Every two years I make the same mistake. I chop off all my hair thinking I can pull off a chic, tousled cool-girl lob. Then I walk out of the salon, holding back tears of remorse and spend the next 24 months willing it to grow until it's waist length, by which point I'm bored and cut it off again.
But this is a different kind of image change. I’m going to rip the plaster off quickly, more for myself than you, and say that Bell & Smokey is no more. Letterbox is the brand new me. How do I look? The cornerstones will stay the same, I’ll be emailing the city every fortnight about style, culture, travel and trends. But the look, name and frequency is changing. And while it’s uncharted territory I'm heading into, leaving my comfort zone doesn’t have to be scary.
While I’m not completely averse to change, I don’t relish it. I don’t want to brag, but I’m kind of an expert at worrying. It’s my thing. So when trying something new, I’ll always dip my feet in the sea rather than dive headlong into the waves, like a spaniel chasing a tennis ball. I like to think this makes me measured and sensible, but maybe it just means I play it safe. When we’re young, taking risks is how we learn; making mistakes is a key part of growing. As we get older, we stop taking these small risks, we find a sense of who we are and settle into it.
Brace for the science. Our brains like being in control and they strive for certainty. The limbic system controls our basic emotions — fear, pleasure, anger — and any kind of uncertainty generates an alert response. Basically, our brains like having information and knowledge about the future and change is processed as a potential threat. So who can blame us for sometimes thinking of change as scary? Our brains are literally wired to alert us when change is a possibility, to warn us to try and avoid it. So fear of making even the tiniest slip-up can feel stifling.
According to Forbes, 62% of people don’t like to leave their comfort zone. So if they’re presented with a change, whether it be at work, or a social change, their instinct is to interpret it as negative. Like, “this new role at work will have a bad effect on my career” or “my friend’s decision to move to a new city is going to make my social life worse”. By working to alter how you interpret the facts of a life change, and seeing things from a different perspective, you can start to recognise that your emotions toward it are actually influenced by your personal interpretation of them, rather than cold, hard proof. By looking at change more objectively, you might be able to positively adjust your worldview.
On some level, we see things that have been around for longer as better, or more worthwhile. If it’s stood the test of time, it must work better, look better, and just be better, right? One study showed that people literally have a preference for things that have been around for longer. Those who saw a painting and were told it was made in 1905 preferred it to those that were told it was painted in 2005. These are the kinds of subconscious biases we’re working against when considering change. Mad, no?
While sticking with the familiar may be more comfortable in the short term, taking risks and seeing how you can survive is even better. The New Year is a natural time to look at making changes. And exposing ourselves to different situations might just be the way to experiment with mixing things up. I’m not suggesting a constant state of upheaval is the answer, having a place of comfort is good. God knows 2018 has been a bit of a shitshow, and that’s being generous, so I wholly recommend having a calm, safe place to retreat to from all that mess.
But ultimately, growth comes from challenging yourself and knocking down those barriers, barriers that are all too often self-imposed anyway, whether you realise it or not. And if I embraced the unknown more often, maybe I’d have more adventures and meet more people. With the shiny new Letterbox, and a new year ahead, this isn't the time to comfortably sit back and take the easy route. It's not a time to be cautious. It's time to step forward, without fear and with a brand new look. In short, it's spaniel time.