Guide: How To Let Go Of Self-Doubt

From one of the biggest self-doubters out there

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about how, as a woman, but mostly as a human, to love unconditionally. How do I love myself unconditionally? How do I love my partner and my family without hesitation? How do I love the earth and the world around us? I regret to inform you I have not found the answers - sorry to let you down so quickly. But I think I have figured out where to begin to reduce self doubt and love myself, and that's by using the lessons I have learned in the outdoors. 

Ever since I can remember, I've felt 'big' next to other women. Not skinny enough EVER, not pretty enough, didn't have the right clothes, couldn't figure out the whole make-up thing, etc. Whether it be societal pressures or my own consistent pressure, I never felt up to snuff. We've heard this a million times before, right? Young women go through this all the time. But when does that end? I wanted to write about this here, with an outdoor community, because I think that the outdoors are the key to unlocking a lot of this uncertainty and to fueling our inner growth.

And this isn't to say that women are the only victims of societal norms. I don't know if this really happens to men in the same way. I've polled some close friends and my boyfriend and if it does, perhaps just differently. I'm sure men also feel a pressure to be masculine, to be muscular and to bottle up emotions and not be expressive. 

Either way, here's the deal. I've tried to put together 5 tips on how to let go of our self doubt and using your experiences outside to get there. Here they are:

1. Check Out Them Bods

You know what's awesome? The human freakin' body. Have you seen the kind of stuff humans can do? Whenever I'm feeling down about my body or my abilities, I try to watch a video or read an article on how incredible human beings truly are. Just this past weekend, a climber (Alex Honnold), climbed more than 3,000 vertical feet on a rock face in Yosemite WITHOUT A ROPE. That's not just physical strength, but mental as well. Tibetans live at over 14,000 feet and their communities and people have literally evolved to have broader capillaries and arteries and do not have altitude sickness like many of us that come in and try to conquer big mountains. And just think about all of the incredible stories or survival and rescue. So when you're thinking, 'wow, I don't like what I'm seeing today in the mirror,' try to be thankful for all your body can do for you and all we are capable of.

2. Safety In Numbers

Say it with me now, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Everyone goes through a period of their life like this. It's natural, unless you're Donald Trump, to question yourself and doubt. There are always going to be factors of going outside that are a bit out of your comfort or ability zone and that's okay. It doesn't mean that you're not as strong of an athlete or don't care as much as the pros. It's just about getting out there. Take solace in knowing that you're not the only one that is feeling this way. 

3. Use The Struggle

There's a quote by Rupi Kaur that goes like this "Your body is a museum of natural disasters, can you grasp how stunning that is?" I keep coming back to this quote. We are messy, twisted, complex beings with all kinds of back stories and constant, persistent issues. This is what can make us great. I use my insecurities outdoors and play a fun little game with my brain - how can I basically prove myself wrong all the time when I'm playing outdoors? My brain says I can't do this climb - so I'm going to force my body to move through it. My brain says I can't run this trail because it's hard and steep - my legs are gonna start pumping hard. Use. The. Struggle.

4. Know Your Strengths and Motivations

Sit down, make a list of the things that you're good at. Make another list of why you love doing the things you do. Its good to reset, feel confident in your abilities and see where you feel a little more doubtful. Use those doubt-gaps as goals moving forward and inch by inch you'll feel a bit more confident in those areas, and a bit more confident outdoors overall.

5. Own It, Baby!

You know yourself better than anyone. You should be very aware of your thoughts and how you process emotions and feelings. A lot of getting past self-doubt is accepting the feelings you have, and being present with them (maybe even write them down). Self-doubt is not a great thing to have but it is still YOUR feeling so cut yourself some slack and don't put even more pressure on yourself. According to a lot of psychological research, emotional acceptance leads to longer term happiness. Own the processing and the thoughts, take it in. 

We all love going outdoors, letting nature refresh and replenish our bodies and our minds. But I've found it vital, in order to truly enjoy my time in the wilderness, to first help ourselves refresh and replenish. I have not by any means, figured this out. But I think I'm on the right path. 

Finally, I saw this posted on some social media site (can't remember which) the other day and thought it was relevant: "It’s a beautiful thing to have lungs that allow you to breathe air and legs that allow you to climb mountains, and it’s a shame that sometimes we don’t realize that that’s enough."

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Emily Holland

Born and raised in Upstate New York, currently living in the Greater Boston Area. Lover of pups, mountains, climbing, hiking, trail running, road running, lake life, etc.