Say it out loud. “The deep end.” If you’ve got a fear of swimming, what kind of feeling does it give you to consider it? The deep end. You’re okay to wade around in the shallow end, that’s where you belong. But the deep end? That place is too scary. It’s just… so deep.
But why is it scary? Is it scary because your feet can’t touch the bottom and you fear you’ll sink? Maybe, as in the ocean, it goes down so far that you’re afraid of what lies below. It’s mysterious, it’s uncharted territory. Really, you’re probably just afraid of the unknown. There’s no telling what could happen to you if you go in the deep end.
After I figured out the mechanics of swimming — that is, I could actually propel myself through the water — I would only swim as far as the line in the middle of the pool that denoted the beginning of the deep end. I wasn’t necessarily tired once I reached this point. That line signified something unknown. What if I swam into the deep end and suddenly my muscles gave out and I could no longer swim? Would I find myself in the middle of the pool, no power left, only to struggle as I sunk to the bottom?
People who learned to swim at a young age don’t understand this feeling in their adulthood. Friends and family might simply encourage you. “C’mon, you can do it. It’s not a big deal. Just jump in.” But that’s not what we want to hear. Being unable to swim is already embarrassing, why would we want to add to the embarrassment by struggling in front of our loved ones? Encouragement is not enough, especially in the heat of the moment. Psychological fear plus performance anxiety is not a good mix.
What we need is patience. Guidance. Comfort. And most of all, a safe environment free from anxiety and judgment. You’d think you could get that from loved ones, but sometimes it takes total strangers to help you get over your fears. That’s why I recommend taking a class. I put it off for so long. I thought that if I just practiced a little each time I was near water, that I could overcome my fear. But with everybody around you having fun, it’s hard to make mistakes and not feel like an idiot.
The deep end isn’t intrinsically scary. It’s just water. We all know plenty of people who jump in and pop right back up. It’s the unknown that sparks the fear. But imagine being in a place where everybody feels the same as you, where everybody has the same goal. The deep end is just another place to try, to fail, to overcome. There is no performance. There is no judgment. The judgment exists solely in our own heads. The best thing you can do is stop worrying what other people think of you and just keep trying until you get it. It works in swimming, it works in life.
You won’t sink in the deep end. You’ll actually float pretty well once you relax and learn to tred a little water. Once I became comfortable in the deep end, my next task was to try to swim to the bottom. It was a struggle to make myself swim down headfirst. The human body naturally wants to float. It’s the same in life. Sometimes we’re scared to jump into the figurative deep end — make some life-altering change — but once we leap, we discover it’s not so bad. We just keep floating on.