No, that didn’t really happen. But that’s a little bit of what I felt like would happen if I actually called myself a swimmer. Let’s back up. About ten years ago at the behest of a couple of chiropractors, I decided to take up swimming. I wanted to strengthen my back and limit the impact that land-based activities would have on my scoliosis. In graduate school, I took private swimming lessons with a fantastic coach named Angela. As I learned the mechanics (and she sweetly suggested that I needed to get my butt in the pool and practice more often), I started swimming 4-5 times per week. I continued through my move to LA as much as I could with a job where I worked many evenings, took a brief hiatus while we lived in Spain, and then returned when we moved to SF. I even joined a master’s swimming team, doing 2000-2400 yards three times a week and a mile once a week on my own.
I enjoyed swimming and what it did for my body, as well as the camaraderie of the master’s program and Aquafit classes. But when small talk with friends or acquaintances turned to exercise, I always felt like I had to couch it in terms that downplayed my dedication to swimming: “Oh, I swim for fitness.” “I only learned it in grad school to help with my back.” “I try to get in the pool as much as I can.” “I’m a swimmer” was never in that repertoire. Why not? Well, I hadn’t grown up swimming other than for fun in backyard pools; I didn’t swim in high school on a team; I didn’t compete in college. To me, these were the definitions of a swimmer. I didn’t meet those criteria, so therefore I couldn’t lay claim. I was worried that I would be found out and marched to the front of the pool to shamefully admit to having used a term that only applied to them, and not to me.
It was the master’s swimming program and my hard work that finally allowed me to admit to myself that I was a swimmer and I would likely swim as my primary exercise for the rest of my life. The endurance and speed that I gained with a coach and a group of swimmers (go slow/medium group!) were the tipping point to where I could finally state that I was a swimmer. I swim! I’m a swimmer! I swim a really long distance! Go, me! While having a kiddo has certainly changed the amount of time I can devote to the pool, I still am able to wear that definition with pride. I’m a swimmer.
Has there ever been a time where you felt like an impostor, for instance in school or in a new job? Were you able to see yourself in a different light or did self-doubt continue to plague you? I’d love to hear your story!
Have a wellful day,