We went to Martha’s Vineyard yesterday. It was the first time for all of us and we were all looking forward to experiencing different aspects of the island. Tops on the list for my daughters was jumping off the “Jaws” Bridge and into the water. It’s kind of an island rite of passage and throngs of people line up for the thrill of plunging into the chilly New England waters.

My girls, two of their school friends, and a family friend stepped right up, climbed the railings, and jumped repeatedly into the river with no hesitation.

However, there was one teenage girl there—let’s call her Rebecca— who was terrified to jump. Her friends tried pleading with her, harassing her, and peer-pressuring her—they even threatened to push her in against her will—but she remained glued to the small cement outcropping on the edge of the bridge (it was a much lower place to jump from). I was standing right next to her and she confided in me that her legs were shaking and she felt like she was having an anxiety attack. She kept talking to herself in muted tones, yet I overheard her due to my vantage point.

“The whole beach is watching me right now, what if I hurt myself?”
“I can’t do it. I am too scared.”
“Why am I such a wimp? Everyone else is doing it.”
“I hate myself for not being able to do this.”

In her mind, I knew she was focusing on the worst case scenario: broken limbs, concussions, painful bellyflops, bathing suit falling off, never being able to live it down if she “chickened out,” etc etc. She clearly wanted to follow through, so when she met my eyes, I whispered a little secret. “You are thinking of all the things that can go wrong and it is keeping you glued in place. Start thinking of all the things that can go right and you’ll be able to tackle this, no problem.”

I knew the likelihood of her hurting herself was very low, and I was hoping to help her focus on the intoxicating feeling of hurtling through the air, the invigorating feeling of being enveloped by the clear ocean water, the supportive cheers of friends and strangers alike when she literally and figuratively took the plunge, and the knowledge that she was braver than she knew and more awesome than she imagined.

After another handful of minutes, she started to change her self talk to more positive, supportive statements:

make a splash“It’s only water.”
“I can do this.”
“There is nothing to be afraid of.” 
“It’s only water.”
“It’s only water.”
“It’s only water.”

And, she jumped. And she was fine. And she wondered what took her so long. And she felt so happy and empowered when she climbed out of the water.

What a great metaphor for life! We often work ourselves into a lather thinking about all the things that could go wrong and, as a result, we keep ourselves small. So, we don’t quit the job, we don’t write the letter, we stay in the unfulfilling relationship, we don’t have the difficult conversation, we don’t launch the business, and we never jump into who we were meant to be.

How are you keeping yourself stuck? What kind of inertia do you experience as a result of your own self-talk? What are you so afraid of? You can weigh in in the comments section below.

In the meantime, go ahead…have faith and make YOUR splash!