Reflections

Swim with the Right Swimmers

I’ve been swimming regularly since 2014.

I’m slow. I’m not a strong swimmer, but I’ve improved over the years. I’ve taken a few swim clinics to help build my technique. I’m a little more balanced and efficient. I’ll never be competitive, but I can swim for longer distances as long as I stay slow and steady.

I love it because it gives me relief from back pain. It’s great because it’s meditative. If I’m feeling down, there’s a transformation that happens after a few laps in a pool. It feels like magic. 

Recently, I went swimming at a crowded lap pool. I got in the pool with my swimmer’s snorkel and tempo trainer. I swam a few laps to warm up, and decided to swim a nice, slow 500m. I was looking forward to the swim. But during my first lap, I felt swimmers on both sides passing me. They were kicking water in my face, creating swells of water that I kept breathing in.

I stopped a lap in. I took a look around and noticed that all of the swimmers looked like competitive swimmers. They were all a foot taller than me. And they were all swimming FAST. 

Then, the insecurities started. I forgot all of MY reasons for being there — a slow, therapeutic, and meditative swim. I started to compare myself to everyone there. I was no longer a better swimmer, but a bad swimmer. I wasn’t competent anymore. I was slow. I thought,” I suck at this.” “Why am I doing this?” “Why do I even bother?”   

I tried again, but I already too far in my head. I couldn’t get my timing right. I felt like I was sinking. I felt like I was in everyone’s way. My feet felt like bricks. I was already out of breath. I forgot how to swim. When I got to the other end of the pool, I decided to quit.

I felt terrible when I left the pool. I thought that I never want to swim again.

But later that day, on reflection, I realized that I was 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 and competition. 

I wasn’t swimming with the right people. They didn’t share the same values. But instead of being aware of that, I went down a negative spiral. I didn’t feel good enough. I felt like the last few years of swimming had been a waste. I felt like a failure.

If I had been alone in the pool or if there had been a lot of slow swimmers around me then I would have had a great swim. Alternatively, if I had recognized that the fast swimmers were there for different reasons and put my ego aside, I also would have had a great swim.

It’s important to be around people who share your values. It’s also important to understand when the people around you don’t.

If you’re thinking about leaving a corporate job to pursue a different creative venture, the person who has been working at your company for 30 years may talk you out of it. And on the other end of the spectrum, a starving artist friend may steer you in the wrong direction encouraging you to leave your job before you’re ready.

Take the time to understand what your values are — to know what is important to you. Then surround yourself with people who are going to lift you up and help you grow.

And the others? Understand that they are not doing the wrong things in wrong ways, but that they’re doing their things in their own ways. Their values aren’t your values. Why bother comparing to that? It doesn’t make sense to compare apples to bananas. 

Find your swimmers. Don’t try to fit in with the “wrong” ones.

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