It’s 6.45 am, on a cold autumn morning in Aviemore, Scotland. Snow is on the ground outside and most people at Glenmore Lodge, where I’m staying for the weekend, are still tucked up in bed. I am waiting in the lobby for two women, who I had only met the day before, to hike a mile up to a small loch and go for a swim. As I sit here I wonder ‘How did I get here? Who is this person who overhears a conversation in a bar and can’t resist asking if they can join the adventure?’
One week later and I’m pulling up at a Youth Hostel in the Peak District. About to spend the weekend with a group of fantastic, adventurous women who are part of the Adventure Queens community on Facebook. I run the Nottingham Adventure Queens page and these ladies run other county pages. I have never met any of them before. Again I ask myself ‘How did I get here?’
How did I get there?
I’m not the most confident of people, in fact I can tie myself in knots with self doubt at an given moment. Five years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing these things. Yet, slowly and seemingly inexorably, my life has expanded and evolved into one in which I whizz around the country and even the world, grabbing adventures as I go.
At both the conference and the weekend away I was meeting people I looked up to. People who live adventurous lives, taking part and coaching others in a whole range of outdoor activity. As I chatted I found myself telling them what I am not; ‘I’m not really a climber/skier/wild swimmer’, I announced again and again. And each time I did it I winced internally. Why was I telling people what I am not? Especially when I have done all of those things.
Surely if I have climbed I am a climber, if I have skied I am a skier and if I have been wild swimming I am a wild swimmer. What I was really doing was excusing myself. Ensuring that no-one expected me to actually be good at these things. I run almost every day but the first thing I will tell people is how slowly I do this. And I always hear other runners doing the same. ‘I’d go with you but you will have to run slowly, because I do’, or ‘I will never be able to keep up with you’.
Edging out of your comfort zone
The Women in Adventure Sport conference centered around self efficacy. What it is, how we achieve it and how we might struggle with it. I discussed with the lady next to me how our confidence developed once we hit our thirties. What a shame, we agreed, that we cannot have that self efficacy when younger. Imagine how amazing our lives could have been even sooner. The power young people could have if they did not have to ‘fake it till they make it’.
Despite this growing confidence I am definitely still faking it at times. By constantly edging out of my comfort zone I gradually grow it. As the other ladies gathered for our Peak District weekend I looked around, worrying about my gear. Were my clothes not as good as other peoples? Would they be judging me? As we got ready to hike everyone put gaiters on. Gaiters protect your lower trousers and walking boots from the worst of the mud and wet. I hate wearing them and never do. My mind flipped back and forth; I should put mine on, but they aren’t a good brand, I should leave them off, no wait…on it went.
Eventually I told my little mind voice to shut up! Why would I change what I normally do, when it’s always worked for me before? Once my mind was made up I was able to listen to others and here’s what I heard; ‘I’m not sure I have enough layers on’…’are you taking waterproof’s?…’how big is your backpack?’
We were all doing exactly the same thing. Doubting our choices and seeking reassurance. And in doing this we became human to each other. We chatted, supported and enjoyed. We hiked, laughed, went to watch fireworks and made friends.
Changing ‘I’m not’ to ‘I am’
Even my fears over the navigation course on the Sunday melted away once I realised I could ask questions again and again without being judged. Our trainers from the fantastic Ultimate Navigation school probably had no idea how awkward I feel when being taught something new.
The two weekends felt like a revelation to me. I may be constantly learning and evolving but these were a huge stride. It is time to stop telling people what I am not. The cover picture for this post is of me, in my underwear, about to go wild swimming. My opinion of my physical appearance has always been pretty low. But I am so proud that I went for that swim. I am proud of what I am. And I am proud of each and every one of the people I met over those two weekends for shining too. For being what they are and inspiring others as they go.
How to be self positive
When you talk about yourself try listening back. Do you tell people what you’re not? If so, try turning it around. You don’t have to go around announcing that you’re awesome to everyone, just change your language to something self positive. Instead of ‘I’m not a runner’ just say ‘I’ve done a bit of running’. And don’t be afraid of telling people about your fears. Once you share them, you usually realise that others feel exactly the same. Don’t get stuck on the fear; laugh and move on.
Most importantly, leave your comfort zone. You don’t have to go so far that you can’t see your way back. Just step outside it a little. You usually find that your comfort zone then expands to meet you! I tried it this weekend by going mountain biking for the first time in ages. I am a mountain biker. What are you?
Never Miss An Adventure!