Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Confronting your fears
My background is in theatre. Acting, teaching, directing, make up... I've participated in most facets of it. Yet, there's a fear that took me years to get over.
A fear of public speaking.
It seems bizarre. I never had much stage fright when it came to getting up on stage, in character, and playing a part. Put me up there, when I had to actually be me, and it made me really really uncomfortable.
Now, I've been in a number of positions where I have had no choice but be myself and speak to a crowd. The way I dealt with it was to fake it.
That's right. Fake it till you make it. This is probably where my acting background kicked in. I learned that if I acted like I was okay with public speaking, I could convince others that I was okay with it. If I convinced others, I started to convince myself.
Today I went swimming. Not such a big thing, you might think. Since hurting my knee, swimming has been one of the main topics in my blog.
Today I went swimming by myself, at the local pool, where the deep end is actually deep.
One of the biggest hurdles I've been dealing with recently is my fear of swimming in water that goes over my head. I've done fine in the swimming lessons. I know that, at any time, I can just bring my feet down under me and stand up. At the local pool, that's not the case. Three quarters of the pool is a comfortable depth where I can still stand, but then the bottom drops off and it gets deep.
Yet, with my knee injured, I've been stuck doing almost nothing, and swimming is just about the perfect activity to work those muscles, but without impact. The problem is, I have only just learned how to swim.
So I decided to fake it.
I decided that today I was going to swim laps. I got my stuff together and headed to the pool.
Logically, I knew that I was perfectly safe. I can float easily, so if I get really stuck, I could always just roll onto my back and float there until someone rescued me. I'd be embarrassed, but not hurt. Logically, I knew that I can swim. Not terribly well, and not terribly fast, but I can swim.
Sometimes, it's hard to get logic and emotions to agree with each other.
There I was standing at the edge of the pool, and I knew that I had to go through with it. If I admit to another fear, it's a fear of looking foolish, and walking away from the pool and going back into the changing room would certainly make me look foolish. Besides, if I did that, it would be much harder to convince myself to return.
So, I got into the pool and started swimming. I'm trying to get used to putting my head in the water and breathing on both sides, so I used a flutter board. (Who would have thought breathing could be so hard?)
Thanks to my fancy new goggles, I can see the bottom of the pool, and when I got to the point where it turned deep, I started feeling panic. But, I was acting like it was okay, so I kept swimming. Continue to kick. Continue to move those arms. And I reached the end of the pool. I held onto the end and turned around. (I can't do those fancy flip turns yet.) I swam back. The first lap was the hardest. Each time after that, the ball of panic got smaller and smaller.
By the time I was finished, the deep end was just another part of the pool I was passing by. When I got out of the pool, I knew that I had accomplished something that was much bigger then a little workout of swimming laps. I had gotten past a fear that has had a hold of me for over twenty years. I honestly think I can handle whatever the swimming pool has to throw at me now.
One day, I'll have to confront that fear again in order to swim in a lake and on that day, I'll fake it till I make it.
What are you afraid of?
*Please do not consider my advice as a substitute for a qualified professional. If you are dealing with a full fledged phobia, this may not work for you.