This summer I decided to take the plunge and finally learn how to swim. I had a traumatizing experience as a child that lead to my fear of large bodies of water. To make a long story short- two schoolmates threw me into a pool even though I repeatedly told them I couldn’t swim. Talk about scary! You cannot imagine my panic when I could not call for help as I sank towards the bottom of the pool. I was finally rescued when they realized I was telling the truth all along.
Fast forward to this summer when I got a once in a lifetime opportunity to take lessons. I was a little hesitant at first however I knew the only way to conquer my fear was to dive in head first. While I knew that I would learn how to swim, I didn’t expect to also gain a few life lessons. Here is what I really learned from swim lessons:
- You can’t swim with your feet on the ground. My instructor said this to me after several attempts at getting me to actually swim. I had mastered some of the basics and was ready to take off. However I was fearful of not being grounded. At every attempt to swim, my sub-conscious reverted to the time that I was sinking and couldn’t get upright. I was fine as long as I was either standing up or holding on to the side of the pool. But the reality is a fish does not swim standing up just like a bird does not fly on the ground. You must learn to let go and trust that you will be fine.
- Remember to breathe. We all know how essential breathing is to swimming (i.e. living). Well it turns out that breathing is also essential to calming fears. Breathing underwater is the very first task I mastered during my lessons. I even got to the point that I could hold my breath for several seconds. However everything went out of the window when it came time to swim. I was so focused on trying not to drown that I forgot to breathe. I ran out of steam quickly which lead me to becoming frustrated. I learned that if I focused on my breathing than I will stay afloat. And being fixated on possible negative outcomes did not help me. In life you may feel that are drowning however it is important to remember to breathe. If necessary, take several breaths. After all it is important to your survival.
- Courage does not mean you are successful. It means that you’ve persisted despite your fears. I must admit that I was a little unhappy at the end of the lessons. A part of me felt the lessons were a waste of time because I was not a skilled swimmer. I thought I wasted a lot of time being afraid to let go. After some self reflection I realized that I was courageous. And at this point, I would much rather be courageous than a lifeguard. No offense but it was courage that lead me to conquer my fear. And building courage is always time well spent.