How many years old were you when you absolutely mastered scuba diving? Remember that feeling? When you used to know absolutely everything there was to know about the sport? When you could first post advice confidently on scubaboard? Probably when you got about 50-100 dives? You had all your own gear. Got yourself a Rescue Diver cert or something. You could hold still - more or less. You had dropped a bunch of lead out off your weight-belt. You looked at the newer divers still struggling with their buoyancy or their situational awareness and you thought, “If they just keep at it someday they’ll be as good as me.” And when did that feeling flutter away? When did you start to notice that there were divers who were so very much more in control? And that maybe, just maybe, you didn’t know it all? And how are you feeling at this point in your development? Certainly at the beginning of any dive trip there’s those first few shakedown days when you don’t feel as in control as you remember. But slowly it all comes back. And by the end of a trip, not only have you regained your previous comfort and ability, but hopefully surpassed it by a little. I’m guessing you never really got back that same certainty you once had? And you know why? Because you are so much better than you once were. Because with all that experience and training and all that diving your self-awareness has grown to where you’re capable of recognising even the smallest mistakes. For a freshly certified diver, just making it back on the dive boat without panicking or drowning is a triumph. For someone still newish, managing to maintain communication with their buddy through the whole dive makes you feel like Aquaman. For an intermediate diver, holding a safety stop within a foot or two seems like solid mastery. For someone who has years of training and experience at advanced levels, when your fin-tip brushes something you feel it and wince. When you see your shadow profiled on a cave wall by your buddy’s light and you see something you hadn’t noticed hanging out of your pocket you cringe with embarrassment. When you get distracted during a deco stop and glance at your computer to see you unintentionally ascended by two feet for a few seconds you think, “My god, I suck at this, why am I allowed underwater?” We all make mistakes. Even the people who would have you believe they never do. But it takes an eye refined by many, many dives to be able to notice the minutiae. How many times have you gotten back onto a dive boat with someone who nearly killed themselves and you who proudly spits out their reg to say, “That was great!” Those people who haven’t been diving long enough to escape their complete obliviousness to the dangers they went bumbling through underwater. So maybe don’t beat yourself up so much. No, this isn’t an excuse to dive like shit. Get better. Practice. Don’t kick the shit out of the reef/wreck/cave. Don’t do your deco holding onto a line while you float vertically. Constantly work towards honing your skills and techniques. Don’t fall into a pit of, “That’ll probably do.”
But recognise that the better you get, the more mistakes you’ll notice. Kind of a self-confidence Catch-22, but there we are.