Using "Softness" towards others being unkind


I started swimming weekly in the third trimester as walking was getting more strenuous for me as my belly grew heavier.

I have not been a confident swimmer and have been swimming at the training pool so far. However, today the training pool was very crowded. Sensing my stamina has improved, I felt more courageous to challenge myself to swim in the deep pool.


I picked the nearest lane to the ledge just to be safe. By the second lap, I was tired and had to rest in the middle of the deep pool, so I held onto the ledge to catch my breath. I then completed my second lap, only to see a lifeguard staring at me.


He asked me, "Can you swim properly?" I was puzzled by his question as he just saw me swimming. He repeated himself, "Can you swim properly?" I nodded my head and said, "Yes, I can swim."
He then said, 

"If you want to die, don't do it here. Do it somewhere else." And walked away disapprovingly.

Using softness to calm my mind and emotions

I was shocked by what I heard. After calming myself down, I practiced deep listening (thanks to @wearehearsg) in order to understand (instead of reacting to) his intentions.

Even though his words were harsh, this lifeguard approached me at the deep pool. I received his intention as warning me seriously that my behavior at the deep pool was unsafe to myself. It served as a wakeup call. As such, I promptly left the deep pool and went back to the training pool to continue my swim.


Am I being taken advantage of if I am soft?

Honestly, this thought came to my mind repeatedly "Aren't you being weak for not standing up for yourself?"

To sense whether my boundaries were being crossed, I focused on how I was feeling. Emotions like discomfort, resentment, stress, anxiety, guilt and fear are helpful signals. There was a tiny discomfort in my stomach for the literal words he said to me which I could have easily missed/ignored if I did not tune into myself. As such, I concluded that I need to honor myself by doing something instead of ignoring my boundaries.


Using softness to others being harsh

It may sound strange even to my past self, but I practiced forgiveness and gratitude to this man. He came to warn me to keep me safe. As I practiced gratitude, a sense of compassion came over me - I choose to believe this lifeguard was doing his best the way he knew how. His life or day maybe met with harshness.

Perhaps he was stressed by something in his life, or that was how he was spoken at when he was training to be a lifeguard, or this method worked best in receiving compliance from swimmers in Singapore culture... We will never know...


Giving feedback softly with the intention of care


With the support of my spouse and friend, I decided that I could share my negative experience in the form of a feedback form, with the intention of not to ruin his career, but the hope for him to be counselled. I believe regardless of whom you are speaking to, you can give out a stern warning without using unkind/ triggering words like "go die somewhere else".

This experience gave me a valuable lesson that I could honor my needs while practicing forgiveness for others being unkind.


May we all grow wiser and more compassionate to others around us through softness, even though the world could feel harsh to us sometimes.