Being a swim instructor for over 10 years, I learn a few things about how people function in and out of the water. I’ve taught everyone from babies to adults and the most popular saying in my classes (of course, excluding the babies who don’t talk) is: “I can’t do this.” To everyone who has compared themselves to others, felt an anxious fear in the intimidating world of swimming, or have given up on trying, I am here to say: you can do this. I will not discount the discomfort, the feeling of failure, or the thought of “this will never work,” but I want to give 3 tips for finding confidence and overcoming fear in the water
It Takes Patience
I’ve seen many people give up before trying or lose confidence after one failed attempt, but the beauty of learning is that every mistake builds us into a better person. Whether finally putting your head under water for more than 10 seconds (which is frightening the first time!) or treading water in the deep end, you have to start somewhere. It’s easy to let the fear of drowning or embarrassment hold us back, but when you’re with a swim instructor or experienced swimmer, we want you to know that everything takes time.
When we first started walking as toddlers to learning a new language, we will experience the doubt of our own abilities or a plateau in learning. No matter what it is, we hold ourselves back from practicing, practicing, practicing. With time, I can’t promise how long, the fear will dissipate and our confidence will grow because we will inevitably succeed if we have patience.
You Have to be Nice to Yourself
We live in a world of comparison and being the best you can be, but I am a firm believer, and I make sure each of my classes know, that you are good enough! No one can be perfect at everything, that would be tiring! However, we can have an attitude of open-mindedness and self-encouragement to make every experience in the water better. If we look in the mirror every day and tell ourselves we’re not good enough, tell ourselves that we don’t belong in our communities, or that we’re not fit/pretty/strong/talented enough, we lose our ability to at least try.
Anxiety and fear can overcome a person quickly and mercilessly, but we need to fight those urges to give into the voices that put us down. I encourage you to change your language from “I can’t” to “I will try.” And heck, you can even laugh at yourself once in awhile. So, next time you’re in the pool about to attempt to swim 25 yards or it’s your first time floating on your back, remember that you don’t have to be perfect the first, second, or any time after that, rather, it’s about telling yourself that showing up and trying is enough. Now, go look in the mirror or the reflection of the pool and say, “You got this!” because you really do.
Be Honest with Yourself
The fear of water is much more prominent than you think, I see it all the time in my classes with both kids and adults. The worst part is that when people are afraid of water, they refuse to learn how to swim, thus drownings are much more likely. But that stems from misunderstanding your own limitations or unawareness of water safety. The fear of drowning is understandable and it’s extremely important to understand water safety, but in the case of swim lessons, water can become the friend, not the enemy. Swim instructors and lifeguards are trained to help you in the case of emergencies and you will be safe if you don’t panic.
To overcome fear of the water, you need to incrementally build trust with the instructor, yourself, and even the water. Water can provide stress relief, buoyancy for painful joints, and a source of a great workout! However, you must be honest with yourself and set your limits, because not knowing what your own abilities look like can be extremely dangerous. That is why I highly encourage swim lessons with trained swim instructors, especially for adults, because we tend to overestimate our skills because we have been living on this earth for quite a while now! It is hard to accept, but there is no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed of your experience with swimming. We all come from different walks in life and swimming is the instructor’s passion, so we want to share it with as many people as we can; therefore, there is never judgment and even group lessons come with amazing encouragement and unique friendships.
Remember: Being human means we have imperfections, but unlimited potential.
I hope these quick tips can give you motivation to overcome fear and gain confidence in the water. Don’t allow social comparison, lack of experience, age, or past failures to keep you from coming to the pool again and again. Right after safety, my rules in every class is to never say “I can’t do this,” because I know deep down that every single person is able to challenge themselves and see amazing progress and boosts in confidence. Now, go out there and take those challenges with the formidable strength I know you have!