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Nancy Okerlund
Volume 2, Issue 9, 05/08/08

"Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway"

I went scuba diving.

In the last issue of The Introvert Energizer I predicted that I might, while on vacation in Cozumel with my sister and brother. Not wanting to cause undue suspense about my prediction, I'm reporting in :-).

My ambivalence about scuba diving is no doubt multi-faceted. For instance, I grew up on the prairie. The closest lake was ten miles, no swimming pool anywhere near, so I spent little time in water.

Because I'm endlessly curious about life as an introvert, my preparation for Cozumel (and the possibility of scuba diving) included an "introvert analysis". I knew I'd be dealing with lots of unfamiliarity, a common challenge for introverts. I knew my slower introvert pace would love a week of relaxation and unscheduled time.

And I wondered whether all the stimulation I'd get on this trip would be more than enough for my introvert self, without adding something as exotic as scuba diving.

So I decided I'd only try diving if I felt like it. It wasn't going to be one of those scary but worthwhile challenges.

By the morning of our second full day in Cozumel I'd gotten back into the swing of snorkeling (15 years after my first experience). And my expert diver brother was painting such a relaxing picture of a beginner dive that I felt like it. So I said yes. He made arrangements for the next afternoon.

I spent that day pleasantly unconcerned about my upcoming adventure. But by night, fear hit and there I was with a scary (but worthwhile?) challenge in my lap.

What to do. After patiently enduring a lot of dissecting of my inner landscape as we sat in the balmy night air, my sister and brother finally said good night. I squirmed with indecision: to dive or not to dive. Finally I thought back to that morning my decision had felt so right. I decided to trust it. The dive was on but so was the fear.

A book I'm fond of from the 80's - Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers didn't come to mind, but I suspect it's in my bones enough to have helped me out. What I like most about this book is the way it normalizes fear. Among its "5 truths about fear": "The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow"; and "the only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it."

So I took the direction of "determined and afraid." I didn't sleep very well that night and the next day I was mainly preoccupied with being afraid (and determined :-) right up to dive time, 3 PM.

A "conscious introvert", I say, does four things: 1) reframes - that being an introvert is an asset; 2) takes good care of her energy; 3) finds introvert ways of doing things in an extroverted world; and 4) becomes skillful at extroverting when it's called for.

I'd say my baby scuba dive is an example of extroverting. I use "extroverting" as a way to describe introverts doing things that are more natural for extroverts. Extrovert bodies are designed to work more comfortably with the external world, and with the unfamiliar in the external world.

To gain entrance to that exotic (and beautiful) underwater world of the ocean, I got numerous instructions from our dive master on land: several ways to equalize the pressure in my ears, sinuses and lungs; strategies for dealing with my mouthpiece (the lifeline to air!) if it came out in the water; how to maneuver the tangle of hoses that were coming with me; plus a short course on diver sign language.

Then, I had to pass the competency tests - underwater! (Enough said.)

But even though this was challenging extroverting for me, I think I found (or was given) an introvert way to do it. Thanks, in large part, to my sister and brother both introverts themselves being so understanding and accommodating of my need to talk it through. (Fortunately or unfortunately, my sister had a cold that exempted her from her own scuba process.)

And thanks to my brother holding my hand, literally, as we made our way 25 feet under the water.

A few days ago he emailed me a little video clip the dive master took. There I am, not quite like a deer in the headlights, but close. But my brother is holding my hand, and all is well.

(And I'm glad I went diving.)

End of food for thought on to some practical ideas:

A Practical Idea for Introverts

Think of some extroverting that's interesting but scary and fantasize about getting support to do it.

A Practical Idea for Extroverts

Think of some introverting that's interesting but scary and fantasize about getting support to do it.

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