Ted Talk

The Power of Fear

Despite not knowing how to swim and battling ingrained stereotypes and personal anxieties, the author describes the pivotal moment on the diving board, the intense physical and mental battle to jump into the water, and the victorious, albeit exhausting, swim to the shallow end.

What is something you wish fear did not stop you from doing?

Fear is normal. It is a feeling we all experience at one moment or another, but it is how you react to the fear that is important. Fear helps challenge ourselves and elevate who we are, if approached the right way.

At 19 years old, I signed up to join the US Marine Corps. But there was one caveat, I didn’t know how to swim. That was at the back of my mind the entire time leading up to the swim qualifications. Growing up, swimming was not a norm. I'd always been told that, you know, not many black people know how to swim or that our bones are more dense, so we sink, which I’m not sure is backed by science at all.

So the day was here, though. It was to swim and qualified to become a marine, or let my fear of swimming blocked me from even attempting what I wanted to do. So as we stood in line, waiting to go up on the ten foot diving board to jump in the pool's deep end and swim 25m down to the shallow end. I stood there waiting for my turn, thinking, why did I join this branch? I could have joined the Army, the Navy, Air Force, anything but this one.

It was the moment. My turn to jump. I remember slowly climbing the ladder to the top of the ten foot diving board. With every step my fear was growing. As my feet touched the board and I walked the diving board to the edge. My fear is fully encompassing. I remember looking down into the the bottom of the pool. The shallow part seemed like miles away and honestly, I did not think I could do it.

But my inner voice was saying, “Don’t be weakened from everyone. Don’t be a chicken and let this stop you from what you came here to do.” I stood there for 10s as the instructor told me. Hurry up, you mess with my workout time. So silence in my fear, I jumped. And I swam with all my mates. I made it to the shallow end of the pool. I got out and then I immediately threw up. My body was like just being pushed and mentally, physically. So my body was reacting. The feeling of accomplishment, knowing I took my fear head on and accomplished becoming like swimming. That was a badge I would wear proudly.

So facing the fear isn’t as simple as just doing it. You have to train for the moments. When your fear tries to paralyze you and stop you from being a better version of yourself. It is about mentally and physically being prepared to not let anything get in your way.

As you feel fear of starting to take over, start by taking a moment to breathe. Quiet the noise that your body is trying to make. Once you have quieted the noise, shift your focus. Picture yourself doing that action. Visualize yourself accomplishing each step in the task and what goes into those steps to accomplish your goal.

Months prior to boot camp. I started mentally training for what it would take to become a United States Marine. So build your strength from the feeling of accomplishing that task of what accomplishing that task will bring. I knew by getting to the other end of the pool. I’ll be one step closer to becoming a marine. As you’re reinforcing your outcome mentally and start becoming physically prepared.

The next time your fear starts to kick in and paralyze you, take charge and silence your fear by overcoming it. So how many of you have a fear that you need to overcome?

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