Have you ever wanted to try something for the first time, but you were afraid to do it? Afraid of what people would think? Afraid of what you would look like?
Oh… I have. Plenty of times. Enough times that I’ve missed out on what were once great opportunities. Enough times that I have felt paralyzed by my own fear. Paralyzed by my own insecurity.
I will never forget the first time I decided to go swimming with a group of triathletes. Here’s the truth… I was scared.
Most people have a hard time swimming anyway. Not me, swimming wasn’t my fear. I grew up swimming. I just hadn’t been in the pool in a long time.
I feared knowing that if I showed up in the kind of swim trunks you wear to the beach I would get funny looks. What also scared me was knowing that every guy there wears what we call Jammers. They are basically skin-tight speedos that look like bicycle shorts. Meaning, when you are carrying extra weight, there’s no hiding anything… enter insecurity.
I was si insecure about being very out of shape. Me… not a lot of muscle tone. A little heavier than I wanted to be and very self-conscience of how I looked in jammers. I may look lean at times… but I hide it well.
As I was researching what I should be wearing, my fear of getting into the pool with all of these experienced athletes grew even stronger.
However, I was in a place where I was tired of not doing something because of what other people thought or how scared I might be to try it. It was time to put fear and insecurity behind me, put on my big boy britches and get in the pool.
So I showed up… Jammers, swim cap, and goggles. No wait… I didn’t wear a swim cap either for the longest time. But I got in the pool – Just getting in the pool was a big fearful step. There were about 40 people swimming that Wednesday evening and I was put in the slowest lane possible.
As I was listening to our coach walk me through re-learning my swim form, I looked around and saw a bunch of people like me. Out of shape, soft, extra pounds… some who had A LOT of extra pounds… and then there were a few who were in enviable shape. I wanted to be like them.
But I wasn’t.
Once I settled in to the water and noticed I wasn’t alone… then my fears and insecurities slowly started to wash away… a came back for a second visit and another, then another. I stayed for three years and eventually did an Ironman race because of it.
The experience taught me a couple of things.
- Fear keeps us from our future. How many times have you looked back at something your were fearful of and thought “now that wasn’t so bad was it.. I wish I had done that sooner!” Sometimes fear is so paralyzing that it keeps us from living life to the fullest. Some people’s fears are so strong that their life is centered around what they are afraid of. Another easy example of this… I know so many people who can afford to travel but will never see the world because they have a fear of flying. It’s a legitimate fear. But imagine living in Florida and wanting to see the Bahamas but it will never happen because of fear. It’s a 30 minute flight from Miami.
- Insecurity diminishes our strength. How many times have you compared yourself to someone else and thought “if I only had what they had or looked like they look or was talented like they are..”. We are all unique in our own ways. It’s the way God designed us to be. Sure… even today as I get in the pool, I’m very aware of what I look like and what I want to look like. But I’ve learned to be comfortable in my own skin. There are so many people worse off than me and I need to appreciate what I do have. Plus… I may not always look strong. But I can swim, bike and run a long ways now. My strength is knowing who I am and what I’m capable of doing… and knowing it’s up to me to get it done. No one else… just me.
So the next time you think about that one thing you would like to try but you are afraid to try, ask yourself…
What is my fear and how do I work through it?
What insecurities do I have that I can overcome to make me a stronger person in this area?
And this I ask to you…
Why Do Fear And Insecurity Hold Us Back So Much?