Tackling through fear, self-doubts, and distorted stereotypes: Female, solo, hiking

Did you know, you are the leader of your life? 

Your family, friends, and society may discreetly try to dictate and navigate your journey. But only you can decide which direction you want to go. 

So choose wisely.

What experiences are you ready to throw yourself into? How are you going to get the best out of this life? What memories do you want to look back on with a sense of accomplishment?   

2020 – the year to feel empowered in your own company. 

Familiarity is comforting, and getting out of your comfort zone is easier when someone’s on the sidelines chanting you on. But what do you do, on a sunny day off, with no one to spend your day with? 

If you’re single; live alone, or you don’t have many friends? 

Should you feel inclined to sit inside watching netflix; catching up on household chores, or scrolling through somebody else’s life, because you’ve got no one around to entertain yours?  

It’s not our fault we feel so awkward about going out for dinner alone. 

People close by will wonder whether, or not, we’ve been stood up. And the waitresses will show their sympathy by offering us free nibbles. (Not that we can complain!)

To be content enough, on your own, to sit out for dinner you must be another species right?

You must be feeling sad. 

You must be pretty lonely. 

And you must be really embarrassed… 

Whilst everyone around the restaurant gawks, pokes heads and questions your intentions. You sit in a peaceful silence, watching the hubbub; sipping on New Zealand Sauvignon. 

With all these social distancing restrictions, limitations to group numbers and early nights home from the pub- What better time, than now, is there for anyone looking to develop a new level of self-confidence, and get out in the world alone!

Sure, you find yourself more comfortable with somebody by your side. 

But stop for a second and ask yourself, “how would I feel if I went out, and achieved something alone, for myself and no one else?”  

Personally, I’m grateful for lockdown. Being forced to be by myself made it easier to try things I wouldn’t necessarily do, based on what’s socially acceptable. Such as eating alone, at pretentious restaurants! (Yes I did get a lot of free nibbles)! 

You’re more sensible when you’re on your own. 

Hiking became a healing hobby for me this year, and really changed the way I felt about myself. 

Exploring new places, and having new, positive, experiences with myself gave me the confidence to stand prouder, with every step I took into unfamiliar territory. 

Looking back on my childhood, I should’ve recognised sooner that I was the leader of my own life.

When I followed my sister down a hill, I broke my leg. 

When I was encouraged to act up in class by my peers, I got into trouble. And when I followed in the same footsteps as my best friend, I ended up in care. 

I’m not blaming them, nor do I. But I’m simply highlighting, the people you look to for guidance, can be those- without knowing- who are negatively impacting your life. 

When I look at what those experiences have done for me, I only see lessons learnt, and feel only blessed. Without these experiences I wouldn’t have ever found the independence, and self-belief to tackle 144 miles of the Coast alone.

Like good morale on match day, having support and motivation from others around you provides comfort, helps build your confidence, and encourages you to perform better. 

But also, like good morale in the pub after the match. Having that chaos of palms planting on and off bar tables. And voices chanting ‘neck it,’ is the only reason you chug and choke down your pint.

Visibly, you may seem safer out in the world if you have somebody by your side. 

But alone, being sensible and less of a risk taker comes naturally.

You don’t have to fight your gut instincts when somebody says, “it’ll be fine, just follow me,” down the steep cliff edge. On your own you wouldn’t have even gotten that close to the edge. 

Strangers have the capability of being our greatest learning tool, and our biggest inspiration!

Having a lack of worth in ourselves, only holds us back, and makes us believe we’d never be able to do the things others can. This fear of uncertainty prevents us from moving forwards in our lives, and therefore stops us, as humans, from developing.

Most of this self-doubt is subconscious, and has stemmed from your experiences; social circle, society, and the media you absorb daily. 

What does this mean? 

If you can start absorbing new information, and go outside of your social circle for advice, then you’re  twice as likely to find inspiration, and be given valuable information! 

Don’t ever be scared, threatened, or intimidated by strangers. Be intrigued; eager to listen, and blessed to have stumbled across them. (unless of course they’re running at you with a mochetti or something… Then maybe I wouldn’t stop to have a chat!) 

Stopping to speak to hikers; hearing their solo adventures, and how un-taboo wild camping actually was, made me respond with, ‘I’d love to do that… but…” 

The synonym, “BUT…” Permitted my brain to subconsciously decide whether it was safe, or not. 

I hadn’t ever known anyone who had hiked for two weeks alone. – Nor had I ever considered doing something like this by myself before. 

All I knew was what the media regularly posted- solo females going travelling, and being killed. And so subconsciously, I generalised this one bit of information, and used it as my excuse to take little any action. Sticking to only trails I knew and feeling little satisfaction. 

It wasn’t until one hiker responded to my self-pity party with the question, “But what…”

I really woke up.

“You have the luxury of living here, if something bad happens helps not too far, and as long as you’re sensible; know your limits, and listen to your gut, you’ll be fine…” 

Although he was hiking with his friend, at the time, he assured me he’d hiked alone a lot. And he’d known, and met, many young women who’d done the same and loved it! 

Everything I had previously feared had now been overruled by the factual reasons he had presented to me. 

Suddenly I went from, 

… But  I could never do that because I don’t think I’m good enough, because I’m a young female, and you hear all this stuff in the news about it… 

To… 

Fuck yeahhhh I can do that! I believe in myself- I’m strong, capable and I will get out of my comfort zone to prove it! 

To fear uncertainty is to prevent self-development. 

Staying in your comfort zone will only bring regret to your deathbed. It’s the silent killer that slowly, and subconsciously, deteriorates your mind- ambition, and dreams. 

The things we find most uncomfortable- are usually things that will help us grow as humans. 

Have you ever been attracted to someone, but never made any move on them? 

It frustrated you that you didn’t I bet. But… there was something preventing you. 

It was your self-worth- it wasn’t feeling good enough, or pretty enough to have the confidence to go after what you wanted.
And that’s why you hated yourself so much after… Because it was you, who stopped yourself from growing. And it was you, who let the fear of an uncertain outcome stop you.

You feared the rejection you’ve often had in the past. And you feared feeling embarrassed, or looking too desperate. 

But what you should’ve feared more, was the opportunity you missed out from by not going over. 

Strangers will always give you the best advice. 

Why? 

They’re detached from your life, and take pride feeding you knowledge that’s going to add to your growth. – And so It’s a win win for both parties. 

Whereas those closest to you-, who have never tried an activity, such as hiking, may not understand. They may get overly defensive when trying to protect you. But by inserting their self-doubt into somebody, subconsciously, how is this adding to growth? 

…It’s not. 

In comparison to every hiker who got excited for me, I was handed more concern with those closest.       

“Wow… That’s brave of you!”    

“Why aren’t you going with somebody?… I’ll go with you!”

“Why would you want to go on your own?”

“As a young female, are you going to be safe alone?”

Fearing somebody’s safety based on their gender, or your lack of experience isn’t caring, but instead it’s planting a seed of doubt in their head, and therefore becomes toxic and constricting for the recipient. 

Unsolicited reactions like these infectiously spread social conformity.

In so little words, what you’re saying essentially is that you don’t think they’re strong enough, or capable enough to achieve their dreams… 

Outsiders feeling intimidated by their own lack of action; feeling a necessity to present uninvited projections onto others, in a subconscious attempt to prevent a person reaching higher levels of self-esteem. 

I can only thank this complete stranger for questioning my ‘but’… Because questioning that but is what still gives me motivation. It’s what keeps me feeling empowered when people close to me project their insecurities over my dreams. And finally, this ‘but’ is what gave me the confidence to walk right up to a stranger, and present him with an ice cream, in return for a date. 

Ask yourself, “what experience does this person have to invite their opinion onto me”.

Someone’s worry, and beliefs about being safe should never overshadow the excitement for the adventure you’re about to embark on.

In fact, somebody else’s worries for what you plan to do, should be of no concern to them in the first place. 

Unfortunately these negative opinions from those closest will impact your mood, question uncertainty ,and, eventually, will result in you not going after what you want. 

So if you’re not ready to get rid of these negheads… Even though you definitely should, how can you ignore them? 

For myself, when my doubters conveyed their concerns…
I asked the question, 

“Has this person got any actual life experience on this topic, to be able to question my safety?” 

Followed by… 

“What experience does this person have, in comparison to the female hikers I’ve spoken to, who tell me it’s safe- who say I’ll love it- and tell me to go for it?” 

Of course if you haven’t been lucky enough to meet anyone who has experienced what you are looking to do, then I’m sure there are many blogs, books, and resources out there to boost your self-esteem, rather than crush your confidence! 

The most important thing is that you take action, and prepare to manage any obstacles if they arrive!

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