I could see how hard my son Toby was working as he splashed up the lane at swimming class. I gave him a big smile and a wave when his happy face emerged from the deep end, proud that all his efforts were paying off. Toby could swim well and at just seven-years-old, he was already starting to out-do me in most sports-based activities.
I had toyed with booking swimming lessons in the past but always found an excuse not to try. It was too cold or I was too busy. In truth, I was really scared. Scared of drowning, scared of putting my face underwater, scared of not being able to swim as well as my then seven-year-old.
Facing our fears as adults can be very hard but according to Sydney based psychologist Rachel Voysey, also very worthwhile.
“The longer we avoid something the more the fear of that thing grows. When we avoid we eliminate any chance of having new experiences that may prove to us that perhaps our fear is irrational or that in fact we are perfectly capable of dealing with the thing we fear most,” Rachel says.
“With anxiety and fear the only way out is by busting through! This is why exposure therapies and the phrase ‘facing our fears’ in the absolute truth and best way to conquer the things that get our hearts racing.”
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In January 2018, I decided enough was enough and it was time to face my lifelong fear. I booked myself in for an adult swimming lesson at our local pool and convinced two dear friends to come along for the fun. With just one year until my 40th birthday, I set myself a reasonable goal of learning to swim in 12 months.
Growing up in the UK, I had some rudimentary swimming lessons in primary school over a term or two and that was it. My dad taught me how to swim breaststroke on holiday one year and I survived swimming around with my head above water perfectly well.
It wasn’t until I officially moved to Australia in 2003 and started spending more time at the beach, that I realised I was incompetent as well as afraid when it came to ‘proper’ freestyle swimming. It was seeing my little Toby learn with such determination and enjoyment that gave me the final push toward lessons.
“Children are fantastic at reminding us that most of what we fear comes from self-limiting beliefs and thoughts that we have accumulated from the experiences we have had in life,” says Rachel.
“Children are naturally curious and adventurous and have fewer self-imposed limitations and negative thoughts. They are less the product of their thoughts and are still engaged with experiences, play and learning.”