This is a question that I’ve encountered with some variation in my circle of girlfriends or from the young girls that I teach and mentor. Just the other day I was with one of my favorite 11 year old girls doing some bouldering. Typically she’s very confident but today there were boys on the rock. Now regardless of whether we’re eleven or 30, there may always be some part of us that feels self-conscious around boys and men for a variety of reasons. In the eleven-year-old’s case, she was nervous about them watching her and potentially making fun of her if she fell. For many women, they’re self-conscious of their bodies or outdoor abilities in general. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to become more sure of yourself around the male outdoor species.
1. Don’t Try to Be “Just One of the Guys”
Guess what? You’re not a guy. You’re a girl and damn proud of it. As such, you have unique abilities and traits that you can bring to any outdoor situation. Many of my male friends have thanked me for being the voice of reason when they’ve found themselves in a sketchy outdoor scenarios. While their male friends would have pushed them forward into danger, urging them to “Man Up”, the care taker in me suggested that they turn back, think twice, or try a different route to survive unscathed.
Other male friends have complimented me on my footwork and natural balance when I rock-climb. Often times, women are more agile and flexible, enabling them to pull off technical moves that may be difficult for their male counterparts.
Finally, don’t get discouraged if you can’t outperform the men. Many boys will be faster and stronger than you. This is a biological reality for many women. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t participate simply because you perform at a different level. Keep in mind that ability is in the eye of the beholder and, though you may encounter men with more physical skill, you can still demonstrate your knowledge, lend your planning and organizational talents for outdoor adventures, and show off your caretaking skills when someone gets injured if you’re so inclined. The men will thank you for it.
2. Be One Smart Cookie
Men like women who are smart. Fact. That being said, if you can demonstrate your knowledge of the outdoors to men, chances are they’ll respect you regardless of whether or not you can keep up on your hike or carry a 100 pound pack. More importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions. The outdoorsy men that I know love nothing more than showing a cute girl how to tie knots, clean gear, or navigate a trail. Asking questions shows men that you’re inquisitive and you’re not a know-it-all, or worse, that you’re just bullshitting to seem like you know what you’re doing when you don’t.
3. Make Friends with the “Enemy”
On the playground, the boys may have been the enemy but in the outdoors they are most certainly your friends. They’re knowledgeable, brave, and strong. Don’t be afraid to make friends with them and go on outdoor adventures where you can play and learn together. Some of my very best friends are the men that I hike and climb with on a regular basis.
4. Recruit Your Girls
If you’re bummed about the ratio of men to women in the outdoors and you wanna see more ladies hiking, climbing, skiing, and backpacking then take the initiative and recruit your gals to get outside! Organize an all-girls camping trip. Start a weekly Ladies Night Out only, instead of drinks, go for a moonlit hike. Believe it or not, there are plenty of girls out there who are dying to go on some outdoor adventures, they just need the extra nudge.
Put these 4 tips into practice and you’re certain to feel more confident when you encounter the boys and men of the wild. After all, you’re a Woman of the Wild, so let them hear you ROAR!