It’s normal to feel scared. Our fear protects us from danger. Sometimes, though, it isn’t the most useful emotion, because it can become too intense and stop you from doing things that you will enjoy and benefit from. Emily Pitts, Womenclimb founder, talks about her experience at the first women’s club she ever went to. She talks about how you might overcome your fear of taking part.
Hello. Have you ever had that feeling where you are so desperate to go and do something, but your stomach and body just won’t let you do it? Your mind races, your stomach churns and you feel like you could burst into tears at any time. The lump in your throat gets bigger and bigger, your mouth becomes so dry you can’t speak. If you feel any of these things when you think about going into a climbing centre on your own, or going to a climbing club, then you are part of a big group of people, men and women, whose fear controls them, in certain situations.
The unknown of a women’s club
Going into any new group of people can feel really intimidating and, for the guys who are reading this just because it’s a club full of people of the same sex, it doesn’t always make a difference. In every day life people judge us based on what we look like, what we wear, how we sound – we all do it – I do it. In reality some of us make a big effort to overcome our hidden bias, because when you do that, you meet all sorts of new people and you make friends who you would never have done if you’d kept your mind closed. Owning up to that bias and being really honest with myself has been hard. It’s a work in progress that I don’t need to feel shame about, but I do want to own up to and work on.
When I first started going climbing I went with my girlfriend and a friend. After a week, they had a massive argument and they haven’t spoken since. I was left with the option of either never climbing again or joining the women’s club. That first step was hard for me. I was a single parent, with a girlfriend (that really confuses people!) and I was a complete newbie. Everyone would deal with that situation differently. My response… talk way too much from the start and be really loud, speaking to everyone and generally being a bit over the top. We all know those sorts of people and, even though I recognise that in myself, I still do this, from time to time, when I’m nervous or feel not confident. That type of person (me!!), isn’t always fun to be around, but what was so lovely and I am still touched by, is the women who accepted me in that state and who were nice to me. Not everyone liked me; some people found me just too much and I accept that – not everyone will like me or want to spend time in my company. That’s ok, because there are always people who like me and want to be my friend.
It wasn’t instant. I had to keep making myself go to the club at the start. I loved climbing, but my insecurities and the oversized and overly vocal chimp in my brain would tell me warped things about myself that weren’t based in reality. At that point it would have been so easy to give up. I’m so glad I carried on, because it has truly changed my life.
What I realised by a) forcing myself to go, b) talking to everybody & asking them loads of questions and c) being really open minded and kind about people who I really wasn’t sure about, is that I like people who aren’t like me, as well as people who are like me. In my first six months I met four wonderful women who are all in my life still now. One of those people is my lifelong friend Emma. We are really close and she has helped me to do things I would never have done if I hadn’t met her. Last year we did a crazy thing and roller skated across the Netherlands together. Out of the 30 women or so that I met during my time at women’s club (I’m currently injured, so don’t go!!) one of those women is probably going to be with me in my life for a very long time. To me that is really magical.
I started this post thinking I was going to write a list of tips and ideas, but actually it’s really simple. Go and do that thing. Put your foot through the door. When you feel low in confidence, remember this article, remember those agonising times when I talked too much to cover up my fear, and find your own way of overcoming your fear to make the most of the opportunity that a women’s club can offer.
Please, let me know below your experience of women’s clubs and what it’s done for you.