Before the summer, I had a great conversation with Alastair Humphreys, he of microadventure fame (and oh so many big adventures too!) about what stops us from saying yes. I wanted to explore the differences in this for men and women, and he asked me to write for his blog. Here are my musings on what stops women from saying ‘yes’ to adventure. Enjoy!
Do you know what I think mostly gets in the way of saying ‘yes’ to things? Fear.
Plain, old-fashioned, always-been-there, serves-a-real-purpose fear. Fear comes disguised as many things and it’s designed to save us and keep us safe from harm, but my goodness does it ever get in the way! If we’re really honest with ourselves, fear is always the thing that stops us, whoever we are.
But I do think often that the guise fear takes is different for women than for men.
I adore Alastair’s newsletter series, and I can’t wait to read the book, but like some other women out there, I sometimes read his newsletters thinking ‘yes, but it’s alright for you, you’re a man…’.
I am a woman. A mother. A homemaker and a full-time employee, as well as running my own company.
It’s taken me until I was 40 to realise that I could claim time and space for myself, and I’ll be damned if anyone else I know has to wait that long. That’s why I set up Quiet the Hive, to help other women reach out, claim their space and identify and achieve their aims. Living with the fear, rather than living ruled by it.
Fear serves a purpose. It keeps us safe. Our instinct to avoid things that scare us is a form of evolutionary cotton wool. If we are avoiding things that may be risky, we are saving ourselves. But we also know these days that growth takes place at the edge of our comfort zone. If we never step outside of that zone, we never truly know what we are capable of. And, bloody hell, are you capable of some amazing stuff…
For women, I think fear takes three main forms when it stops us from leaning in and saying ‘yes’. It looks like a lack of confidence in our selves and our ability, like feeling silly and like guilt. Any of those resonate with you? Once you can identify them in your life, you can know how to work with it and know when it’s getting in your way.
I wanted to share my thoughts with you, and have asked some women who are getting better at saying ‘yes’ to adventure to share their tips too.
FEAR AS… I AM NOT <INSERT YOUR TRIGGER WORD HERE> ENOUGH
This one is driven by your inner critic, and may feel like it’s your confidence getting in the way. Your lizard voice (so-called as it comes from the primaeval brain which taps into our flight, fight or freeze instinct when threatened), is the one responsible for all the shitty stuff we say to ourselves, the way we tell ourselves we are not ‘enough’; not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, fit enough, skinny enough, clever enough…
You will never win an argument with your inner critic, but you can soothe it so that it doesn’t worry quite so much about you. It doesn’t know that a night out camping in the dark with friends is so much safer now that sabre tooth tigers aren’t on the prowl: it hasn’t evolved the way we have.
Next time your inner critic tells you you can’t do something because you’re not ‘enough’, try thanking it for doing its job of keeping you safe so well, but that you’ve got this and you won’t put it in a recklessly dangerous situation. Give it a character, a name. It sounds silly, but once you make it into a separate character, you are removing its power over you. It becomes an entity separate to you; it’s not you. It’s ‘my brain is having the thought that I am not brave enough’, not ‘I’m not brave enough’. Can you hear the difference? Try it!
“Being brave is all in your head! We don’t fear what we know. In an unfamiliar situation where we may feel like we are not in control, our flight or fight response to fear kicks in and our brain switches into Captain Sensible mode…” You don’t want to do that, what if….” Etc etc .
I’ve let Captain Sensible undermine me over and over again. I’ve said ‘No’ to things because of exactly that. But, the slow drip feed of familiarity is allowing me to override those irrational thoughts. Getting out of my comfort zone, gently and regularly, is teaching my brain to back the hell down and let me have some fun. And slowly I’m building up to some cool stuff that a few years ago I’d never have dreamt of. Importantly, acknowledging the fear and how I feel is crucial to overcoming it – and in the words of acclaimed author, Susan Jeffers, “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. Take that, brain.”Gemma, Photographer & Say Yes More Ambassador
FEAR AS… I CAN’T DO IT, I’LL LOOK RIDICULOUS, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING
How many times have you not done something because you’re worried you’ll look wrong, or silly, or like you don’t know what to do?
Take a look at children and the way they embrace doing things. They absolutely don’t care what they look like, all they care about is that the thing that they’re doing is fun.
So what if you’re not sure how best to get in the river from the bank – think about how good it will feel once you’re in. You’re positive that you’ll be the only non super-skinny, lycra-clad woman at the running social. You’re wrong.
Go to a ‘This Mum Runs’ social run, and you’ll be welcomed wholeheartedly by all sorts of women of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities. Turn up at your local Park Run and be absolutely certain that you will be surrounded by all sorts of people; each one of which was once new to running.
Everyone was a beginner at the thing you want to do one time or another.
Imagine what you’ll miss out on if you say no because you’re worried you’ll do it wrong. Launch yourself into it like a child. Name it if it helps. Saying something out loud reduces the fear of the thing itself.
FEAR AS… ADVENTURE IS HUGE. AND SCARY.
I only realised this very recently, but adventure doesn’t have to be huge. I always thought that to have an adventure, it had to involve special equipment, sleeping under the stars, and putting yourself in extreme, challenging situations.
I had a conversation with an incredible woman called Ruth recently which changed all that. We met at Yestival and got talking about whether it was possible to adventure with children. She recounted a story that she and her daughter were listening to someone talking about a huge adventure (we’re talking ‘sell your home and cycle across a continent with your children in bike seats’-sized adventure). During the talk her daughter asked her why she wasn’t on stage talking about their adventures.
When unpicking this a bit more, Ruth realised that, in her daughter’s mind, waking up early and having breakfast on the beach, or going to the park after school for a picnic supper was just as much an adventure as cycling across a continent.
How we frame our adventures is for us to decide.
If it feels like an adventure to you, then it is. The more you notice your own adventures, the braver you’ll feel; soon you’ll be saying ‘yes’ more purposefully.
“Don’t get distracted by what other people are doing on their ‘adventures’ – adventure is a very personal thing, so take the time to work out what exactly it is that YOU want to experience and how far you want to push yourself. The truth is you don’t have to be climbing Everest to get the sense of achievement and benefits of being outdoors and doing something new. It’s just as valid to go camping on your own for the first time for one night, to make the time to walk to a castle in your local area or to go to your first surf lesson. Maybe that is your adventure or maybe it’s your first step onto something else, but it’s easy to be paralysed by the idea of finding the ‘right’ or ‘biggest’ challenge – don’t let that stop you before you start.”Soraya; Eco Adventurer & Sustainability Professional
FEAR AS… I CAN’T DO THIS, IT WOULD COST TOO MUCH/ TAKE TOO LONG/ MEAN SOMEONE ELSE WOULD HAVE TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE KIDS. I JUST FEEL TOO GUILTY.
Things have changed for women in as little as 100 years. We (in the UK at least) have the same voting rights as men, we can work, we can earn our own money and spend it as we wish. We can hold down the same jobs as men, and take part in the same activities. Women’s rights have come on leaps and bounds.
However, there is evidence to say that our social responsibilities haven’t changed at the same pace. Unpaid labour is a hugely female responsibility. According to research, women report spending an average of 13 hours on housework and 23 hours on caring for family members each week; the equivalent figures for men are 8 hours and 10 hours. There’s even evidence to suggest that guilt over household chores is actually harming women’s health.
It’s no wonder that we are not very good at claiming time for ourselves and our hobbies. This impacts both those with and without children.
I think a healthy dose of guilt also comes with being a parent. Did you know that research from Sport England shows that 61% of Mums feel guilty taking time to exercise? That’s insane. Why is it that guilt stops us from doing, from being, so much as a woman?
I struggle with this one myself. A lot. However, I’ve worked out that I am a much better, and nicer person if I prioritise myself sometimes.
I do this by booking time in advance. I set aside weekends which will just be for me. I like to book an activity at the same time, but for other people who prefer more freedom, just allocate four weekends in a year (out of 52 – fewer than 10% of your weekends) and decide how to use them closer to the time. Record them in family diaries, work diaries, share them with who you need to, and DO NOT GIVE THEM UP. If you’re invited to something else which clashes which you feel obliged to do, simply say ‘thank you so much for thinking of me, but I am unable to make that particular date’. You don’t need to explain or justify. This is your sacred time.
“Name what is stopping you, and then ask ‘why’. ‘I don’t have enough time’ is a very valid point, but then question into that and keep going while it gets uncomfortable. This style of questioning led me to drive at 6am on New Year’s Day to run the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. Not an ideal time on paper, but it worked! Lean on your friends. Especially with kids, a gang of parents and kids is much easier to get on an adventure than when you’re the only parent there. Help each other to laugh and cook together, and support each other. Admire and recognise how much you already adventure without realising it. Appreciate and cheer yourself on for everything you do already.”Ruth, Director, Mother and sometime adventurer
My youngest son seems to have an alter ego. We’ve enjoyed a couple of weeks by the sea in West Wales this summer. I try and have a dip in the sea every day, and William likes to join me while his oldest brother is happier on the shoreline building sandcastles. When Will is entering the surf, or notices a big wave, he says to himself ‘Jimmy got this!’. It’s almost like he has an alter ego that he calls upon when he needs to muster up some can-do.
I’ve found myself saying ‘Jimmy got this’ when I’m facing my own doubts.
Who’s your alter ego? Who would you be if you said ‘yes’? What could life become?
I know that I am trying really hard to make sure that it turns from ‘Jimmy got this’ into ‘Janey got this’.
I’d love to hear from you about your ‘yes’-es. Tell me what’s made a difference for you, or where you’re stuck. Hit reply and let me know.
And, if any of this has resonated with you, and you’d like some help to get focussed and build your confidence in saying ‘yes’ and claiming your space, join Quiet the Hive for a life changing peer mentoring programme.
For a friendly bunch of people who’ll share ideas and support in saying ‘yes’ to adventure check out:
- Adventure Queens
- Say Yes More
- Ordinary Superparents
- the excellent Much Better Adventures (contact me for a discount code!)
- And there’s always Alastair and Me!