and actually come to enjoy it.
posted by DrGail at 5:40 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Pick your very least favorite color in the whole world. I mean, really think about what shade is the most offensive to your eye.

Using paint or crayons, make a swatch of that color, a decent size, maybe 5" square.

Then, commit to doing three sincere, beautiful art projects where that color is a major component of the color scheme.
posted by Sublimity at 5:44 PM on February 5, 2016

Best answer: Several years ago I made it a goal of mine to compliment one person every day. Usually it's a stranger, so it forced me to interact with someone I didn't know. It made me pay attention to other people and actively seek out things I liked about them.

Over time it's become so much easier and more natural to talk to people I don't know, and it's made me more appreciative of the people and things around me.

You don't have to do something "wrong" to take you out of your comfort zone. There are plenty of ways to shake up your life that can make other people happy, too. :)
posted by phunniemee at 5:45 PM on February 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Mouse with the other hand.

Arrive early (or late) to some social event.

Say hello to a stranger and/or make small talk in some situation where you'd normally be hiding from people.

Wear something in a much brighter color than you ever wear (I have been doing this lately, turns out I love it)

Wear makeup if you never do, don't wear it if you always do.

Socks to bed or no socks to bed (assuming most people are one or the other)

Don't do the washing up after you eat (or do it after you eat if you never do)

Go to bed with the door unlocked.

Change into your clothes with the curtains open.

Leave lights on all day when you are out (or turn them all off if you normally leave them on)
posted by jessamyn at 5:56 PM on February 5, 2016

Best answer: Drive slightly slower than the speed of traffic.
Eat food with your fingers that you normally eat with a utensil.
Use the wrong vessel for a beverage.
posted by spindrifter at 5:57 PM on February 5, 2016

Best answer: I had to do this for a class in grad school once and I went to a makeup counter for the free makeover. I almost never wear makeup. It was so uncomfortable to sit there and let them make me up. I hated every minute of it.
posted by Cuke at 6:45 PM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

This table from this paper has some pretty intense exercises along these lines e.g "Pay for an embarrassing item with change, and then state that you don’t have enough and leave the store."
posted by generalist at 7:35 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Part your hair on the other side.
posted by LaBellaStella at 7:52 PM on February 5, 2016

Best answer: Hang the toilet paper roll backwards.
posted by gatorae at 8:06 PM on February 5, 2016

Best answer: I've been actively trying to do things outside of my comfort zone for the past two years. I have tons of anxiety. A lot of the things I've done were long term commitments (I'm halfway through a grad program I applied to immediately upon finding it, without giving myself the time to talk myself out of it, I got a dog even though I'm a cat person) but one thing I try to do every weekend is to cook something that is way above my skill grade. Something complicated and fussy that is easy to screw up. And we eat it regardless of how it turns out.
posted by Ruki at 8:11 PM on February 5, 2016

Repost a chain letter status on Facebook.
posted by yarntheory at 8:14 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Leave your smart phone at home one day.
posted by Toddles at 8:14 PM on February 5, 2016

Sleep all night in a pillow fort
posted by xris at 8:57 PM on February 5, 2016

Sleep on the couch, or in the guest bed, or with your head at the foot of the bed, or on top of the covers.

If you've never worn a scarf as an accessory, look at one of those youtube videos about how to style them and then wear one.

Is it snowing? Eat an ice cream cone outside. Is it not snowing? Get some takeout and eat it on a park bench.

Open Spotify, pick a famous artist in a genre you never listen to and play the four most popular tracks.

This may be too much of a push, but go to a department store and try on a dress more expensive than something you'd ever buy or that's appropriate to a place you'd never go. Or try on a pair of four inch heels. (Assuming you're a woman. If you're a man, do it with a suit)
posted by crush-onastick at 8:59 PM on February 5, 2016

This might not be quite in the same "silliness" line with a lot of what's been suggested, but I recommend experimenting with fasting. As someone with anxiety, it's challenged me in some interesting ways - it combines control and lack of control in a way that, if you're somewhat mindful about it, definitely teaches you about yourself.

It doesn't have to be serious at first, to start... just don't eat a meal you always otherwise eat. Skip it entirely and eat nothing until the next time you normally eat. It's definitely a very visceral experience of your expectations and routines.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 9:09 PM on February 5, 2016

Go to a restaurant and let the server choose what you'll eat!
posted by Sassyfras at 9:52 PM on February 5, 2016

Best answer: Drink your coffee out of a bowl, eat your cereal from a coffee cup.
Shave one leg but not the other (wear pants)
Wear mismatched socks.
Go into an asian or latin grocery store and buy unusual (to you) candy or crackers.
Buy a fruit you've never tried (I discovered persimmons this year, omg, so good).
Buy a bar shampoo and use it.
Leave out of a different door at work or home.
Turn left intead of right and walk around the block to get to your car.
Have a salad for breakfast.
Or chili.
Buy and use a different flavor toothpaste.
Wear mismatched earrings.
Go swimming.
Skip underwear for a day.
Wear your ring, watch, bracelet on a different side.
Wear a hat all day.
Get a different deoderant (man's/woman's)
Walk on the other aside of the street
Buy a box of childrens bandaids to use.
posted by BoscosMom at 9:53 PM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Got to a Sydney Metafilter meetup!
What could possibly go wrong...?
posted by taff at 1:40 AM on February 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Call a wrong number. Argue with whoever answers about whether they are sure Shane isn't there.

Get into an elevator and face the rear instead of the doors.

Sit on the aisle seat on the tram.
posted by gingerest at 1:51 AM on February 6, 2016

Go to Goodwill and buy a new outfit with colors/textures/patterns you would NEVER normally wear.

If you don't normally bowl or go to movies during the day, do that.

Go to some museum that you have no interest in.

Go 24 hours without your cell phone or any internet.

Listen to a radio station that is normally not your thing.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:40 AM on February 6, 2016

Volunteer to phone bank or do other work which requires you to deal with other human beings, especially if you are likely to be turned down a few times, like asking people to sign a petition. Helps you, helps your charity or cause!

Use a different color lip gloss/lipstick/eyeshadow. Alternatively, wear no makeup. If you don't wear makeup try a sheer gloss (or something bolder!)
posted by Room 641-A at 5:00 AM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Go to an event involving a demographic or group you have nothing in common with. Not a sports fan? Go to a game. Don't know how to code? Participate in a hackathon (there are things to do for non-coders). Think business is boring? Take a business class.

Go to a Pride or a cultural festival - better yet, ask how you can help.

Burlesque classes and The Vagina Monologues were my "out of character" things one time: five years later, I have an MFA. You never know.

Ask someone to be your tour guide or personal stylist for the day. You can't protest unless you're in danger.

One time my Girl Guides troop (accidentally, we misread a scavenger hunt clue) did a blindfold trek through a local jungle. It was actually pretty epic, going through trees and rivers and rocks with only touch and the people before and after to guide you.

Last year I gave myself a 100-day-challenge to try a skincare routine and stick to it. I have a TON of hangups around beauty and skincare, and previous efforts have often fallen by the wayside. It's been about a year now and I'm still going.
posted by divabat at 6:06 AM on February 6, 2016

I'm not quite sure if this fits, but try bicycling on a regular road in your city. It can be terrifying if you've never done it before, but is ultimately exhilarating. (Wear a helmet and be careful too, of course. )
posted by barnoley at 8:01 AM on February 6, 2016

SF0 has some fun ideas.
posted by eotvos at 11:42 AM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sleep in your sleeping bag at home.
Ask for your change in some specific way (can I get my change in ones please?).
Order a cheeseburger without the cheese (or just ask them to leave off the pickles or whatever).
Sit next to someone on public transport even though there are free seats (not if it's just them tho).
Ring the contact number on a want-ad and ask a semi-inappropriate question such as salary or how much holidays you would get or whether you can wear concert t-shirts.
Go to an apartment/house viewing when it's for sale.
Do a personal shopper experience at a department store.
posted by Iteki at 2:01 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Go outside and ask strangers if you can take their photos. This is really challenging even if you don't normally find talking to strangers intimidating, and also a good exercise in learning to hear "No."
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:59 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Social dance doesn't hit quite as many points as improv, but most dance sessions will start with just enough of a beginner class to make you competent, and then encourage you to ask random strangers to dance. You probably won't get many rejections, but expect to feel awkward the first few times because you're doing the same three moves for an entire song. This is especially the case if you're a lead (traditionally the male role).
posted by sibilatorix at 7:57 PM on February 6, 2016

Jump in a swimming pool in shorts and a tshirt instead of a swim suit.
Put ketchup on ice cream.
Go out to the store without brushing your hair, or in pajamas.
Wear your underpants inside out for a day.
Buy and wear a color of lipstick that doesn't suit you.
Drink coffee in a martini glass or a martini in a mug.
Wear a bracelet on your ankle instead of wrist.
Wear only one earring.
Advanced level: post to Facebook without correcting any of autocorrect's errors.
posted by MsMolly at 11:26 AM on February 7, 2016

Use nordic walking poles in every day life instead of on a hike.
Read a children's book version of something you're interested in.
Declutter if you are a packrat type or make yourself leave stuff on a surface for a week if you are a clean type.
Ask to take notes in a situation where you wouldn't normally take notes.
Travel alone.
Ask someone if you can use their phone charger in a coffee shop.
posted by eleanna at 11:49 AM on February 7, 2016

Apologies if I caused upset; I didn't mean "low hanging fruit" pejoratively. Everyone who is brave enough to challenge themselves this way has to operate on the level they're at. One of the nice things about this kind of process is that the victories don't level up -- you can be as thrilled with yourself for wishing your barista a good morning as another person might be successfully closing a huge cold sale or whatever.

Good luck, people are rooting for you!
posted by DarlingBri at 3:59 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

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