There is a saying that people use when they feel that they have been dropped in at the deep end. There is a phrase people use when they feel so far out of their comfort zone that they don’t know where to turn. There is a phrase that people use when they feel there is no life line to be thrown. What is that phrase? It is…
If we break that phrase down and look at it from several angles we find it means different things to different people. Taking the phrase ‘a fish out of water‘ in the traditional sense usually means we think of a fish such as a gold fish, flapping around in a tiny puddle of water just beside its goldfish bowl gasping for life. The fish being out of water looks as though it does not have long to live. The sooner it is put back into its bowl, the sooner it will be able to breathe within its environment. But have you ever looked at a gold fish once it goes back in the bowl? It looks no different than it did before it left the bowl.
So, let’s look at this from a different perspective – ‘a fish out of water‘. Well the question is what type of water? What was in the water? What size was the body of water? It is well known that if you take a fish out of its starter bowl and put it into a much larger aquarium it will increase in size. Does this mean the fish is any happier? Perhaps, or perhaps not. One thing it definitely has experienced is a larger environment, more nourishment and more space to grow so therefore, it does. Perhaps when it first moved into this larger body of water it found it uncomfortable, difficult to move around without caution but before it had time to give in to fear, it found itself in a place where it can thrive.
Here is another perspective on the phrase ‘a fish out of water‘ – I see a lot of vehicles with bumper stickers and badges with the fish symbol on the back. Some have a cross at the position of the eye and some with feet. So, what does this have to do with the phrase ‘a fish out of water’? The fish with the cross near the eye is a symbol used by followers of Christ. The simple fish sign was drawn in the sand by early Christians who used the symbol to greet one another and ensure their safety when meeting each other for the first time. The feet on the fish is a symbol for those who follow the evolutionary or Darwinian theories. They believe that fish evolved, grew feet and therefore moved out of the water and onto dry land. In both cases the fish is a symbol of free thinking, progressive movement, using one’s environment to help each other and prolong the genetic or spiritual family.
So, the traditional meaning of ‘a fish out of water‘ is not necessarily a negative thing. Being a fish out of water simply means spending time outside of your comfort zone. This triggers a fight or flight response and depending on your decision, will either diminish you or bring you victory. It is a choice which we as human beings are privileged to make.
If we took that few extra fractions of a second to see how each situation could help us to grow, move on, to stimulate, to nurture, to learn, we would spend less time fearing the future and more time looking ahead at the bigger picture whilst making the most of our present.
So the next time you use a phrase to describe your nervousness, anxiety or fear just think, what will this experience bring you?
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