Every summer, I challenge myself by engaging in an activity that scares me. Last year, to overcome my fear of heights, I paraglided for the first time.
Given how successful and satisfying the experience was, this year I decided to carry on with the tradition. So, I chose scuba diving to overcome the fear of the ocean that I developed since I almost drowned when I was thirteen.
I was finally ready to reach for the bottom of the ocean after I spent over fifteen years not going anywhere in the sea deeper than one meter.
After six months of preparation, the big day had arrived. I hopped on a small plane to an exotic island in the southern part of Taiwan.
Beautiful weather, nice people, delicious food, breathtaking views… Alas! Everything a traveller could hope for.
The morning after I landed, it was show time. While sitting in the waiting room for the coaches, everyone’s excitement was palpable. Paradoxically, I was excited too!
One coach arrived and asked us to sign a few papers indicating we had no disease that might affect the dive, instructed us of what to do (and what not to do!), and led us to the shower where we put on our diving gears.
As I reach the middle of the ocean where my feet no longer touched the ground, my heart began pounding. I was face-to-face with one of my biggest fears. Even with a well-functioning air-filled cylinder on my back, I was shaking.
When the time came to dive, I just panicked. Every time I go down; I came right back up. Breathing only through my mouth, with a heavy air tank, in the middle of the ocean scared the heck out of me.
Even though my coach stayed with me the entire time, reassuring me that there’s nothing to worry about, I couldn’t contain my fears.
The drama unfolded for nearly ten minutes while the other participants were reveling in the beauty and vastness of the marine life.
When I mustered the courage to dive, I had less than five minutes to explore. I wasted most of my time fighting my extreme apprehension of the ocean.
Every experience, positive or negative, teaches us something. I want to share the two lessons I learned from my first scuba diving adventure.
Fear can be incapacitating.
During the ten-minute training for the divers, the coach told us painstakingly how to equalize under water.
Simply pinch your nose and tilt your head from the side where your ear feels uncomfortable: How simple is that?
As straightforward as this sounds, I just couldn’t do it! The reason was unquestionable: fear had overpowered me.
I was so taken aback by fear that my mind was no longer processing any instructions. Every time I descend; I try to equalize I failed. I go back up.
The fear had highjacked my brain!
The afternoon after the dive, when I got home, my right ear hurt so much that I had to rush to the hospital.
After the checkup, the doctor found that I had an ear drum inflammation. If I had stayed one minute longer under water, I probably would have lost my hearing.
Yes! It was serious. I almost suffered from permanent hearing loss only because of fear.
While it’s natural to experience fear—we all do, anyway—we must learn to prevent it from sabotaging our lives. And the most effective way to confront your fear is to take persistent, consistent actions.
Repeated actions starve fear while inaction feeds it.Bachir Bastien
Repeated courageous action is the best cure for fear.
I was so ashamed and angry at myself for letting fear ruining my scuba diving trip I decided to dive again.
And the second dive taught me yet another critical lesson. While fear can incapacitate, it can trigger us to take action which will, in return, help us cope.
I was still uneasy being in the middle of the ocean where my feet can’t reach the bottom, but my mind had become more immune to the fear of the ocean.
I dived, equalized, and focused on the unparalleled beauty of the sea world.
That time around I stayed under water for nearly fifteen minutes and didn’t have to see a doctor for discomfort in my ears.
The takeaway here is clear: repeated actions starve fear while inaction feeds it. Identify your fear and gradually expose yourself to it until you become comfortable to tackling it.
What are you frightened of?
I urge you today to make a plan, and throw yourself at it until the fear become so insignificant that it won’t prohibit you from enjoying yourself.