I am not a strong swimmer. To be honest, I swim like a rock and being in the water makes me uncomfortable. My daughter swims like a fish; she loves being in the water and jumping in the deep end of the pool. Earlier this summer we were at the pool together I noticed that my daughter splashed around in the shallow area with me and didn’t go into the deep end or jump off of the diving board. When I asked her why, she told me that she knew I didn’t like doing those things and she wanted to stay with me. That was when I realized that my fear was holding her back and I decided that it was time to face my fear of the water.
The local pool offers a swimming class for adults called Scared Stiff. That seemed like a good place to start. The instructor was calm and patient with everyone in the class. She started us off with everyone sharing with the group why they were taking Scared Stiff lessons. This created a lasting connection between the students. The students were all very supportive of each other. We cheered when someone put their face in the water even if they came up sputtering or tried floating on their own. We encouraged each other to continue facing our fears and learning new skills. By the end of the session, the majority of the students were planning to continue with lessons.
When Scared Stiff ended, I signed up for another set of lessons. The instructor this time around was not as patient with the students that needed help. She started the class off with asking each person one on one about their goal for the session. The class was split in two based on ability. Most of the students were focused on their own needs. More than half of the class struggled and a couple of people stopped coming to lessons entirely.
The difference between the two classes got me thinking about the importance of creating the right kind of environment for learning. People are more likely to succeed in an environment where they feel connected to each other; they can try, fail and try again; they are supported and encouraged to step out of their comfort zones; and the effort is celebrated, not just the results.
While I am far from swimming like a fish, I am not as scared as I was before. Recently I took another step forward in facing this fear and jumped into a 25ft deep pool in a sunken lava tube. The water was dark and murky and it took way too long to get back to the surface. It was a terrifying experience, but I did it and when I saw a couple of my Scared Stiff buddies back at the pool I couldn’t wait to share with them.