Have you ever been the minority?
Whether it’s your gender? Your age? Your skin color?
We aren’t always being stereotyped. Sometimes we are stereotyping ourselves.
Minus the occasional idiot who actually says “you can’t do that, you’re……” or racial profiling, sexism at work etc I know that is a reality, that’s a whole other ball game.
I love spending time with both girls and guys. I don’t mind, they could be a donkey, so long as they share similar interests and values.
Though, quite often I find myself the only girl in outdoor activities.
Even in my new job as a paddle board reviewer at SUPBoardGuide, I notice there are more men reviewing boards than women.
Aside from one small moment overseas, the men I have spent my time outdoors with go above and beyond to make me feel like a valued part of the team. When it comes to dangerous sports, honesty keeps things safe. So I always feel confident calling my boundaries.
Until one situation…
A day of canyoning with a group of guys. We were doing the waterfalls more or less blind. With no track notes to go off and just the word of a couple of guys who had done it the week before. We were a mixed group of being experienced to a few of us having never canyoned before but being efficient abseilers and climbers.
We got to the last waterfall and decided we didn’t have enough rope. So we started our way back up the ridge line. Fast forward to 3am the following morning and we are out, bit bruised and torn, very cold and mentally shaken.
In that time we were all pushed to our physical and mental limits. It was so cold that at one point a fire had to be built and one of the guys who wasn’t coping was wrapped in a space blanket.
I had no feeling in my right foot for almost a month and I lost all my toenails.
But the biggest challenge for me was knowing my place in the team.
I wanted to be nurturing, to help keep spirits high. I wanted to take care of everyone, sort of like a mother role. But then, I was scared, I wasn’t the most experienced of the group and I knew I needed to step back. Suddenly, weirdly, I was stuck in how to act and it was making me anxious. It was making me uneasy.
I started having moments of ego. And I’m the first to preach about ego in high-stress situations. You just don’t. You don’t let it exist. It’s what gets people injured.
I felt sudden stabs of pride if I was asked if I was okay. What, just because I’m a girl I wouldn’t be okay? Is that it?
Then I realized I’m stereotyping myself because I’m feeling insecure in my role as the minority. These guys have literally not changed their behavior from this morning. That same morning where I felt equal, was taking an equal risk and sharing equal loads. The only difference was that I wasn’t sure of myself now.
I learned a huge lesson from all of this. It’s so rarely about your gender in outdoor adventure. It’s your capability. And I don’t mean how strong you are or how experienced you are. It’s how you handle yourself mentally. A balance of confidence and knowing your limits. Knowing how to take control if you believe you’d be the best leader but ensuring everyone feels safe you doing so.
Being a good leader has nothing to do with gender.
When you aren’t the leader it’s about being okay to listen to the leader. Again, not because of their gender but because you trust them. If you find you don’t trust them, there’s a good chance it’s their mentality not what’s between their legs.
If you go in as a girl trying to prove something, people don’t want to trust you. Period. Not because you’re a girl but because you’re being a twat. And because you are already trying to prove something, the moment someone shuts you down, you’ll make about it about gender.
I believe one of the big reasons why we tend to feel men lead in the outdoors is because they make people feel safe quicker. They are the majority so naturally, it’s easier for them to feel more confident in that role of a leader quicker than a woman. And then it’s natural others feel safer in their presence because of that confidence.
We should be able to forgive doubts about us because it’s so entirely normal to think men are better outdoors. It’s what’s been known for so long. It’s the same as women trusting other women to cut their hair more. It’s all about trust and the power of leadership. Not about gender.
An interesting observation is to watch the difference in how you feel if a man and woman was to say the same thing, like… Climbing mountains is for men.
They are saying the same thing. Stating the same thing. But one of them you feel empathy towards. They both have this idea from the same place. Outside influence. So why aren’t we treating them the same way?
I’m still stuck somewhere between taking care of everyone but wanting the guys to take the heavier packs. Being miss independent but loving being taken care of. Maybe that’s why I’m still single….