Human beings, we are creatures of habit and we like to stick to what we know. I hate being pushed out of my comfort zone (which is approxamitely 2 inches wide) but when you accomplish a task, whilst being outside of your comfort zone, it is a feeling of immense pride that cannot really be rivalled.
I constantly find myself being pushed out of my comfort zone whilst studying medicine.
In my first year of studying medicine I was required to visit a patients home, with another medical student, and talk to the patient about how their medical condition affects their life. We were expected to go to the house of a person we did not know which was in an unfamiliar area of a city that was new to us. In addition to that, we were randomly partnered up with medical students, so many people did not know their partners. All of these factors made this task extremely daunting and definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone.
Talking to people about very intimate aspects of their medical conditions and lives can be very intimidating. When I first started taking histories from patients I was very apprehensive in broaching simple topics, like asking what a patients’ parent’s had died from or what a patients’ home situation is like. Since I found it difficult to ask these somewhat simple and innocuous questions, I can tell you that asking after a patients sexual history was well off the cards for me. I’m not a prude but it is hard to ask a stranger who you have just met whether they inject themselves with drugs or use condoms. What I’ve learnt is that if I made it awkward when asking a patient personal questions then they would pick up on my awkwardness and they will, in turn, find it awkward to answer the question. It’s all about being nonchalant when asking the questions.
During my psychiatry placement I had to take suicide histories and ask about things such as sexual abuse. As a male student, women’s health was a minefield of awkwardness. I was regularly required to take a history of a patients gynaecological problems which included a thorough history of their menstrual cycle. In paediatrics judgement plays an enormous role in taking medical histories from teenagers, particularly when their parents are listening intently.
I survived all these experiences (thankfully) without too much of an issue. Being required to do all the things I have mentioned above has made me grow as an individual both academically, but more importantly, personally.
I was recently in a situation where I was pushed outside of my social comfort zone. I was invited to a hot tub party, which was a first for me. I was invited by a guy, R, who I have become really good friends with over the last few months and we would never have become friends had we not been on placement together. I am not the type of person to experience social anxiety but the prospect of me going to a hot tub party made me break out in a sweat. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog about how I love meeting new people but the thought of being in an environment filled with mass amounts of strangers who I have never spoken to or met was making me feel nervous. But also party’s are not my scene and this was not my crowd. A student that doesn’t like to party? Unthinkable I know but I’m about 60 years old at heart.
Medical students are very cliquey which is something that surprised me when I came to medical school. R is part of a clique that was bestowed the name ‘the snapbacks’, they were named that because, as you can probably guess, they all wore snapback caps. Largely made up of rugby lads they were somewhat considered ‘the cool crowd’. With the exception of R I did not know any of ‘the snapback’ crowd very well, though their reputation preceded them. Being invited to a party which was going to be filled with people who I thought I would not be able to relate to easily was definitely anxiety provoking.
However once I got there I enjoyed myself a lot. There was a great atmosphere and I felt extremely welcome. I was pleasantly surprised to find that most people knew my name. Embarrassingly there were many names that I did not know. I had definitely wrongly judged this group of people. Their extroverted and outgoing nature is a very worthwhile quality and I really enjoyed the company of the people I was with. I also met more new people than I had since my 1st year of university. I had a lot of fun and genuinely enjoyed myself! I know in future I will make an effort to go out of my social comfort zone more.
Take home message of the blog: By pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in every aspect of your life you will learn to deal with new situations with more ease and become a much more adaptable person. The greater the comfort zone that you have, the less anxiety you will feel when faced with the unknown. Doing new things cultivates creativity and keeps you young! This is easier said than done but by making small changes on a day to day basis you can build up the courage to take a much bigger plunge. I want to challenge you, and myself, today to get out of our comfort zones. You have so much incredible potential on the inside. God has put gifts and talents in you that you probably don’t know anything about.