Girls and bravery
Boys and bravery seem to be synonyms. A gutsy girl is perceived totally different. We somehow tend to teach girls that it´s cute to be scared. And yes, girls express their emotions differently than boys, and emotions are complicated. As girls we are acculturated very early to fear. But here´s the thing: the rush of fear feels a lot like excitement. Sometimes we just feel exhilarated when we´re faced with a steep hill on the bike or whilst skiing. We as girls, or women, need tools to understand the emotions and use them to build confidence and bravery by venturing outside.
Facing a school group of English girls a few weeks ago made me stop a moment to realize what my real mission for the week was; I wanted to gird these girls with life lessons of bravery and resilience. The week skiing was about being a bit braver, to go outside of their comfort zone. And so, we did; we skied the dips and the bumps, jumped, and did off-piste skiing underneath the lift and between the trees. Everyone that week was challenged to practice bravery. Not only did I want to see more bravery in these girls, I long to be braver myself, and there´s nothing better than facilitating for other women too (that´s why we´re running MTB & ski workshops, clinics and courses especially dedicated to women).
So, what can you do to build confidence and bravery in others and yourself?
- Talk about fear
Staring fear in the eye is difficult to do. It´s a lot easier to let it stop us. As mentioned before, we all have throughout life received mixed messages about fearfulness and danger. Not only can we blame others, we´ve got to take an honest look at ourselves as well. We are as well guilty of gender bias: Would you encourage girls to hit ski jumps faster and launch higher if they would have been boys? If they had Y chromosomes would you let them play unsupervised outside, without checking to make sure they were safe? Take stock of your own prejudices in different scenarios and ask yourself honestly if, now, knowing what you do about girls´ capabilities, you really need to hover so closely while she hauls off across the monkey bars.
It´s true: from early childhood most parents, often without realizing it, treat girls differently than boys. We teach them caution, and think that they need more protection than the boys, which is ironic, because before age 11, girls are ahead of boys physically and emotionally.
It´s really about the message you send out – as well as the message you receive.
Now, let´s go back to talking about this fear that is so build-in. When you are scared, say “Ok, you´re scared. What else are you feeling?” Then name your other feelings: excitement, confidence, etc. Take a look at your skill level, so you can put fear in its place and go forward.
- Don´t back off – give it a try
As Eleanor Roosevelt once famously said, “Do something every day that scares you.” Give yourself the opportunity to practice bravery, and do it daily. Encourage yourself to practice acts of micro-bravery each week, like picking up that spider on the kitchen counter.
Don´t back off by saying you can´t do things just because you´re scared, afraid to loose face, want to be liked at all costs, look pretty or be perfect. Give it a try instead. It doesn´t need to be perfect from the start.
- Break it down into chunks
This one I was taught by my husband these past years. Whenever I had a goal that intimidated me – like biking down a tricky steep section – he would show me how to break it down into smaller steps. It´s just to admit it – a lot of us girls/women are focused on perfection: It´s that all or nothing thing. But we don´t have to be perfect.
If you get to the top of a steep hill on your bike and you start feeling fearful, stop for a moment and ask ,“What do you think you can do about this?” Break it down into shorter, more approachable chunks and before you know it you´ll be flying down the hill from top to bottom in one go.
Feeling scared is natural and good. After all, the bravest person is the one who feels afraid and does it anyway.
- Find role models
Now this point might surprise you. Do we as adults still have role models? Isn´t that just a thing kids have? Having a role model is maybe a bit much to say, but what about those people who inspire you? I definitely have some! Before I got pregnant I searched the world-wide-web for women who´d continued skiing or mountain biking through their pregnancy. I found a few and even though I probably will never meet them in real-life they inspire me and help me during this time. Later on I also found out that a girl I got to know many years ago did the same – living overseas, in the US, the likelihood of us doing things together is not existing, but it´s been great to follow her so far. I use social media, such as Instagram, for inspiration and have quite big dreams.
When it comes to raising girls, I wonder if it is possible to ditch the princess phase by pointing your girl to strong female characters, so they can identify their own role models. – I can’t remember I ever went to this princess phase, so it should be possible! –
- Know your limits
Being reckless is not being an adventurer. It´s being stupid. Being an adventurer is all about assessing risk and understanding your own comfort zone. Learn to be aware of the inherent risks you meet, be clear-eyed about your skills and humble in the face of natural forces greater than yourself.
As adults we seem to have more difficulty assessing our own skillset, therefore I would highly recommend you´d get some help and support from a good friend who is braver then you, or whose skillset greater than yours. Taking a course, clinic or so helps you grow as well.
- Failing is totally cool, too
Failure is having a resurgence. It´s inevitable and a way of moving forward. In the end you´ll get much more out of dreaming big and failing than dreaming small and succeeding. Remember: bravery is learned. Build it into your heart, brains and bodies now and we´ll have generations of badass female forces. Going outdoors gives you confidence and self-esteem. Nature doesn´t care what you look like or if you´re popular or nice, all it cares about is if you´re a good team player.
Finally, don´t discriminate. Let the boys in on it too. They need to be adventurous, and see that girls are kick-ass too.