I swim a few times per week.
I’m no fish, but because swimming gives me relief from chronic neck and shoulder pain, it’s a necessary part of my weekly routine. And over the past few years, I have taken a series of swim clinics that helped me swim less like a scared, panicked dog and more like a slow, graceful tortoise. The clinics taught me how to swim with balance, so I can exercise without creating more pain in my body. It’s never about swimming quickly, but about swimming efficiently.
But recently, I went swimming at a new, busy pool. My plan was to swim a slow one kilometer. But less than a lap into my warm-up, I sensed swimmers on both sides passing me. They kicked water in my face, creating swells of water that prevented me from breathing.
I began panting with anxiety, so I stopped one lap in. I took a look around and noticed that the other swimmers seemed to be competing with each other. They were all tall, and they were all fast. I had grown confident in my swimming, but at that moment, all of my insecurities arose. I was no longer a better swimmer, but a bad swimmer. I wasn’t competent, but slow. Then the negative self-talk began spiraling, and it affected me physically. I tried again, but instead of feeling like I was flying through the water, I felt like an overweight gorilla. I couldn’t get my timing right. I felt like I was sinking. My feet were dragging. My shoulders were hurting. I couldn’t breathe.
So, I got to the other end and got out of the pool.
Swimming always gives me a high. At the ends of my swims, I always feel relief in my body and clarity in my mind. But after that swim, I thought I never want to swim again.
But later that day, I had a moment of realization. I’m swimming with the wrong swimmers.
Those swimmers were swimming for very different reasons than me. I swim for therapy and meditation. They swim for speed records and competition.
They’re not my team, my community, my tribe. I didn’t feel comfortable with them because I didn’t fit in. They don’t share the same values.
So for my next swim, I went back to my normal pool and my love of swimming returned.
If you don’t find a community who shares your values, it’s easy to feel like your efforts don’t matter. If you’re at a traditional 8 to 5 job, but considering freelancing, your co-workers aren’t the people to confide in. If you’re thinking about selling your home to travel the world, your homeowner’s association isn’t the right community to talk to. If you’re thinking about starting a creative project, it’s important to find a community to encourage you and support your growth.
You can’t do anything alone. It’s important to have a group, or even just one person, to encourage your ideas and goals regardless of how ridiculous they may seem to others.
Don’t try to fit in with the wrong swimmers. Find the people who share your values. Find your swimmers.