In over my head (and the water’s fine)

That tape that runs in your head: “You better be careful. You don’t want to get in over your head.”

A discouraging word from a well-meaning adviser: “Ooh, that’s very brave of you – are you sure you won’t be in over your head?”

Naysayers snarking from the peanut gallery: “He’s in way over his head. This is NOT going to end well.”


Do these counselors understand how water works? That is what “in over your head” references, yes?

Here’s the thing about water, how it functions with humans or other living things moving around in it: Swimming works better when there’s more water than there is swimmer. Ever try swimming in the shallow end, where the water is not over your head? Very difficult. At best, clumsy. Worse, you could be at risk of crashing your head into the bottom of the pool.

Sticking close to the shoreline makes for fun wading, but ugly swimming. You have to get out past the waves so you can bob around a bit.

Of course, all of this assumes the ability to swim, float, and tread water. Basic skills are necessary. But, simply put (and without metaphor), in the real world, when you want to grow in a particular area, you have to try stuff that feels risky, that pushes you past your place of comfort. Experience has to begin somewhere. Every expert at one time was a newbie, at one time took that first floppy fish dive out into deeper waters.

So you have this thing that drives you, keeps you restless and exploring and giving from the raggedy remains of your day. Whatever it is, this relentless ever present yet just-out-there force that keeps you at it: you’re not doing it for that tape, the consultants, the snarks. Are you?

The secret about those voices urging you to keep in the shallows – including the one in your own head – is that they are simply speaking into their own fear to go out any further. But contrary to such fear-based advice, it can be riskier to try and look like you’re swimming with the big fish when you’re only flopping around at the shoreline with the minnows.

Turn off the tape in your head for once. Turn down the volume on those voices.

And go for a swim.

Bring a life jacket – goggles even – if necessary, but do get out there. There will be a fluffy beach towel waiting for you when you get back to shore.


Photo by Erik Dungan on Unsplash

6 Replies to “In over my head (and the water’s fine)”

  1. Good advice! I nearly drowned once and had problems getting back into the water. But I knew if I were ever to see that beautiful coral reef, I had to get over it. And did. Life without adventure is no life at all. 🙂

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