Often I get asked:
“How did you have the courage?”
“Weren’t you afraid?”
“How did you walk out onto that stage knowing millions are watching?”
And looking back, honestly it kind of baffles me that I actually did have the courage to swim to walk out onto the blue carpet in Rio and compete at the most important competition of my life. Twice. But I wasn’t always that way…
Back when I was about 14 I went to watch National Championships in Canada where the best of the best came together to fight it out for the coveted prize of 1st place. I sat in the stands mesmerized by the beauty, strength and fight that was brought out in these teams as the strutted onto the stage and performed their heart out. In that moment I knew I wanted to compete at that level, and that thought was terrifying.
The year I knew I was going to Nationals I would be paralyzed with fear whenever I thought of having to swim at that final competition. How would I ever have the courage to walk out their to perform and not fall flat on my face or even worse make a massive mistake. As the months went by and the big competition got closer and closer, strangely enough, the fear started to fade away. Instead of focusing on that one massive competition where everything mattered I focused on the process. I listened to my coach, put my attention on working on my weaknesses and trusted the my teammates knowing that together we could do it. And I did!
When the day came, we walked on as a team and did our absolutely best coming 6th which I was so proud of! Don’t get me wrong, I thought I was going to pee myself before we walked on, my stomach was doing flip flops, my legs felt weak and my hands were shaky – but I did it, we did it!
Over the years competing at competitions around the world walking on with the glaring eyes of the judges I think I’ve learned a few tips about fear to share with you.
1. Fake it till you make it:
Seriously, I know it sounds crazy but it totally works! Whether it is going in for a job interview or even picking someone up at a bar, do it with total confidence and no one will question you.
This is something I have definitely learned from synchro. We have to do ridiculous things sometimes to odd themes and weird music and it could look silly – but if you do it with total ‘confidence’ no one will question you.
For me sometimes it even helps if I pretend to be someone else that is confident in the moment and slowly you will realize that after a while you will realize that person you are ‘pretending’ to be has morphed into you!
2. Having fear is not always a bad thing. Step into your power!
Fear, as an emotion, was initially created to keep us alive. Back in the cavemen times if there was a hairy mammoth coming at us fear would flood over us kicking our fight or flight mode into gear and getting us the hell outta there as fast as we could to stay alive.
Now, mammoths are extinct so we can all calm the down. Now, by no means am I saying that we should disregard all fear because that is not true – however – in certain situations when we know our security and safety aren’t at risk – stepping into your fear really will set you free.
When I first moved to Australia, all by myself at the age of 21, knowing no-one in Perth and having my family on the other side of the world, of course I was terrified! But I knew I had to push myself out of my comfort zone to achieve something that I wanted more than anything, the Olympics!
3. Positive Self Talk:
What you feed your mind is truly what you turn in to. Your words are your minds fuel so treat yourself like a Lamborghini and pump yourself up on the most premium and expensive fuel around – positive self talk.
4. Focus on the Steps not the end goal:
When I was 14 and thought of competing at that high level the thought truly paralyzed me. But of course it did, I had no idea how to get there, really what I had to do or who I would become in the process.
I like to explain it as trying to get onto the roof of a tall building. If you are standing on the ground and someone says to you – “Okay, I want you to get from here to all the way up there” – well of course that is hard. And if you think you are going to get there by jumping – well either you’re a kangaroo or you crazy.
What you are going to do is get a ladder, and step by step getting onto the roof. It’s the same with our goals. Focus on each step at a time, keep looking up to make sure your roof at the end of the ladder is still there, but keep your focus on one foot at a time moving up the ladder.
5. Find your Team:
This is so important – FIND your CREW! It could be a literal team that you work with to help you overcome your fear and achieve your goal or it could be a support group or even sharing your journey with close friends and family that will support you. We are humans, we are social creatures created to live and work in communities. You are so much more likely to be able to get through things with emotional and moral support.
I hope that helps guys, I know it may seem scary – but step into your power, I promise you it will feel sooo good!