When your aging mind sabotages your self confidence

This summer I spent two occasions watching different grandchildren of mine swim and play in a large pool. I loved watching them. I shared with them how I used to swim as a child and young adult. I knew all of the strokes – the crawl, sidestroke, breaststroke, backstroke, the butterfly. I used to be able to swim underwater up and back, a full lap, in just one breath. Since then I have had no real interest in swimming, until these two occasions, when I was watching them swim. It struck a chord in me. So a few days ago, upon returning from the barn, I announced to my husband that I was going swimming. I’m sure he thought I had lost my mind. I never go swimming! But he politely said, “Okay.” I didn’t see his face. I should have. It might have been funny.

I put on my bathing suit which I haven’t allowed anyone to see me in in years. (Getting older will do that to you, especially if you are a woman.) I got in the pool slowly, then stood at the end preparing myself for at least one full lap of the Australian crawl. I was actually excited. Then I hesitated. “What if I have forgotten how? What if I get half-way across and run out of breath? What if I drown?” I’m no longer that young girl who could swim all strokes with grace and style. I’m an “old” woman now. And then it hit me. I’ve lost my confidence here. It’s a direct result of aging. I saw it in my mother and have seen it in my sister. As we age, we often lose confidence in our abilities and sometimes for no good reason. It’s a tragic by-product of getting older.

“What else has it stopped me from doing?” I wondered. I’m not as confident dancing as I used to be. Wait a minute! I ride horses for Pete’s sake! What’s wrong with you, woman? I took a quick breath and headed for the opposite end of the pool. A bit awkward at first, I soon got my rhythm and made it to the other end without drowning. I was out of breath, though. That could be fixed with practice, I tell myself. Now for the big test – swimming under water to the other end. I took a deep breath and dove under. I swam as fast as I could. I just made it to the other end with zero breath to spare. This, too, would improve with practice. I remembered that twenty years ago I was diagnosed with adult asthma. That might have something to do with it.  The last thing I did before exiting the pool was the sidestroke and I managed a full lap before getting tired or dying.

So here is my point. If you are over 50, don’t let your mind convince you that things you used to be good at are now impossible, even if slightly modified. Don’t believe you can’t do it anymore.

I’m not talking about some crazy stunt you could get away with in your 20s but probably not so much in your 50s or 60s. I’m not suggesting that you do anything dangerous or potentially life threatening. Try to recognize when your inner voice is out to intimidate rather than encourage. That it’s trying to get you to play it safe, stay in your comfort zone, rather than inspire you to do something you’ve always wanted to do or do again. Our aging mind can hold us back rather than cheer us on. Don’t listen!

There are certainly things made for younger people to do that we should give up as we get older, but not everything falls into that category, certainly not swimming. Live your life. Enjoy it. Participate. Don’t hold onto the rocks on the bank of the river as it rushes by you. Let go!  :))


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