I’ve often felt that moment of quivering just before going up somewhere high (as I was literally born with a fear of heights) or speaking in front of people even if it’s small workshop of six participants. It’s at times I take a deep breath and muster some inexplicable inner strength which seems to come from this well deep inside. It’s only later that I realized understanding the difference between courage or confidence actually helps us to face the challenge a second, third or fourth time.
A few days ago, I had an experience of fear, confidence and courage all jumbled up. It was to be my last snorkeling experience at Jervis Bay. This was a rushed trip as I had to do some online teaching while my good friend and “ocean mentor” Lin, had some kinesiology sessions to take care off. We hence chose to leave the following day which expelled one of the windiest weathers on the southern coast. Branches were blowing down trees and the van a friend lent was rocking left and right as we made our way down Princess Highway.
I was tired and cold etc etc. When I submerged myself , the water was frigid, a tad murky and the current quite strong. The half wet-suit was also the wrong size and pulling on my torso. Suddenly I just sat there by the shore and thought, Nope I don’t want to do this. So I told her to check out the reefs while I enjoyed the view around.
Lin, a diving scuba instructor, was surprised and responded that it’d only get colder the longer I left it. I took a bit of a walk and wondered what was going on with me. We had looked forward to this short trip and I had been in coolish water before. It was obvious that my brain was factoring in another episode where I was swimming against the current in a river on another windy day, and it exhausted me. Finally Lin said, “Let’s go in together, I’ll take your hand and we can turn back any time you want.”
So that’s what we did. The thing was I had someone by my side so that I could have assistance if the current was too much. A few minutes later, she got too cold and returned to shore. But by that time, I had gained the confidence, realizing that the currents were doable. And then some spotted fish appeared and I began skimming above the reefs stalking the sea creatures by myself.
When I got back to shore, I felt like I had faced a turning point. I saw why it’s sometimes vital to understand how to face one’s fear. It’s the understanding of the difference between false bravado, courage and confidence.
Bravado is something we put on more for surface reasons and seldom based on actual truths.
Confidence is more mental, a faith in one’s accumulated experience and one’s situation. The thing is to have confidence, one needs practice to develop a skill like swimming against currents. It takes wisdom to know what situation produces the best outcome.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to face a challenge in spite of it. I feel this could be almost a cliché. Courage is mostly heart, a gathering of deep inner strength against all odds. There is one point to it which stands out. Which is that there still could exist some fear and yet we rise to the challenge. I think it has led to a fair number of physical triumphs experienced by people who may never have taken a certain path before. The truth of it is courage can lead to medals or death. I think it may have led to Hilary’s Everest climb and Amelia Earhart’s attempt at circumnavigating the globe, except one returned home and the other didn’t.
Personally, if there is a challenge where the stakes are your life or your financial stability, it’s often best to have as a rough estimation, 70% confidence & 30% courage. Only because it’s often best in such moments to rely on your skillset rather than pure feelings. When it comes to matters where failure will not take you too far down to a place of wretched well-being, then by all means go with 70% courage & 30% confidence.
In both cases, be it confidence or courage, it often takes a wayshower to sometimes show you a glimpse of the possibility/possibilities for yourself.
When I went in with Lin after having a long moment of apprehension and fatigue, I saw the small reef and fish, I allowed the current to take me while enjoying the view, only using force when the current got too strong. I felt safe because I knew I was in waters that I could handle. In the end, I had to return home to lots of washing and then teaching. But I faced an unexpected fear and enjoyed the view. Sometimes enjoying the view needs to be the thing we do to fill our soul especially for the next situation or challenge. I know that living in Canada, it’s a bit hard getting submerged and feeling at one with the creatures below the surface.
I will always look for clear water and be it through the sanctity of our oceans or the spiritual path I have chosen to “swim through”. These waters are sacred to our well being and I am grateful for the multiple blessings that come from within and all around it.