Dr. Kristin Schaefer-Schiumo| Manhasset NY

Sometimes, Its Sooooo Good To Be Bad.

Sometimes, Its Sooooo Good To Be Bad

Would you describe yourself as a perfectionist or an overachiever? Do you thrive on getting things accomplished and doing them well? Let's be frank, most of us lean toward activities we can achieve versus those that pose a challenge to us and may cause us to struggle. I know this from first hand experience. As a psychologist, I am good with ideas, showing compassion, and engaging with people in small groups. Emphasis on small. Here's what I am not good with...large active groups that involve loud volume of some sort....loud music, loud speaking, people dancing, chatting, yelling all in the same area. I think you get the picture! So lately I've been challenging myself a bit, by using my commitment to community service. Instead of working in small groups I am pushing myself, volunteering at 500 plus attendee dinners and even agreeing to be a clothing model at one such event! I think I can already feel the nervousness coming and I'm not fully certain that that modeling experience will be "pretty."

Believe me, it sure does feel good to achieve and succeed. That is why many people choose to stay in their comfort zones. This is particularly the case for those who are perfectionistic and experience anxiety. Staying in your comfort zone allows you to:

* Feel positively and confidently about yourself.
* Gain praise and approval from others.
* Avoid uncomfortable, negative feelings such as anxiety, stress, embarrassment, perceived or real failure and disappointment.

While this may sound appealing, make no mistake that we also pay a high price for living in our comfort zones. That price includes a denial of:

* The privilege of learning.
* The excitement or novelty of experiencing new things.
* The satisfaction of personal growth.

So, how do you push through the discomfort of doing something difficult, and perhaps not well, in order to gain the benefits?

* Be as kind to yourself as you are to those you love: I'm learning not to take myself so seriously. I'm approaching my pending "modeling gig" with a sense of humor and non judgement. I refuse to compare my inner experiences with how I perceive others outer lives to be.
* Be vulnerable and connect with others: Accept help and learn from those who are more knowledgeable than you are. I am not the most graceful of beings, so I am finding myself practicing with those who have modeled before. This allows us to develop a meaningful connection and to have a few laughs in the process. Remember, just as you feel awkward at times, so do others. And, just as you long for connection, acceptance and help, so do others.
* Focus on the process, not the outcome: Concentrate on what you are doing, be present, and be mindful. I am not focused on being the prefect model. I am going to practice, do my best cat walk, wear some great cloths and, most importantly, have a good time!

Doing something you are not good at allows you the opportunity to be a beginner once again. Think back to the joy you had when learning something new, perhaps even as a kindergartener! Think back to the awe, the sense of newness, and the creativity that was opened up within you. Moving beyond your comfort zone provides this opportunity once again. If, by chance, you don't want to take my word for it, just take a moment to read the quotes below.

Getting fired from Apple was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
- Steve Jobs, 2005

The only way to make money as a manager is to win in one place, get fired and hired somewhere else.
- Whitey Herzog

Anna Wintour, fired from her first job as junior editor at Harper's Bazaar, went on to be named the Editor in Chief of Vogue, a job she has held for 27 years. She described getting fired as a great learning experience that never cramped her style. Of firing, Wintour told a group of fashion students, " I recommend that you all get fired."

Kristin Schaefer Schiumo, Ph.D