I am fulling willing to admit that I am a very inside-my-box kind of person. My box is wonderful and familiar and safe. I don’t care to be spontaneous, I get easily frustrated when things interrupt my perfectly planned week, and I am a-okay with eating the same thing for lunch for weeks in a row. I like structure, predictability, and accountability. I’m well aware that I’m a very vanilla kind of girl, and most of the time, that is perfectly okay with me. However, as someone who is about to be tossed into the real world in a year and a half, I’m quickly realizing that my box is becoming a wee bit small.

I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with getting outside of my comfort zone, and I think it would be good to share with you some things that I’ve been doing to help myself venture outside my familiar surroundings. They’re just little things that I try to do daily, but as I find myself doing them more and more, I can feel myself becoming more comfortable with pushing the boundaries of my box.

Be Aware of How You Hold Yourself

Your body language can say a lot about you, and sometimes you can be completely unaware of what exactly you’re saying. Try to be conscious of your body language when you walk. Instead of walking with slouched over, keep your back straight and your shoulders back. Hold your head up instead of looking at the ground as you walk. I find that a lot of people avoid eye contact when they pass someone on the sidewalk. Try instead to make eye contact with people and smile. I would say 95% of the time, you will get a smile in return. That kind of positive feedback will make you feel better about yourself and feel more confident in your people skills. Paying attention to how you hold yourself can make you look much more approachable and friendly. 

Stop Saying “Sorry”

I don’t mean stop apologizing altogether. That would probably make your friends angry at you. However, I have noticed recently that people, myself included, have this really, really odd tendency to apologize for things that aren’t their fault. Say you’re in the dining hall and you suddenly find yourself in someone’s way. It’s not your fault that you’re in the space that they want to be. You were there first. If you need to shift over, say “Excuse me” instead of “I’m sorry.” For me, it helps dispel the notion that I’m always a bother.

Another example is if you need to ask a professor a question. There is nothing wrong with not understanding the material; professors are there to answer your questions. Don’t apologize for asking a question or for asking for help. Simply ask it. Stopping yourself from over-apologizing will help you improve yourself image because you will stop thinking of yourself as annoying or unimportant to other people.

Speak Out During Class

For some people, this is a no brainer. You have something to say and you say it. For quieter people like myself, it can be extremely nerve-wracking to talk in class. I have never fancied myself for a public speaker and I often have a hard time articulating my thoughts on the spot. However, talking in class will help you push you outside of your box. If you’re timid in class, try preparing comments to say in class the night before. After you’ve read the assignment or done whatever it is that’s due that day, take 10 minutes and jot down some notes for yourself that you can use in class. I did this in a particularly intimidating short story class and being prepared definitely paid off. I was able to feel confident in the comments I made in class and the feeling of being able to get outside my comfort zone in class also made me feel more confident about myself.

You might also want to set yourself a goal for speaking out. Tell yourself that you want to say something at least once per class. If even that’s too much, set a smaller goal, starting out at one comment per class per week. Build yourself up to talking at least once a class period. Not only with this improve your confidence of talking in front of people, but it will undoubtedly help your grade as well.

Try New Things

Yes, I know. Trying new things can be scary sometimes. But it is very good for you also. It will get you out of your box and will probably make you feel more confident once you know that you’re capable of trying something new. In all honesty, it doesn’t matter what kind of new thing you try. It could be something as big as joining a new club. You’ll get to meet new people, try new activities, and have a new schedule. It could also be as small as trying something new to eat for dinner. Try to intersperse the big things with the little things. Set yourself a goal for one new thing a week.

Call People Rather Than Emailing Them

For some odd reason, I have this phobia of phones. I’ve never really liked talking on the phone and I certainly don’t like calling people I’ve never talked to. But as I’m starting to prepare myself for looking for jobs and internships, I’ve realized now more than ever how important contacting people are. Whether it’s getting in touch with someone for a school project or it’s for finding out information on that internship you’re dying to get, if you have the option to call someone, do it. First of all, it will push you. It will force you to deal with people on a personal level. Secondly, you’ll get to the information you want a lot quicker if you talk to them rather than email them. Thirdly, and most importantly, a phone call tends to stand out more to a future employer than an email. A phone call says that you’re not afraid to make that initial contact and not hide behind email to do it.

Just Go For It

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, whether it’s apply for that dream internship, ask that cute girl for her number, or even just go to a lecture by someone who really interests you, then just do it. The worst that can happen is that you feel uncomfortable. You can get over that. But you can never get over missed opportunities.

Do you ever feel like you’re too comfortable inside your box? What do you do to help yourself push outside of those boundaries? Let us know in the comments!