Stepping out of your comfort zone vs. anxiety. How Future Leaders In Action Camp helped me with both.
The deadline for Future Leaders In Action (FLIA) was coming up fast and I had pretty much made up my mind that I wasn’t going to sign up. I had been struggling with anxiety about going to any camp after I had a stressful experience at a non-4-H related camp two years prior. I remember having a panic attack the night before a non-4-H camp for no reason. I had just woken up and remembered that in the morning that I was going to camp, and I spiraled. So, I had decided that it was not worth the stress and it was too far out of my comfort zone. That’s when one of my good friends started nagging me to sign up. She was persistent and guaranteed that it was worthwhile and that I would have a great time and I am so glad I decided to go to FLIA. If you have never had the opportunity to attend a 4-H camp it is an experience like no other. The programs are designed to create a safe, encouraging environment where its participants can flourish. I remember standing outside with the other campers after we all got off the bus and looking around at the unfamiliar faces. Most of us were quiet and shy and no one was talking, but that didn’t last long. Our wonderful facilitators started that weekend off with so much energy and excitement that it was impossible not to follow along. I have never been to another camp where the facilitators are having just as much fun, if not more fun than the participants. We were kept so busy it was impossible to do anything other then live in the moment which helped me out a great deal. We were encouraged to step out of our comfort zones and to trust and support one another. Camp was a safe space away from the rest of the world and I can say with confidence that FLIA changed my life. We gained leadership skills, but we also learned how to be good listeners. We challenged each other and lifted each other up when someone was feeling down. We climbed 20-foot towers and hoisted each other into the air during high ropes. We worked our way out of escape rooms and talked our facilitators into letting us dance for a few extra hours on the last night. By the end of that camp all 40 participants knew each other by name and I still talk to many of them today. Tears were shed as we climbed the bus to go home from camp and said good bye to one another. After FLIA I was hooked. In the last three years I have had the privilege of attending Provincial 4-H Leadership Camp (that runs alternating years with FLIA), Career Mania at the University of Guelph, The 4-H Global Networking Summit in Ottawa (that had participants from over 30 Countries!), 4-H Canada Citizenship Congress in Ottawa. All of these experiences have led me to becoming a 4-H Ambassador this year. Doing something out of your comfort zone is never easy. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the “what ifs”. What if I fail? What if I don’t fit in? I can say with confidence that 4-H is a wonderful place to leave those “what if’s” behind. So, I challenge you to do something that forces you out of your comfort zone. If not camp, maybe you join a new club, try to get elected for a position in your club that you haven’t held before, talk to a new member and introduce yourself or volunteer to speak first when giving presentations or giving reasons. Whatever you do if you are stepping out of your comfort zone you have succeeded. If you learned something new or gained a new skill, there is no such thing as failing. The more that you put into 4-H, the more you will get out and there are so many opportunities to experience what 4-H has to offer Locally, Provincially, Nationally and Globally. So, sign up for camp and drag a friend along! If you have already been to a 4-H camp before, encourage a friend to apply! Sometimes people just need a gentle push to get them going. Lastly, be sure not to judge the circumference of your comfort zone to other people’s comfort zones. “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. “ ~ John Assaraf The 4-H Ontario Ambassador Program is made possible by the generous support of FS.