This year, I'm working towards new goals and taking on my longest swim yet. You can read more about that here if you like. It's become an opportunity to document how I prepare myself for longer swims, and to share what I'm learning along the way in case my practices and experiences help others in their own swimming.
I've decided to tackle the subject of confidence this week, just ahead of my first swim of the season this coming Saturday. Tonight, let's talk about how your own self-talk shapes your athletic identity.
I really like posting about my swims on social media. There, I said it, I like seeing pictures and videos of myself doing swim stuff and I like it when others see them too. I've realized that looking images of myself doing amazing things reinforces the feeling that I am capable, I am strong, I have grown, I have learned, I have adventured, I have succeeded, I am worth this.
Try it...spend some time going through your FB feed, or or phone's camera reel, and look at images of yourself doing "amazing you". Feeling proud of yourself - on your own and without anyone else propping your ego up - is a really powerful way to build your own confidence from the inside out.
My absolute favourite thing to watch is a video of my first ever 200m ice swim at the 2018 Memphremagog Winter Swim Festival in Vermont, US. I was terrified, so nervous, just under four minutes in sub zero water. But I remember that moment, as I stood at the edge of my lane, I had to make the choice to either step off and bow out or step down into the water, take a chance, own and embrace my fear. I told the safety "hooker" moments before that I'd be doing one 50m lap at a time, and would decide at each turn if I'd continue or not. "I got you", he said, "I'm going to be right there beside you if you decide to get out, we'll do this together."
And so I swam, calmly, one lap at a time. I didn't even care that Martha Wood was going to be really far ahead of me, I appreciated her encouraging words as we walked down to the pool together. I could see my friend Gen cheering me on, she walked back and forth on the ice, filming the swim. At each turn at the far end stood Elizabeth Fry, shouting "SWIM!" On the far side, pretty sure that was Ed Gabriels in a bright red jacket, waving his arms and cheering. At the start wall, Aimee Jones was crouched down at the end of the lane, behind her were several friends, new and old. I swam, and I finished.
It was such a powerful experience, that hardest thing I have ever done, I dropped to the floor of an empty shower stall in the warming hut afterwards and had a quiet little cry. One, because my hands fucking hurt so bad as they rewarmed. Two, I was proud of myself for having the courage to try and thrilled that I finished. And three, I was humbled and a little overwhelmed by the people who stood there on the ice and supported me. I can't watch the video without getting teary eyed, even now years later.
So do it: look at yourself trying, attempting, succeeding, failing, and feel proud that you're out there giving it whatever you've got. And as you scroll through images of you, you'll also start to notice in each image all of the incredible people in your life that are there for you...talking you into signing up for stuff, cheering when you succeed, consoling you when things go to shit, paddling a kayak at your side so that you can participate, barking at you to keep swimming when you start fussing about where you are on the lake, laughing with (at) you when your hands are so cold you get stuck trying to take your swimsuit off, sending you tips and new things to try when you're working something out, talking you down when you get nervous before a big one, helping you manage your own inner chaos.
Don't forget to give back, in whatever way you can. When you show up at a swim, make a point of connecting and talking with new swimmers, reassuring them they are going to have a wonderful swim and to make sure to enjoy the adventure. You have no idea how impactful even a few kind words of support can be for someone else's confidence until you've been on the receiving end of it.
Turn up the audio, listen to the wind and you'll understand why I was so nervous, listen to the cheering and you'll see why I was so moved by everyone's support...
I appreciate our friendships, you help create space for my confidence to grow.