I’m the type of person who feels very comfortable with daily routines. I like getting into a familiar flow and not worrying about unexpected surprises. But sometimes, when I'm on my commute home for yet another Friday night in, I feel like my monotonous habits aren’t encouraging my best self. What if, by resorting to what makes me feel comfortable, I’m missing out on vital life experiences and personal growth?
So, for one week, I traded in my cosy, routined life for a challenge of uncertainty. Each day, I pushed myself outside my comfort zone by trying a new activity I'd never done before — leaving my preconceived notions behind (or at least trying to) — all in the name of discovering a better version of myself.
I began my challenge one night after work. If there’s one thing I constantly struggle with, it's letting loose in a way that may leave me open to embarrassment. Whether it's dancing at a bar with my friends or speaking up in an important meeting, I live with my guard up. So I knew exactly what I had to do. I grabbed a group of my closest friends and hit a karaoke bar.
After a little encouragement, I felt brave enough to belt out my favourite '90s female pop anthem. I’m fairly tone deaf, so the first few seconds were pretty painful. But then came a wave of excitement, adrenaline, and confidence. It was almost as if the song was able to push me so far past my comfort zone that I was like a different person. After a few more questionable renditions, I realised that letting loose isn't that hard when everyone is doing it too (which is more than easy to find at karaoke).
The next morning, I showed up to work ready to dive right back into my routine. After karaoke, I craved some structure. But I knew I couldn’t lean back into my old habits. Normally, I would eat lunch at my desk while incessantly checking my email. But that day, I took a designated 30-minute break, where I logged out of my email and opened a guided meditation video. During the meditation, I found myself frequently getting distracted with thoughts of work. But in those instances of weakness, I would focus on repeating a mantra and bringing my focus back to my breath.
After 30 minutes, I opened my eyes and everything in the room felt calmer. Instead of diving back into a daylong fight with writer’s block, my mind was clear and ready to tackle everything on my to-do list. It was with this newfound clarity that I realised my resistance to taking breaks was actually prohibiting my best writing. As I successfully finished out my work that day, I wondered if this break from my routine could apply in other areas outside of work.
The next morning, I put myself through the ultimate test: I skipped my makeup routine entirely. This was no easy feat, as the only time I go makeup-free is before bed. But this little change actually ended up making a huge difference. Instead of spending 20 minutes fine-tuning my brows and liner, I relaxed with de-puffing eye gels and a cup of tea. But it wasn’t just those extra minutes that revamped my routine — every part of the morning felt less rushed.
Even so, once I got to the office, the insecurity hit. Normally, my foundation and concealer hide my imperfections. But with absolutely no makeup on, my blemishes and scarring were on full display.
I assumed someone would unknowingly comment something along the lines of, “You look tired.” But to my surprise, no one said anything at all. It was reassuring to find out that I could skip such an integral part of my morning routine and still feel good. All of those insecurities were just in my head.
While ditching makeup was a great way to tackle my physical insecurities, I knew that this week posed a unique opportunity for me to challenge my social insecurities, as well. Ordinarily, I don’t have to flex my social skills too much on a daily basis. I rely on a group of several close friends and my boyfriend, and I rarely stray far from our circle. To counter this, I headed to an improv comedy class.
As soon as I walked into the class, the nerves hit. I was barely comfortable sitting in the same room as 19 strangers — how was I supposed to feel remotely comfortable doing improv with them? Luckily, we started the class with a warm-up that forced everyone to ease up. The instructor had us go around the room and make up a rhythm of goofy sounds and movements. In the end, we were all laughing.
After just a few exercises, the idea of improv wasn’t so scary at all. The informal style of the class totally changed how I viewed the situation. If I hadn’t stepped out of my anti-social routine to interact with these new people, I definitely wouldn’t have had so much fun.
I woke up the next day with a renewed sense of excitement for my fifth adventure. That morning, I headed to a heated cardio class. For context, vigorous exercise of any kind is not my friend. The thought of doing high intensity interval training while sweating in a room full of strangers petrified me. But seeing how well the improv class went, I was more willing to try it.
As soon as the class started, I felt a rush of embarrassment. Not only was I sweating from head to toe, but also my ability to perform the exercises was nowhere near the level of the fitness gurus in the room. Even so, halfway through the class, I looked around and saw that I had no reason to be ashamed. Everyone was sweating. It was around 100 degrees in the room, after all.
The final five minutes of class were the most intense but also the most enlightening. Even though we were all exhausted, we cheered each other on. Did this newfound perspective make me a cardio-class convert? Probably not. But if there’s one thing that I learned, it’s that I shouldn’t skip out on a workout just because I’m afraid of being the worst one there. It’s not a contest.
The day after my workout adventure, I was in no shape to do anything remotely active. But spending the day on my couch wasn’t exactly the point of this challenge. Despite my sore abdominals, I spent the day pet-sitting my friend’s new puppy alongside my boyfriend. My boyfriend and I have talked about getting a dog many times before, but we worry about making such a big commitment. We can barely remember to stock our fridge, so should we really be held responsible for another life?
The day ended up going completely smoothly, and it even gave us a fun excuse to explore the neighbourhood while walking the dog. When we dropped him back off at my friend's place that evening, our relationship felt a little different. The dog had been our pseudo child for the day, and even though we aren’t anywhere near ready for kids, this was a learning lesson for both of us. The day proved that we could shake up our daily routines and emerge even closer than before.
For my final challenge, I decided to really test my limits by signing up for a co-ed naked yoga class. But as I made my way over, I started thinking more about what was in store and realised I couldn't do it. While I knew it was important to step outside my comfort zone, I also recognised the need to stay true to who I am and not push myself too far. The idea of being naked in a room full of strangers just isn't for me. So I decided to dip my toes into the practice by doing it at home instead. That night, I came home from work, took off all my clothing, and practiced some sun salutations totally naked. I’m not going to lie — I was pretty uncomfortable at first (even if no one else was there). But when I kicked back into downward-facing dog and closed my eyes, I forgot I was even naked and let the day — and my insecurities — melt away.
Going into the week, I was set on discovering a better version of myself. While I didn’t necessarily uncover an entirely "new me," I did discover the parts of myself that weren't being unearthed on a daily basis. Before, I closed myself off to new activities. But now, I have a newfound collection of hobbies and a willingness to keep exploring who I am.