For years – and I mean at least a decade – I’ve been the guy who hates sushi. Most of my friends new it, and certainly the people I was close to knew it. So, whenever we went out or ordered in food, this was an entire category of food removed from consideration. Unfortunately, I was ok with that, despite the fact that many of my friends really liked it.
A couple of years ago, I went out to dinner with the CEO of a firm I worked for where we were hosting our biggest client – an account that I managed. When I found out that we were going to Sho-Dan, I could hardly refuse. This was our biggest client after all, and this restaurant had a really good reputation. So, I figured I would eat the things that I thought I could and just grin and bear it. This is exactly what I did. I ate about 50% of the food that was put in front of us (thankfully, this was on shared plates, not just put on my plate). Much to my surprise though, I loved pretty much everything that I tried – the other stuff that looked to fishy (pun intended), I just didn’t even try at all.
I then forgot about that entire incident, other than to remember that despite how much I hate sushi, there are some things I can eat at a sushi restaurant if I’m in a bind.
Fast forward a couple of years…
As part of my goal to improve myself recently, I wanted to help deal with social anxiety. While I could go and mingle in new crowds if I needed to, it was something that I never really enjoyed and felt comfortable doing. I have wanted this to change for a long time, but never took any initiative into doing something about it. In fact, I had just (wrongly) assumed that there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I was “just a quiet introvert who didn’t like mingling”.
Well, this is totally false. I do like mingling and meeting groups of new people – this is something I did quite often at my own house, because I would frequently invite people I had never met to parties, and encourage friends to bring new people. In the last five years or so, I have met an array of really interesting people for the first time in my own home. So, if I like this, why is it that I can’t do the mingling outside of my own home?
The problem is, my home was my safety blanket. I needed to have this comfort zone to give me something to ground myself in in order to stick my neck out a bit. It was a crutch that I was relying on, and like most crutches, they can be helpful at first but often become a dependancy. Like their literal counterpart, crutches should be avoided as much as possible and only used when absolutely necessary.
What does meeting people have to do with sushi?
I had realized that in order to get rid of my crutches, the best approach was to get used to being uncomfortable. Instead of it being something that I should get anxious about, I should make it something exciting! I need to embrace the idea of being outside of my comfort zones, not fear them. So, in the last couple of months, I have decided to do whatever I can to step outside of all of my comfort zones. Anything that feels awkward or uncomfortable that other people seem to enjoy, I need to do and try. One of those things was eating sushi. The crazy thing about sushi was that it didn’t really make any sense for me to say I hated it. The reality is, other than that one time at Sho-Dan, I hadn’t eaten any sushi in over a decade – and that one time I did, I actually really liked everything I had tried. Who knows how much of the rest I would have enjoyed if I had only tried it!
I have now had sushi a number of times in the last couple of weeks, and I can honestly say that even though I have tried everything that was put in front of me, I have yet to try anything I disliked. The vast majority of it, I actually liked quite a bit, which has been very surprising every time. All of this makes me really question why I was the guy who hated sushi after all. Had I just somehow convinced myself of this to clutch that blanket even tighter?
Either way, I’m really starting to love challenging myself to step outside of the box. This goes way beyond just eating sushi – I’ve started swing dancing (me, dancing in a crowd of people that I don’t know!), introducing myself to strangers at social gatherings, trying new music, the list goes on. Now, many things that just the thought of would have made me feel uncomfortable now feel exhilarating. It has opened so many doors for growth, for experience and for pleasure. Doing this feels really good and very empowering. To all of you self-described introverts out there, I strongly recommend that you try this – it feels fantastic from the other side. Also, do yourselves a favour – don’t label yourself with terms like ‘introvert’, ‘shy’. They are self-limiting, self-fulfilling descriptors that will do nothing but deprive you of the chance for more experience.
Below is a picture of my lunch on Thursday. I never would have even considered eating this two months ago.
Every bite was delicious.