Staff Opinion: Get out of your comfort zone

By Brigid Lowney | November 6, 2018 4:55pm

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Living editor Brigid Lowney shares her experience overcoming social anxiety and encourages others to face their fears.
by Annika Gordon / The Beacon

Throughout my life I’ve had a lot of fears. When I was little, I was terrified of dogs (sad, I know). So when my dad announced that we were getting a puppy, I was NOT happy. 

When he first brought Gracie (a Yorkshire Terrier and Shih Tzu mix) home in her little dog crate, I remember standing so far back that I could barely see her through the cage door. Slowly but surely I inched my way closer and closer to her, but what I found wasn’t scary or terrifying. Once I stared into those adorable puppy eyes looking up at me, I was hooked. I sat next to her crate all night because I didn’t want her to be alone. 

If there’s anything I learned from my experience with Gracie, it’s that sometimes you have to face your fears head on. 

I’ve always been really shy and have had a lot of social anxiety, which has held me back from a lot of things in my life. I’m often afraid of being judged by others, so making new friends and trying new things has always been a major challenge for me. 

But in the last year, I’ve started to push myself out of my comfort zone. I realized that life is too short to live in fear, and that I would never reach my full potential if I closed myself off to the world. 

When I studied abroad in London in the fall of my junior year, everything changed for me. I went to a foreign country all by myself where I didn’t know anyone in my program, so I was forced to make new friends. I knew that I was really lucky to be studying abroad, and if I didn’t make the most of my experience, I would be wasting an incredible opportunity. 

During my time abroad, I made new friends that will last a lifetime, travelled to countries (without my parents) that I had dreamt of visiting, went on lots of solo adventures, tried new foods, talked with the locals, took the Tube everywhere and embraced a culture that was entirely different from my own.

Pushing myself to do all of that wasn’t easy. I had to work through a lot of fear — the fear of being alone, the fear of opening up to strangers, the fear of getting lost, the fear of people not liking me. But once I did it, I was able to make lifelong memories alongside some pretty extraordinary people. 

But I didn’t want it to stop there. I knew that when I came back to UP, I wanted things to be different. I wanted to keep facing my fears and challenging myself. My sister told me that The Beacon needed reporters and that I should apply. 

At first I was hesitant. I had been interested in working for The Beacon my freshman and sophomore year, but I was always too afraid to apply because the evil voice in the back of my head kept saying “What if you’re not good enough?”

For the first time, I decided to ignore that stupid voice, sent in my application and was offered a position as a reporter. Now I’m an editor, and I get to work with incredible people that I never would have met if I had let fear hold me back. 

I still have a lot of fears to overcome, but I think this is a good start. Because of my social anxiety, I have to challenge myself every day, even if it’s a simple task like talking to someone on the phone or sparking up a conversation with the person sitting next to me in class. 

Social anxiety sucks and sometimes I feel so powerless, like there’s nothing I can do to change it. I know that social anxiety isn’t something I can just get rid of, but I can still fight it. 

If you’re like me and you have trouble facing your fears, the one piece of advice I can give you is this: Be brave. You’re more capable than you think you are. All it takes is little moments of courage every single day. 

Brigid Lowney is the living editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at lowney19@up.edu

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