Last week I was on holiday in the French alps learning to snowboard. Now, snowboarding was something that I had resisted for a while. My other half is mad keen on snowboarding, I mean, totally obsessed, but I’d been massively put off by my experience a few years ago when I first tried to learn to ski.
Back then, anxiety had gotten the better of me. On the slopes, I was constantly tense, fearful of the mountain and terrified I’d injure myself. I hated the ski lifts, despised the steepness of the slopes and couldn’t wait for the holiday to end. All in all an unpleasant experience!
However, I’ve changed a lot since then and I knew that if I ever wanted to have holidays with my boyfriend again, I would need to return to the mountains…
On this holiday I noticed several things which seemed to me like metaphors for life, especially for the anxious amongst us.
If you ask anyone who has learned to snowboard they will often tell you that the first week (or two or three!) can be pretty demoralising. You basically spend a lot of time falling on your bum, pulling yourself back up and then repeating.
In some ways, this is a good exercise in learning that failure isn’t actually that bad. You just get up and try again. But mostly, it pretty much sucked!
I started off on the baby slopes, feeling pretty calm and confident.
But by day 4 we’d progressed to the slightly steeper ‘blue’ slopes. The instructor kept telling me one thing; ‘lean in’. Now, when you’re facing down a hill of hard, slippery snow, leaning in feels like a totally counter intuitive thing to do. Why would I want to lean down a slippery hill?! It didn’t feel safe. I sensed some of my old anxious and fearful feelings creeping in.
The thing with snowboarding is that when we ‘lean in’ down the hill we actually have more control over the board, not less. Doing this decreases the chance that you’re going to fall over, and increases the change that you’ll make a successful turn.
One thing I’ve learned about women with anxiety is that we have a problem ‘leaning in’ to things in our lives. Whether it’s speaking up, taking risks or putting ourselves out there with people, or at work, ‘leaning in’ can feel risky and unsafe. We fear uncertainty or losing control.
Leaning in to life, taking on challenges, pushing ourselves a little out of our comfort zones and taking a few ‘risks’ can all have a positive impact. As a result, we’re more in control of our lives and our happiness, and we increase our confidence and self belief in the process.
At first I found it hard to ‘lean in’ down the hill and I fell over a lot as a result. But I soon learnt that it was ok to ‘lean in’. I trusted myself and knew that even if I did fall over, I could just get back up again.
And that’s exactly the same with life. Even if things don’t go exactly to plan, failure is never final. We can take what we’ve learned and try again.
It felt brilliant to finally conquer the ‘blue’ slope, the one that only a few years ago had had me in tears, sliding down on my bum!
I wonder, how can you ‘lean in’ more to your life? Could you say yes to something you’d previously been reluctant or fearful to do? Could you put yourself out there in some way? Make a request for something that you want? Do something you’ve been putting off? Reach out to somebody?
Trust yourself to lean in to life, you can cope with it.
Now, I’d love to know in the comments section, about one specific situation that you’ve ‘leaned in’ to, or one that you intend to lean in to.
Have you overcome a fear? Put yourself out there in some way when you were scared to? What situations or experiences could ‘leaning in’ help you with?