When I was little, I was painfully shy. There was a period of time when I wouldn't even let my own grandmother hold me. I was the child that hid behind my mom's leg when we went anywhere, because she, of course, could protect me from the world. She could prevent me from having to answer anyone's questions. She could save me from talking.

The older I got, the more I realized that wasn't going to work. For example, in my third grade class, we had to do a report on an animal. I chose the Bengal Tiger. I loved tigers. What I didn't love, was the idea of talking about the Bengal Tiger in front of the class.

I cried. When the time came for me to go up in front of the class, I just cried. Much to my chagrin, it didn't work on my teacher, Mrs. Pyle. I still had to stand in front of her and my peers, and recite facts about the Bengal Tiger.

Fast forward eight years to my junior year of high school. In that time, I got more accustomed to how life demanded that on occasion, I speak in front of people.

Junior year, I took A.P. U.S. History. My teacher was in his second year at the school, and he was implementing a lot of new strategies in the classroom. One of those strategies involved debates over historical events. My partner and I were set to debate the question: Was the Spanish-American War caused by Yellow Journalism?

I honestly can't remember what side we took, but I remember all of the preparation we did for it. Knowing my hatred for public speaking, and specifically for impromptu public speaking, I wrote out exactly what I was going to say so there would be no opportunity for me to mess it up.

Amidst all of my preparation, as I spoke in front of my classmates and my cool new teacher, I still stunk. You know how when you get nervous, your voice shakes? That's exactly what happened to me. And not only did my voice shake, but my hands were so unsteady that I had problems reading the words I had written down.

Clearly, public speaking is not my thing. I've been afraid of it since I was born. I've known I've been afraid of it for most of my life.

However, since I've been in college, I've come to recognize this fear as a good thing. Fear of something of this nature simply means that I'm bad at it. And I'm bad at it because I don't do it. And I don't want to do it because I'm bad at it. And I'm bad at it because... well, you get the picture.

After coming to this realization, I've been trying hard to put myself in situations that I'm afraid of (in the sense of this fear; I'm not going to walk down a dark alley at midnight or something, people). I've submitted pieces for undergraduate research conferences. I've spoken up at church. I've even started conversations with random people (unheard of, I know).

What I've learned from my crazy, adventurous idea of doing that which scares me, is this:

When we step outside of our comfort zone, what we're really doing is expanding it.

I'm no longer afraid to pray out loud in a circle of friends. I'm no longer afraid to contribute to a class discussion. And I'm certainly no longer afraid to talk to strangers.

Step outside of your comfort zone. I think you just may find that as you do, the number of things you're afraid of will start to dwindle.