Gaining Confidence Hiking Alone as a Woman with Sweaty Betty - Part Three
Looking back to only three weeks ago, I can see a huge shift in how I feel about my confidence in the outdoors. I didn’t really realise just how much more confidence this was going to give me on the trail in general and in many respects my day to day life decisions. Since I’ve been working on this series, I’ve found myself wanting to do more ambitious hikes, get out there a lot more and where I may have stopped and wanted to give up in the past, I’ve just allowed myself to continue. After some thought, I decided this was probably because out on my own, the only person I’m going to let down is myself. In the past, I’ve projected this feeling of inadequacy when hiking with others because they’re faster/taller/smarter/have better x than me. When I’m on my own, I’ve stripped all that away. Now I’ve stripped that away, I’m unable to let that be my story anymore. Hiking alone has made me a better, stronger and more confident hiker with other people.
We’d headed out to the Sierra for a couple of days to check out some trails, and I was planning to go for a hike the following morning alone whilst Matt did something himself too. As we arrived and got set up, I started to wonder around and found some trails right outside.
Before I knew it, I was naturally gravitating off on my own. Without hesitation I explored, I didn’t question how or what I just decided to explore. I felt like I’d really hit something big that’s been a shift for me over this past couple of weeks. That fear had turned from feeling like I was being dragged to the guilotine on my first hike to not even questioning it by my third. I had confidence in myself and my abilities. I really craved going out alone and feeling what was around me on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t decided I hate hiking with others, far from it. But what I’m able to create for myself now has such an enriching place in my life and creates a different experience and I’ve grown to really like it.
Unlike my previous hikes where I kept the photography to a minimum due to wanting to concentrate on the path, questioning my turns and looking for clues, here I couldn’t help but get my camera shooting. I felt completely free and enjoyed every second. As I wound down the trail and up again, I realised I had absolutely no cares or worries about finding my way back to the ‘home base’. This feeling has become so freeing for me. Once I had broken through my anxiety, I was able to breathe. What had been trying to keep me safe all this time had been locking me into a tiny room with no air vents. I was allowing myself to live out the story that I could do this, and so, it happened. Sure, it hadn’t been easy but that push through, even in this short time period, had allowed me to reach a place mentally that I didn’t know would happen. It was all a mental challenge all along. It always was. It most always is. Any fear that I had was replaced and even in any questioning moments, they felt like actual rational questioning moments and I was in a much better zone to deal with problem solving.
I loved the feeling I was experiencing, I was craving it. Before, I was scared of everything that might happen and now I felt respectful but at one with my surroundings; able to fully drink in their beauty. I felt like a part of me had been restored in some way. A me who always knew I could do this all along. I never didn’t have that, I just lost the idea that I could. What I noticed was that where I went was not dictated by fear anymore, but instead, curiosity. I was so eager to explore my surroundings, climb up things I might never have tried before and I genuinely think it’s because of my newfound confidence in myself, my body and my mind.
As I sat on a comfy(ish) rock taking in the views, I felt connected. I thought about how far I’ve come and how far I can go in the future. I felt no pressure, no judgement and I didn’t feel trapped, scared or worried. I wondered what I might try on my own next and that excited me immensely. The sun warmed my face, I listened to the wind and I took it all in. I felt like the queen of my castle.
In some ways, I can’t even remember the version of myself who, just a couple of weeks ago was scared to head off on her own, but I just loved that version of myself through to where I am now. The only way you’ll ever be able to create lasting change in your life is if you accept that you’re not perfect and love your way through to what it is you want. Forgive yourself for not living up to your perceived expectations. Be gentle. Allow yourself the freedom and the space you need to breathe and don’t put a time limit on your growth.
Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies in life, and I like to choose a lighter path. I like to choose a path where I can allow myself forgiveness at any moment. I like to choose a path where even if something doesn’t work out, I can try another way. I like to live a life without ultimatums and attached meanings. Taking the pressure off myself and exploring has been the key ingredient to my development in so many areas of my life. Life is not meant to be controlled within every inch of its being. Life is not a straight road, nor is everything you want going to be easy. Most people give up the moment before something gets good, because the resistance builds. I think back to my first hike alone for this series and I wanted to give up as soon as I couldn’t take a trail I wanted to. Everything within me kicked and screamed to stop and go back, but if I had have turned around and said no to the curiosity of what I could achieve, I wouldn’t have been on the journey to where I am now.
I promise you that those first leaps into the unknown are the most terrifying. It will not get easier, because the bigger the thing you do, the more addictive that growth becomes. Man, do those sweet spots get better and better and more frequent and normal though when you realise that the only limitations that were on you were those in your mind.
Make your vision stronger than your fear. Make the payoff so juicy that you can’t not.
Celebrate all of your wins.
Do it because of how it feels not because of how it looks.
And always, always be gentle.
I’m obsessed with late evening sun, big mountains, swimming and meditation. I’m a personal development junkie and love all things mindset. I love soy lattes, spicy food and am a sucker for a shot with lens flare.
My favourite places are currently:
Joshua Tree, California
Kodachrome Basin, Utah
The Dolomites, Italy
Berchtesgaden National Park, Germany