I can’t tell you how much I hate admitting this (just ask my husband!) - but I think I was wrong…
See, I’ve always encouraged women to act with more confidence, more courage and more bravery. Because either it’s lacking in some way - or we aren’t tapping into it - if we, as women, are struggling to find the confidence to move past our fear of judgement or to recognise the (fear) stories we tell ourselves. If we’re doing what we think we should rather than what we want or if we’re focusing on our fears more than our dreams.
But maybe, just maybe, I was wrong.
A few months ago we were away for the weekend with a group of friends including a 4 year old girl. And as I watched her climb the boulders and trees (or at least try to) with the boys, fall over in the dirt, stand up, dust herself off and keep chasing, I began to wonder.
When did we lose that part of ourselves?
The part that was (seemingly) fearless when confronted with high trees and big rocks. Who just wiped the dust from her hands and got on with the task at hand - rather than cringing with embarrassment, pretending we didn’t fall, that it didn’t hurt or that we are FINE.
Of course, as we grow older we learn that falling hurts, playing in the dirt results in more washing and that “growing up” brings more responsibility and pressure than that little girl can ever imagine.
But where does all that bravery, guts, attitude and spunk go as we get older?
I’ve always encouraged you to tap into your reserves of inner strength as I know you are much stronger than you think you are. But there has been a niggling doubt in the back of my mind in the last few months as I talk to more women in the SpartaChicks community about this idea of needing MORE confidence. How much more? And how much more is “enough”? Do you know when you have "enough"? I doubt it.
But after watching that 4 year old girl and the recent achievements of some of the #SpartaChicks, I’ve come to realise that we don't lose the spunk or the attitude; we've just been taught to soften the edges of our personality and so we eventually learn to hide it. It's not lost; it's just hidden away from public view in the shed out the back, gathering dust with all the other accumulated “stuff” from our past we no longer use?
It’s no wonder we’ve learnt to hide it after….
All the times we’re told that girls don’t sit, stand, walk, talk, act or dress like that.
All the times we’re told to be careful.
All the times we smile and bite our tongue rather than express our opinion for fear of “rocking the boat”.
All the times we’re told not to be so “bossy”.
All the times we’re told not to get too big for our boots (so we now dismiss or deflect a compliment rather than saying thank you).
All the times we were told as kids that children were to be seen and not heard.
All the times we were told that our behaviour wasn’t very ladylike.
All the times we smile (through gritted teeth) and say “great thanks” when in truth you’re doing everything you can not to cry.
All the times we were told that “ladies don’t swear” (Guess what? Yes, we fucking do!)
It’s no wonder we’ve learnt to hide all the bravado, confidence, bravery, guts, attitude and spunk we had as a 4 year old.
Perhaps this is why I see so many women who get to their 30s and into their 40s and suddenly realise they have lost a bit of themselves. Who have spent so long softening the edges of their personality, acting as the peacemaker, caring for other people and putting everyone else first that we don’t really know who we are or what we love anymore.
If this is true, then you (and I) don’t need more confidence, courage and bravery. We just need to find and tap into the existing supply we already have.
Actually there’s no “if” about it.
I know it’s there.
I’ve seen it - in your eyes and in your soul when you feel safe enough to let it out to play.
In the wickedly naughty and hysterically funny, open and honest private conversations we have with our closest girlfriends when no topic is off limits because we know we won’t be judged. When we say #fuckthisshit and do something to change the status quo (have an uncomfortable conversation or make a difficult decision), because you’ve had enough.
It see it in your creativity, inner strength, fiercely competitive nature, determination to stay on your feet and keep up with others - not because you think you “should” but because you back yourself to try (while knowing that if doesn’t work out, it’s ok).
And I see it in the way women positively thrive and come out of their shell when they discover endurance events. I'm convinced it’s because endurance events force you to to open the door to the shed, dust off the edges of your personality, dig out your determination, attitude, self-belief and spunk - and remind you who you are, what you love and just how strong you are.
So your challenge is to find a way to open the door and unleash it on the world? (Look out!)
How does it change the way you see yourself? How does that affect the way you see yourself, the decisions you make, the goals you set and the dreams you'll achieve knowing that you have a limitless source of inner strength, resilience, guts and determination waiting for you?
It might seem like an inconsequential difference - a philosophical argument - but I think it’s hugely important and allows you (and me) to think of our strength, courage and bravery from a different perspective. You have everything you need. All you have to do is open the door, dust it off and start using it.
And maybe, just maybe, it will be easier for you to take that step forward towards your next goal despite feeling sick to your stomach with nerves and doubt.
Because that spirited, spunky 4 years old girl knows it’s ok to fall as long as you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. She knows what she wants and, despite being scared, she’s not going to let anything stand in her way to get it.
She’s silently whispering to you, tugging at your soul and daring you forward.
You owe it to her to listen. Because you are her.