Outside pressure to conform — often to something you may be uncomfortable with — is a reality of life, and it’s present even in scuba diving. Whether it’s a dive buddy proposing a dive that’s outside of your comfort zone or an operator with questionable safety protocols, social pressure can be a hazard for divers. Even words of encouragement can sometimes amount to problematic peer pressure.
Don’t put your personal safety at risk. You have the power to alter the dynamic in these situations by helping to create relationships and a culture that prioritizes your safety and continued growth as a diver. While it can be difficult to advocate for yourself when faced with social pressure, it will lead to self-empowerment and can promote safer diving — for you and others, too.
Make the Call
Divers are passionate and determined individuals, and each one has an important power: Any diver can call off a dive for any reason, or no reason, at any time. If you’re ever uncomfortable with an upcoming dive, you have the right to bail out.
Personal comfort and safety are paramount in diving, and what makes a person comfortable varies significantly. What may be perceived as reckless to one diver may feel perfectly safe to another — like diving deep in low visibility. A diver might feel unwell after an earlier dive and want to skip the next one, but a persistent dive buddy might to talk them out of it. Situations like these are not uncommon, and these are just two examples of the importance of trusting your gut. You know your training, experience, knowledge and body. If you’re truly uncomfortable with a dive, call it off.
It’s possible that some people won’t be supportive of this decision; they might even challenge it. Stand by your decision, and repeat that you are not comfortable doing the dive. If it helps, disassemble and pack up your gear — that’s a pretty clear sign you will not be diving any more that day.
You can’t grow as a diver and learn new skills if you don’t test yourself. But it’s up to you to determine when it’s safe to go beyond your existing comfort levels, and there are some indicators to tell you when it’s time to level up: If you’re bored of the “same old, same old”; you’ve connected with the right instructor who understands your concerns (and has taken steps to address them); or you want to go to a specific destination but don’t yet have the right skills or experience. These are all indicators that you could be stagnating and ready for personal growth.
When you’re ready to try harder, new-to-you dive destinations and skills, connect with instructors and fellow divers who will support you.
A Little Help From Friends
How do you support your buddy who is feeling anxious and has called off a dive? Words of encouragement can go a long way — especially in diving. Supportive words can help a diver gain confidence to work up to some new-to-them dives and skills. But be aware that certain types of encouragement may lead to trouble.
If a diver calls off a dive, feel free to ask, “Are you sure?” or “What are you feeling, and how can I help you through this?” Together you may be able to work through the negative feelings. But once you get answers to those questions, stop there — continuing to question someone’s decisions could cross the line into bullying.
If you find yourself in the midst of an aborted dive, remain supportive and understanding with the diver who made the call. It’s a delicate balance to ensure your comments don’t become accusatory. Hopefully, a different dive — one where everyone feels comfortable — can be added to the calendar.
Peer Pressure the Influencer
The upside of peer pressure is that it can be used for good: When it’s leveraged by safety-minded leaders and experienced members of a dive community, it can help create and foster a culture of safety. With everyone working together to champion good protocols and decision-making criteria, scuba diving can be an amazing force for helping people overcome fears and limits.
Don’t become complacent: Social pressure can be a powerful force in a group, club or community, and it’s important to avoid normalizing a culture of deviance. Don’t abandon “annoying” safety practices once you’ve completed your training — model them and influence others.
Ultimately, remember that you are your own best advocate. Trust yourself and your training. Surround yourself with people who are positive influences and operators who exemplify safe practices. While it can be uncomfortable to rock the boat and put your foot down, your safety is of the utmost importance. If a dive doesn’t feel right to you, skip it, and dive again another day.