The majority of my summers in life were spent with a bathing suit as my skin. I lived at the pool – between swim practices, hanging out with friends and lifeguarding – and we entertained ourselves in creative ways and competitions. Most notably, I was the unbeatable champion at Sharks and Minnows, most likely because, thanks to years of breath-holding competitions with my brother, I could hold my breath for minutes underwater, allowing me to dodge, out-swim and outlast anyone chasing me underwater before they had to go up for breath and I swam to safety and victory.
Of course, I relished the friendly underwater face-off with someone who didn’t know my special skillset and I welcomed every breath-holding challenge that came my way. Underneath the surface, time pauses. The water you were previously gliding through with ease feels heavier, pushing down on you and also inviting you up, pushing you to the surface, and teasing you with the thought of air on the other side. If you were to open your eyes though, you would then see, a few feet across from you in the deep end, your opponent, fierce determination in their eyes and lungs that seem built for living underwater, and so you stay where you are, welcoming the burning, stinging sensations of oxygen deprivation.
That’s not why I loved holding my breath underwater though – I loved it because it made me really feel alive. The pulsing in my chest, the increase of my heart rate, the expansion of my lungs, feeling like they would burst from within my body, the pressure I felt that cleared my mind to have one single focus and desire: oxygen. And oh, that first taste of it, it is peace. The moment you break the surface, leading with your mouth, and take the largest bite of life you can, you feel, well, utterly alive. So alive that you never want to feel that far from life again, yet you crave to walk the edge for the taste of that first breath of air and life all over again, and so you start another round of Sharks and Minnows or you take on your next challenger at the pool, even if it just a competition with yourself.
Breaking the surface of the water after holding your breath takes pressure off you in ways you didn’t realize you were feeling pressured. That initial first mouthful of air – inhaled and then exhaled – is glorious. Nothing else matters but that breath, and at that moment, all is well in the world. You savor the breath of life and you feel free. Your body, once tingling, refills its veins with oxygen and your eyesight, previously filled with stars, becomes clear and bright. You realize that the gift of the pressure – of the deprivation you experienced – that is permitting you this sensation otherwise unattainable, and you then know that you are even stronger for the next time you submerge.
Life is not that different. The first time you realize that you can full your lungs with life – without the pressure of expectations, fears and insecurities pressing in all around you – is the moment you realize that you were created for just a time like this. We will all experience seasons of pressure and times of submersion, but the person who knows the game well understands that they can surface and regenerate themselves at any time. That, in fact, the pressure they feel might not actually exist at all – but if they channel it with the right perspective, they can stop feeling crushed by it and start feeling like a champion because of it.
What I need you to know is that you are enough. Also, there are enough pressures in life available to naturally train your metaphorical lung capacity, so it’s time to stop adding more pressure to the pot than necessary. The strengthening you need is already built-in by life; there is no need to add your own pressure attempts to it. You can find the perfect balance of training without allowing yourself to sink under the additional self-imposed stresses of expectation, scarcity, fear and insecurity. Most importantly, when you feel your heart pumping, your desire for open sky and oxygen expanding, and your strength waning, know that you are in control. The pressure you feel doesn’t own you or keep you down – it simply strengthens you – so pop to the surface of life, take in that large, beautiful, relieving breath of air – let it skin in and relish how it replenishes your soul. So, stop putting pressure on yourself to make yourself “better,” “more likeable,” or “more valuable,” because you already have enough training in life that will refine you into the defined version of you that God has created you to be. Take heart in that truth – trust in His perfect plan for you – and fill your lungs, heart and mind with belief and confidence that you are in fact more than enough just as you are. You are you and there has been and will only be one you.
PS > Do you feel a lot of self-imposed pressure and anxiety over who you are and who you are supposed to be, but want to, like this article shared, find freedom to relax a bit and trust that God did not make a mistake in you? If so, I have support for you. Come join me in The College of Confidence and learn how to start seeing yourself how God sees you. Learn to take the pressure off yourself and to start breathing in full life and happiness, just as you always have dreamed. You don’t have to be a champion in Sharks and Minnows to be a champion in life – be a champion in life by cultivating your confidence and courage, which is exactly what I will coach you to do as we work together in The College of Confidence. Find out if The College of Confidence is right for you at www.trishblackwell.com/college