This afternoon I found myself watching a father and his two daughters on the diving boards at our local swimming pool.
I watched the family take on the basic dive board and saw the girls eagerly put both arms high above their ears and dive in. Many rounds later the father took them to the next board, the 3 meters. More people looked on as Daughter A took about 2-3 goes to dive in. Once she did, she readily climbed the steps time and time again to perfect her new skill. Daughter B just couldn’t do it. She would walk to the end and her legs would be shaking and she’d go back to the wall again. She would let more and more in front of her so she wouldn’t have to get back on the board. She would walk to the end of the board, look down, get into position (her father and sister giving encouragement from the sidelines) and then stop and go back to the wall.
Others came up who were also scared and stopped going 4 or 5 times but then found the courage to dive. This gave us all hope she would win the battle when she saw their success. She didn’t. You could see in her face that she was spurred on by the other less brave beating the 3 meters but she just couldn’t. She then started going back to the first board to practise the dive she would be doing 3 meters higher. She walked back to the higher board with a little more confidence each time after the lower board, but just couldn’t let her body fall into the water below.
Her sister meanwhile had got the hang of 3 meters no problem and we saw her talking to her father about the 5 meter diving board. By this time, there were quite a few spectators at the window with me willing on Daughter B to brave the 3 meters. Our hearts were in our mouths as Daughter A was seen walking up the steps to the 5 meters. Her father showed her what to do but after 4 or 5 attempts of shaking legs, over excited arms and too many nerves she walked back down to the 3 meters to be with her sister. Then with new bravery, Daughter A ran back up the steps, walked the board and without giving herself time to think about it, her arms were up and was flying head first into the water. “Horay!” we all shouted!
If only this family knew how dramatic they had made our afternoon. “That’s it!” we all said to each other, the other daughter will definitely jump now her sister is onto the highest board in the pool. And still Daughter B walked to the end of the board, still she practised on the lower diving board and still she let others in front of her so she wouldn’t have to do it. And still our hearts were in our mouths. Each time she was on the board we were shouting at the window, “You can do it!” and “Just dive!”
Then just like that, they all left the pool.
Whaatttt? We were left so utterly disappointed. We had all so wanted to see her dive the 3 meters! We’d been willing Daughter B for over an hour and we all knew she would have eventually done it. The daughter could have so easily dived off the 3 meter diving board and probably even the 5 meter board just like her sister. But she just couldn’t. What was this fear that stopped her from achieving what she should have accomplished this afternoon?
It’s the fear of the unknown as well as the fear of the known. Both are hopeless to shift and both cause as much pain and anxiety. What could the father have said to his daughter to help her overcome her frozen posture at the end of the board? His words had worked brilliantly for his other daughter. Why not for her?
I then started thinking about all the different reasons for her fear:
Fear of Injury: Her dive hurting her
Fear of Failing: Her dive not looking good
Fear of Visibility: There was public scrutiny everywhere
Fear of Judgment: Her dive failing
Fear of embarrassment: Being laughed at by those around her
Her father was continuously praising and encouraging her to do well. I kept thinking, if Daughter B had heard us all from behind our window, would she have been even more fearful of failure, knowing we were all there? Or seeing us all wholeheartedly behind her, would that have given her the confidence she needed?
Fear is such a personal feeling. You can’t help it, you can’t stop it easily and you can’t fake the feeling. But it stops you in your tracks and paralyses your movement. It stops you from moving forwards and it can even take over your intelligence.
If Daughter B had overcome her fear of that 3 meter diving board this afternoon, she would have forgotten about her initial feelings as soon as she was in the water. She would have been elated, so proud and delighted in her dive. Once you overcome your fear, it will diminish. Until you do, that fear will keep holding you back and you won’t ever move on. Once you face it head on, tackle it and act on it, the fear will subside. For Daughter B to overcome her fear she just needed to dive off that 3 meter diving board once. Her subconscious mind would have quickly reprogrammed and she would have dived again and again and again. And she would have attempted the 5 meter dive too. I’m not saying she would have done it. But she would have stood up there, I’m sure.
Fear is a state of mind. You only suffer from it if you have a preconceived image of a painful consequence so you need to change that image. Make it into something that supports and motivates you. Imagine yourself acting courageously and achieving great results. Visualise yourself with a confident voice telling yourself how great you are at the thing you’re most fearful of. Run that image through your mind time and time again. Hopefully this will empower you to try it in real life. If only Daughter B had told herself she was the best diver in the swimming pool and her dive would be amazing to see. If she had visualised her dive into the water; how graceful and streamlined she would have looked. Would that have helped her dive off the 3 meter board?
She needed more self-confidence, an absolute trust in herself and her abilities. By installing a belief and by visualising and defining herself as a confident diver her subconscious would have taken care of the rest. Once she had this visual taking over her thoughts I know she would have reached a point where success would have come naturally.
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, reflexology is a great tool to help calm your nerves, help you relax, improve your sleep and release tension. If you have a bit more time before you have to dive into any stressful situation, please give reflexology a go.
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