What is the emotion behind the smile?
Most of you see me happy and smiling in the photos I post, 'cause generally when I'm out and about doing things I enjoy, I am having fun and feeling great.
In a day and age where we are inundated with social media, suddenly the need to be portraying a perfect, positive and happy life seems like the only way we can exist BUT have you ever stopped to question what emotion behind the smile is being experience by the person in the picture? You might be surprised, so I'm going to share some insight into my personal experience and what I was actually feeling when this photo was taken at the Australian Day - Jetty to Jetty Swim in 2016.
Yes I am smiling and I look confident, but the emotions I was feeling were far from that.
The emotion behind this photo is that of fear, apprehension and terror. It was overwhelming and felt very real to me. My heart-rate was elevated, my breathing became shallow and my hands started to shake. If you had been there on that day you would have seen my level of self-confidence dropping as my anxiety and fear grew with the reduction of time before my age group was called to the starting line.
Now, I was by no means scared of swimming the 2km distance. Physically I was more than fit, strong and capable enough to cover the set race course (which for some would almost seem like an almost impossible feat). The challenge for me is emotional - I have a huge fear of water, specifically the ocean. It has terrorised me for most of my life, getting more and more debilitating as I have gotten older. As a child my parents did their best to encourage me on many occasions by 'bribing me' as a way to coax me in, sometimes it worked, sometimes not. Plenty of times I have not been able to get into the ocean or if I do I'm on edge and have on a number of occasions have suffered panic attacks whilst in the water.
The good news is survived the Australia Day Jetty to Jetty race (hooray for that!) and actually swam it in a slightly better time than I had anticipated! Physically I got out of the swim in a good state - I even had that much power still in my legs that I was able to sprint past about a dozen other swimmers on the way to the finish line. Emotionally I was cooked - drained from the psychological effort I had invested to face this monumental personal fear and it took me almost a week to really recover from it.
I will continue posting pics on social media when I am undertaking water activities, as every time I am there I am looking fear in the eye. One part of me is drawn to the ocean, but this unrelenting fear often holds me back. Its a big deal for me and very debilitating.
So next time you see me putting up a pic in the water at the beach, on my paddle board, in a kayak, an ocean race - know that that even tho a part of me is smiling, the fear is there brewing in the background.
I hope that one day this will dissolve and I will be free of its limitations.
Until then, I'm going to 'keep feeling the fear' and 'do it anyway'.