This is a transcript from a talk given as part of a national competition for public speakers. You can watch the talk here.
3.20am and Georgia was on holiday with her Mum in Nigeria. Something had disturbed her in those small hours and as she opened her eyes, the hotel door was, inching open. And there, his frame filling the doorway was a huge man. The tiny bit of light finding its way into the room around him glinted off something metal in his hand– a gun.
How would you have reacted to that?
Georgia’s Mum froze with terror. But Georgia got out of bed, opened the safe . She stepped back and he took the money and left. Her reaction that night probably saved both their lives.
Would you have had the control to manage your fear in the face of such risk?
Here’s the real shocker though. Georgia was just 16 and 2 years before she’d spent most of her school day hiding in a smelly, windowless art cupboard because of anxiety.
At 14, her world was tiny because everything outside of the art cupboard scared her. It was where she felt safe.
Georgia went from art cupboard to international traveller because she learned two things.
Firstly she changed her understanding of risk.
Her anxieties were mostly triggered by imagination. She worried about not knowing the answer to a teacher’s question- but there were no teachers in her cupboard; the scenario was purely playing out in her head.
She feared the risk of having a panic attack – she had never had a panic attack before -another imagined scenario.
In our work together, Georgia learned to step back from anxiety and ask herself, “Is the risk I am fearing real or imagined?” She learned that her imagined risks were hugely disproportionate to the real risks.
Her relationship with risk started changing. She started to see that what was really outside of the art cupboard, wasn’t so scary.
People often say, I have anxiety. But let’s stop mucking about, anxiety, scary, worry, panic – all different shades of the same colour – fear. But fear is a 4 lettered f word, and bit like that other one, using it can make people uncomfortable.
I want you to feel uncomfortable because….
The second thing Georgia learned is; uncomfortable leads to growth.
Play a little game with me if you would and cross your arms. Now open them and cross them the other way. It’s uncomfortable, yes?
Comfortable, uncomfortable. And we refer to comfortable as our comfort zone – where things are easiest, requires less effort.
Due to COVID, many areas of our lives have been restricted; our businesses, relationships, socially.
But as the restrictions lift, what would you like to be doing but are not – because it is outside of your comfort zone?
By going into discomfort and with a little practise, your comfort zone grows. You create new ways to feel comfortable, new skills.
Georgia’s comfort zone grew from art cupboard to embrace Nigeria. Anxiety triggered by thoughts, were replaced with an ability to control fear in the face of real, life threatening risk. She found stepping into uncomfortable became easier and easier. At 23 she is running her own business. The F word is no longer uncomfortable.
Fear is not a bad thing. Fear keeps us alive, it gets us moving as part of that very primitive fight or flight response.
Stop believing that its anxiety keeping you in your art cupboard.
Start reviewing your relationship with risk and then allow uncomfortable to help your comfort zone to grow, because that is where there is control.