Comfort Zones and Beyond

Comfort Zones and Beyond

By far one of the weirdest and most uncomfortable things I’ve ever done was also incredible and propelled me onto a whole new level of courage and fearlessness. You see, for someone grown up in a Chinese family as an introverted child, trained as a banker laser-focused on the bottomline, I was never really interested in doing anything without the probability of a high ROI (return on investment) for my time and effort. So, weird, crazy, strange as it seemed to do this, even to the me from merely four year ago, I was left truly empowered by this experience. There simply isn’t enough love and energy out there, so I write this to commemorate and share with you, this day I baby-stepped outside of my comfort zone: Random Huggers Day Hong Kong, a day I will never forget. For, everything I want is outside of my comfort zone. So I want to transform and pass on the energy.

So Random Huggers Day was started 13 years ago in London and has since expanded globally.

On September 22, 2012, 13 of us went around Central to give free hugs, and a free sticker afterwards.

I hugged about 70-80 people after 2.5 hours.

In the beginning we were on the IFC walkway, grounds I treaded on daily to and from work. Knowing at the back of my mind I’d run into people I know, I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable when many people saw us from afar and walked away, while my buddy the tall, “crazy out there” German scientist, Frank was highly energetic and unflappable. I was mentally hindered. My mind was full of thoughts that were like cars on a highway, ‘why am I doing this’, ‘this is so pointless’, ‘why are people are so cold’ etc etc… After 20 minutes I thought okay I’ve had enough of this “I’m scared of looking bad when people reject me” and stormed off to the bathroom. After about 5 minutes in the IFC bathroom practicing my smile (yes sure there were people lining up looking at me weird but i was pretty oblivious and determined to do this ‘right’) during which my buddy was no doubt wondering what on earth I was doing. I felt energized, and positively ready to go.

First stop, Pret in IFC. This one I shall call Rock the House Hugs – I was paying for the juices when the Hong Konger shop assistant behind the pret counter was looking at my tee shirt. I proceeded to give him a hug across the counter after I offered and he said sure. Then the others behind the counter also wanted hugs. So Frank and I went around the side and gave hugs to a few more Pret staff who all came out of the counter area. Energy in the whole shop was lifted just in that instant. No doubt the customers were wondering what on earth was going on. ;)

Soon afterwards we were kicked out of IFC onto the IFC walkway for we were ‘doing some promotional activities’ whatever that means, followed by some interesting observations:

The overwhelming realisation F and I got were that people are so unrelated to and scared of each other. So many people strutted around wearing earphones, I must admit I’m usually a culprit myself, although truth be told in noisy Central or pretty much anywhere in urban HK how clearly you can hear whatever it is you are listening to, is anyone’s guess.

– Some people don’t hear you properly and automatically walk away and say no no. I’m just like that on the weekends I must admit. Time to let that fear of relating to people go, I told myself.

– People (myself included) are so sceptical and cynical and automatically suspect everything is fishy that we want no part of – “how much you want” we got asked a few times even when we assured them it was all free
– Some people say “I’m fine thanks I don’t need a hug”. You see that word I have come to resent in past few years. In fact I get angry when I hear it. Fine. Life’s not great, not extraordinary, but ‘fine’. Complacency? Dream big, dream extraordinary, dream weird even, don’t ever settle for fine. Cos fine, is what stops you from being great, from being extraordinary
– Surprisingly westerners we encountered that day were more scared of us vs Hong Kongers and most hurried along or avoided us like a plague. No worries, after this and my mental transformation I’ve come to realise there is no need to take things personally, EVER.
– Sometimes people make anything up to get out of situations they fear of – I was most amused by an older Hong Kong man who I approached with my very broken Cantonese – today’s free hugs day, would you like a free hug? He said no no I don’t know. I pressed on and said “really? but do you know how to hug?” He said ‘no no I don’t know’ as he hurried away. Lol

Then there were some funny ones:

– Most Hong kong guys only want same gender hugs (ditto for their girlfriends or wives), as a result I got to hug my disproportionately high amount of female counterparts, as the boyfriends/hubbies no doubt didn’t want their partners ‘harassed’ by a “weird looking” German
– I learned how to switch channels very rapidly between mando, canto and English, sometimes the other person spoke ‘I don’t know’ in mandarin in which case I had to switch rapidly. We managed to capture some ‘extra business’ from many mainland tourists and some photo opps which Freaking Funny Frank needed some of my language ability to generate (*grin* with a proud look)
– Right in the middle of Queen’s Road Central, when some People (mostly girls, and from out of town) would gush ‘aww it’s random huggers day’. And here I truly need to thank my piano teacher for those sensitive ears where I’d do a swift turn and skipped and hopped towards them and jumped while I shouted ‘tadaaaaa! yes would you like a free hug? Yes! You do I know it’! And we hugged and it was happily ever after
– Some of the people were so stiff and paralysed when I hugged them, as if they were about to be hugged by a vampire (O.o I promise I’m not, rahhhh)
– Some volunteered their little kids who were pretty lost as to what was going on and just extended their arms and stood there as I bent down to hug them. So cute. Sniff.

And then there were moments that left me truly moved, touched and inspired.
The pregnant lady – in the middle of Queen’s Road Central opposite M&S, I saw hordes of people (about 25-30) walking towards me all at once and I approached an Asian woman who was about 5-6 months pregnant. I said, it’s free hugs day today, would you like a free hug? She said yeah why not and we had a big hearty hug. I then hugged her husband next. He then said you know you actually hugged two people just now, including the little one in her belly. I was very moved, touched and inspired. (*teary*)

There was also a gweilo couple – I hugged the woman first, and then the man said he didn’t need a hug as he then proceeded to hug his lady. Awwww how sweet was that?!

My partner in crime and I managed to expand our repertoire by the end of that.
Security guards
Ladies holding the signages pointing to shops
Flyer distributors
Real estate agents
Elderly ladies collecting donations
Tourists (from Korea/Philippines/Taiwan/China/America)
Helpers, in fact all of Statue Square had a sticker thanks to efforts of our awesome crew

People who I never used to pay attention to, or avoided even. Yet, these are the exact people who make this city function properly.

It just felt so truly liberating to do things just cos. No agenda, no catch, but just to give, and not expecting anything in return. The energy of abundance really works – the more you give, the more you get and the more you have.

Personally it has somewhat helped me overcome my inability to look at people while I speak to them. And really to be with them. Sometimes people hesitate and when you persist, they end up giving the warmest hugs. You just never know.

Everything you want is outside your comfort zone. For that one tiny step outside of my comfort zone yesterday, I got so much. I learned so much. About myself and about the world. And the truly amazing people I was with on this day.

At the end of every article, I will put out a little CTA (call to action) to you. The CTA for this one – get out there today, and do just one thing that isn’t the ‘norm’ for you and makes you uncomfortable, be it say hi to someone who steps in the elevator, or maybe message the guy / gal you fancy, ANYTHING. Mind you, your intellect may be screaming for you to stop because it ‘is stupid’, ‘make you look bad’ or whatever the reason, but just push on and go do something you’ve always wanted to but never did. Everything you want is outside of your comfort zone, because If it’s something inside the comfort zone, you probably already have it.

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China born, Western raised and educated, Chuckles worked as an investment banker in Hong Kong until taking a sabbatical a few years ago to pursue her passion in personal growth and spirituality. She has since delved into the world of startups and will be sharing her thoughts on startups, communications, personal growth, spirituality or anything else that makes her chuckle everyday.