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Going outside of your comfort zone: how facing my fears has changed my everyday life

Each year we invite IB alumni to share their experiences, interests and advice with our global community in the graduate voices series. We welcome Diploma Programme (DP) graduate Michaela Clancy, who reflects on the importance of putting yourself out there and facing your fears. Michaela graduated her DP program from the Portsmouth Grammar School in the United Kingdom.

Businesswoman made decisions

By Michaela Clancy

“I realised my fear of talking to new people stems from a fear of being rejected.”

For my whole life I have been an introvert and going to university demonstrated that although it is part of who I am, I couldn’t let it become what I am. I discovered that if I allowed myself, I could quite happily remain in my own little bubble with very little human interaction. This trait serves me brilliantly when deadlines are looming, because I find it very easy to not get distracted by a lack of socialising, but I did begin to notice that while my friends were doing activities with other people I was spending yet another night alone. I realised I had to change…

I ended up imagining what it would like to go beyond my comfort zone—I had already experienced it to an extent, what with going to university and a few other challenges I had undertaken during my school years. However, despite these being challenges, I had rarely tackled one of my fears. Talking to new people. And it was this fear that had begun to impact upon my life in a negative way.

Taking the plunge

The first step I took was to message my current friends to arrange a meet up. I’m always the person who will just turn up and I will hardly ever be proactive in organising. After this I decided to get some dinner with a girl in the same seminar as me. We already spoke during lectures, but never beyond that. This too went well and my confidence grew. Yes, I was speaking to more people, but I had already been speaking to them beforehand. I decided to go to the next level.

On the day of writing this article I came across a post on Facebook, where a member of the group posted about doing a box exchange. This is when you get in contact with a person from another country and you send each other parcels filled with food, stationary and whatever else is relevant to your country. I took the plunge and messaged a girl who goes to university in the Netherlands. I was so unbelievably anxious. What if she didn’t reply to my message? I realised my fear of talking to new people stems from a fear of being rejected. I need not have feared though, she replied and after an hour of messaging each other we had planned to send our boxes in a few days’ time.

Facing your fears

Instead of thinking that something is impossible, see it as a challenge to take on and enjoy the process.”

Start with something that makes you scared—this could be heights, spiders, or like me, talking to a new person. Once you’ve identified this fear you’re half way there. Next think of something that tackles that fear head on. For me it was messaging a person from another country. However, it could be as simple as walking up to someone and saying ‘hi’. In tackling your fears, the sky is your limit (especially if you’re scared of heights). I have written a list of all the things that scare me and then the solutions that I can do in order to tackle these fears.

In going beyond my comfort zone, it has prepared me for those situations where comfort isn’t an option; and in some cases, I have found myself enjoying these challenges. Changing your perception in fearful situations is vital. Instead of thinking that something is impossible, see it as a challenge to take on and enjoy the process. This way of thinking has helped me in situations on an everyday basis, where previously I would have been nervous beyond belief. Today was a milestone for me in talking with others, what will you decide to tackle? Remember: it’s not the things we do that we regret, it’s what we didn’t do.

michaela square

Michaela Clancy is in her second year of studying English Literature at Lancaster University. She is activity seeking a sustainable lifestyle, and spends her free time going on hikes.  

To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates check out these IB programme stories. If you are an IB grad and want to share your story, write to us at We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and now Instagram!

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