How To Conquer Your Fears
She looks back at me with timid eyes as I scan the horizon of the ocean. It looks menacing and unforgiving as the waves slowly push us back to shore as if it’s taunting us and daring us to swim out into its deep and dark waters.
“I don’t know, Daddy, I’m scared.” Ashley pleads, her eyes searching for comfort when they meet mine.
“I know, Ash. It’s okay to be scared.” I smile back, a little unsure myself. “You see that red buoy out there?” I point to a bright red floating ball that marks the edge of the safe swimming area. I was swimming with my kids in the Atlantic Ocean, off a private beach from our hotel in West Palm Beach. We don’t swim in the ocean very often, so this is quite a treat for us. Eventually I gather my kids and ask them if they are ready for a challenge. They gleefully accept, since they love games of any kind.
“I challenge you to swim out to that red buoy way out there!” I point to the little red ball floating quietly in the distance, in the dark and unknown waters of the ocean. My twin boys accept the challenge immediately, but my daughter remains silent. She’s content swimming and playing in the water close to the beach. She hadn’t ventured out more than 15 to 20 feet all morning. I wanted to challenge her to get out of her comfort zone and learn something about facing fears.
My daughter, Ashley, is a fun loving girl that drinks from life every single day. She truly enjoys every facet of her life and has a contagious smile and bright eyes that only a child with her whole life ahead of her can share with the world. She’s quickly becoming a woman, too fast for me, and I know that life will pound her with doses of reality as her hormones rage through her soul and she is forced to grow up. Soon, she will be in high school and I won’t be around to protect her in every moment, so I decide today I will teach her one simple, but powerful lesson that she will need to use often as she grows and discovers her place in this world. Today, I decide to teach her how to face her fears.
“I’m scared.” She pleads as we turn towards the buoy and begin moving in its direction. I gently grasp her hand and pull her closer to me.
“What are you scared of out there, Ash?” I inquire.
“Sharks!” She responds.
“What else?” I ask.
“I don’t know, it looks deep out there.” She shakes her head and looks away.
“Yes it does, but we don’t know for sure how deep it is, do we?” I ask.
“No.” She answers, still looking away from me and the red buoy in the distance.
“And you know how to swim, right?” I smile.
“Yes.” She whispers.
“In fact, you’re a pretty good swimmer, right?” I ask.
“Yes, you know that.” She looks back at me with a frown.
“So, who cares how deep it is?” I ask.
“I do!” Her nose crinkles and her eyebrows furl.
“Why?” I push for an answer.
“Because, I don’t know what’s out there. There could be sharks.”
“Yes, we don’t know what’s out there, fair enough, but we also don’t know if sharks are out there either.” I pause and scan her eyes. “Do you see any sharks out there?”
“No.” She responds.
“Okay, what do you see?” I ask.
“I see the red ball floating. Some people swimming near it and a few boats.” She answers.
“Okay, so we see other people, correct?”
“Yes.” She responds.
“Are they being attacked by sharks?” I ask.
“No, silly.” She smiles.
“Right, so there is no evidence of any sharks and so the only thing to worry about is what you don’t see, correct?” I smile back.
“Sure, I guess.” She looks at me puzzled.
“Great, so let’s focus on what you can see.” I point to a few swimmers. “I can see some folks swimming near where we want to go and they are having fun. I can see the life guards swimming beyond the buoy and the life guard on the beach. I can see your brothers and I can see you and me. What do you see?” I ask.
“I see the same.” She responds.
“Good, I see others doing what we want to do. I see security, because you are surrounded by family and people trained to keep you safe. So what do you say, shall we swim towards that little red buoy?”
“Okay, but stay close.” Ashley orders with a frown and begins to slowly swim with me towards the buoy. It doesn’t take long for us to reach our destination. We touch the smooth surface of the buoy and smile at each other in triumph as we look back at the beach. I can hear Ashley sigh under her breath as she looks around and takes in the new environment.
“That was a lot easier than I thought.” She giggles.
“Yeah not so bad, huh? I respond. “Ash, check this out.” I raise my hands and show her that I’m standing.
“Dad, you’re touching the ground?” Her eyes widen.
“Yup, not as deep as you thought.”
“I had no idea, I thought it was super deep!” She responds in amazement.
“Your mind told you it was deep. Your fear and imagination convinced you it was deeper than it was, when in fact it was quite shallow. Look around Ashley, it’s not near as bad as you created it to be in your mind.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right, Dad.” Ashley responds while looking around and resting her body on her boogie board.
“You just created a new normal.” I explain to her. “Back near the beach, that was your old normal, but once you overcame your fear and ventured out here, you created a new normal for yourself and expanded your world, look at how much bigger your world is now, because you faced your fears.”
“Yeah!” She responded with glee in her voice. “Thanks, Dad, I love you.” She swims towards me and hugs my neck.
“No problem.” I respond with satisfaction. “Now it’s time to create a new normal.” I smile as Ashley pulls away and looks me in the eyes.
“What do you mean?” She asks.
“Time to go snorkeling, out there.” I turn and point to an area of the ocean far away. Ashley’s eyes widen and I hear the gasp in her breath. I smile and grab her hand and prepare her for the journey that she will continue on for the rest of her life as her world continues to widen and expand and she faces and conquers her fears. It’s time for her to create a new normal.
Is it time for you to create your new normal? What is holding you back? Whatever it is, it’s not as deep as you think, so start swimming.