Stop being so hard on yourself


Do you have a tendency to focus on what you did wrong and beat yourself up for it?

I can relate. I’m a recovering perfectionist too.

‘We’re all in between swims’ is a phrase you commonly hear in the world of whitewater. No matter how good you are, how experienced you are, or how good you think you are, you’ll eventually get yourself into a situation where you’ll flip over, won’t be able to roll, and end up in the drink.

In this way whitewater kayaking is very effective in teaching you how to accept ‘failure’ as part of the learning process. If you truly can’t accept failure (swimming) then you’ll probably quit kayaking in short order.

We’re all in between swims

I remember the moment I finally acknowledged the futility in beating myself up for swimming. I was paddling the Green three days in a row, and every. day. I swam. After the first swim I beat myself up the entire rest of the way down the river and was miserable. You can imagine how much fun I was to be around.

The following day I swam on a different rapid. You would have thought something tragic had happened in my life. I was telling myself all kinds of stories about how crappy of a kayaker I was and how everyone was judging me. They may not have judged me for the swim, but they were probably judging me for being so grumpy and taking the fun out of kayaking. The added pressure I was putting on myself made my skills suffer, and that in turn led me to feeling worse about my paddling.

On the third day I swam again, and this time it was on one of the first rapids. I remember standing on shore with my gear after my friends had helped me pick up the pieces, and instead of feeling dejected like I normally would, I started laughing. It felt so ridiculous to me at that point. I hadn’t taken a swim in a few years, and in three days I had exited my boat three times. Life was giving me a big opportunity to choose who I wanted to be in the face of failure.

It’s your choice

Am I really going to let this swim ruin the rest of my day? I thought. Or am I going to be in the moment and enjoy this amazing river with awesome friends? In that moment I realized that I get to decide how I want to respond. No one is forcing me to be hard on myself. That is a choice I make, and I can choose differently.

It felt really empowering to choose to see the swim(s) as bumps in my life-long paddling journey. After I adjusted my attitude and got back in my boat, I had great lines the rest of the way and had a ton of fun. I didn’t swim again for a few years – until I did. Because we’re all in between swims 🙂

The only difference between the first two days and the last day was my choice to not make the swim such a big deal. To stop telling the stories in my head about how bad swimming is. Instead, I chose to not make it into a big deal at all.

The moral of the story here is stop beating yourself up because you’re human and all humans are in between swims. Your success actually depends on how courageous you can be in the face of failure. Can you learn from it knowing that it’s just a bump in the road on the way to your destination?

If you want to work on not beating yourself up so much and want to learn through whitewater kayaking or stand up paddleboarding, I still have a few days open for private instruction this season. Email me to schedule your day!