If you’ve been keeping up with this series, then you may or may not know how it started years ago. For those that need a refresher, here’s the inaugural post, which was inspired by a Connecting With Respect workshop.

That same workshop but at a different time and location has shaped this post and taken the series in a slightly different direction. While the series initially focused on developing curiosities for other people and cultures as a way to become more empathetic and respectful, this post veers off into stretching your comfort zone from the perspective of building healthy self-esteem.

Building Respect By Building Healthy Self-Esteem

One of the core competencies of respectful behavior starts not with the other person, but with ourselves. Developing healthy self-esteem largely impacts how respectful we are not only to ourselves but to other people. A step in that process explored during the workshop is also highlighted in Paul Meshanko’s latest book, The Respect Effect: Using the Science of Neuroleadership to Inspire a More Loyal and Productive Workplace, is to look for new opportunities to grow your talents and experiences.


Because healthy self-esteem emerges from healthy self-confidence gained from growth. Often the growth we need to get us to the next level is out of our comfort zone. By practicing stepping out of that comfort zone – as little as 2 times a month we can become more confident and willing to try new things at work too.

Healthy self-esteem also affects how we treat other people. If we are confident, then it’s more likely we will not be threatened by someone who is different from us. We may also have more empathy and be more accepting of people with backgrounds and perspectives different from our own.

New Opportunities Grow Your Talents and Experiences

So what did I do the day after the workshop?

How about stepped way out of my comfort zone and boarded a boat with colleagues to spend the morning fishing. Yes fishing, the same person who had only hunted for shoes at the mall in the past and felt most secure in a library or museum or some other place that emphasized the intellectual over the physical.

Boarding the boat at what seemed like a very early 7am didn’t help ease my anxiety about the upcoming excursion. While on board, and despite the picturesque morning sunrise and cool breeze, my anxiety only intensified.

As I mentioned earlier, I am not a kinesthetic person and feel awkward in physical situations, especially sports. I hated gym class in school and prefer to spend my leisure time reading a book or exploring a museum.

When the boat stopped and the fishing rods were baited and ready, I hesitantly approached one like everyone else, although they were clearly more comfortable at this than I was. I put the rod in my hand and fumbled trying to figure out how to properly hold it. Someone noticed my hesitancy and instructed me exactly where to put my fingers.

It was agony. I would have preferred to facilitate a workshop in front of a group than do this.

But I persevered, because I knew from previous experiences that initial discomfort is part of the process to expanding awareness and comfort zones. This feeling lasted for a while as we waited for the fish to bite. I began to feel more at ease, even if I was completely out of my element. Then I caught my first fish!

Growth Facilitates Vitality and Viability

Rapidly my perspective shifted. I no longer felt awkward but now felt confident in my abilities. After reeling in quite a large (and albeit strong) fish I got the whole thrill of fishing. Before, it seemed like just another useless physical activity that I dreaded but now had turned into something that exhilarated me. The rest of the trip turned into a blur as I quickly caught another couple of fish.

My energy was elevated.

Melanie_fishingtripBy the time we were safely back on the shore, and I was reliving the experience with colleagues, I was smiling. This was a real difference from the cringing I was doing earlier and the dread I felt. It surprised even me how one little fish could quickly change my perspective and turn my fear into empowerment.

On the drive home later that day, I was talking to my colleague about the experience. For him, it was the ideal morning doing something he loved, but he knew for me it was uncomfortable. I was happy to report to him that looking back I learned so much about myself and stretching my limits that it was a worthwhile experience, even if at first it had been terrifying. He was empathetic and asked what he could do that was in my comfort zone and new to him so he, too,could grow. I suggested a museum visit and he agreed that that would be out of his comfort zone and then and there we made a deal that was based on mutual respect.