Can confidence be taught? Can we learn to get over the fears that stop us doing what we want and need to?
As I type this on a tropical beach paradise on the Galápagos island of Española, I just learned for sure that the answer is yes...
As a child, some idiot in the local swimming baths pushed me under. I nearly drowned and have had some fear of water ever since.
Later, at the age of 21, I learned to swim in a swimming pool. But the sea has always been just for paddling in as far as I'm concerned.
My adrenaline junkie husband never pushed it because he has 2 teenage sons to indulge in water sports with, but...
It was time.
Given free reign for his latest 0 ending birthday he wanted adventure. So I found myself on a small boat for 8 days with twice daily snorkelling trips. It sounded like my kind of hell.
I had no choice. It was time to practice what I preach.
The Trick is to Keep Breathing
So here's what I learned:
1) Use the shallow end - start gently in anything you're not confident with. If it's public speaking, don't agree to be best man at a wedding with 200 guests without trying your hand at it first in a much smaller group. I went into the sea from the shore, first without flippers and got accustomed to the mask where I could comfortably stand up.
2) Ask for help - whatever we want to be more confident in, it's likely we already know someone who is much better at it than us, maybe they even inspire you. If you need more confidence for a horse jumping contest, ask your riding instructor how to "get I'm the zone". Listen and learn. Luckily I was sailing with lots of fearless younger people. They all gave me tips.
3) Use the rubber ring! Get to know your equipment. As I learned more it became clear I had the wrong mask. A few adjustments and I felt a lot better. I also asked my new friends how best to deal with malfunctions and got a lot of helpful tips. And using a life jacket proved invaluable in areas with strong currents.
If you're nervous about making a work presentation, for example, make sure you plan in time for a dry run with your slides. Book the room ahead of time so you can prepare the projector, props or other equipment. Take the time to feel comfortable with where you'll stand. It all helps.
4) Dive in!
Sooner or later, there's no other choice but to get right into the deep water. As I found myself swimming out to sea alongside rocks and through crashing waves, I had moments of panic. But I kept going. And it paid off. Swimming with playful sea lions and 100 year old giant sea turtles has to be one of my lifetime highlights. Sure. I could have stayed on the boat and been safe, read a few more books, relaxed and looked later at everyone's photos. But nothing can compare to the joy of jumping in and experiencing it for yourself.
If something scares you, just try it. What's the worst that can happen? Chances are, it's not being eaten by a shark.
5) Keep breathing
It sounds simple but whenever we do things that scare us, we often breath more shallowly. Or even hold our breath. At the end, we are gasping for breath. Even if we've not done anything physical. By breathing smoothly and evenly snorkelling became so much easier. And a calming breath can sometimes be all you need to get through that ice skating exam.
I was away from the group and a shark appeared in my view. Just keep on breathing, I thought, as I came face to face with a huge fear stoked by Jaws movies.
It swam on by, and I went back to cavorting with sea lions.
If you want to try something in the shallow end, join us on May 31st in Cookham's Pinder Hall from 10-1 for a safe and friendly workshop.
You never know where getting out of your comfort zone might lead you...