You’re lucky enough to be different, never change. – Taylor Swift
I just want to be allowed to be me. Why is that so hard to accept?
I have individual needs, wants, thought and feelings. That doesn’t make me less or more than you, just a little bit different to you.
Think how boring it would be if we were all the same!
So why am I made to feel bad about it?
As You Are
I recently returned from snowboarding in the French mountains. Even though I have been snowboarding for the past six years, I have only ever been away with people who ski, until now.
I had never realised just how much skiers whinge and bitch and fuss about me being a snowboarder, and how I have constantly been made to feel as if I was holding everyone up or letting them down, just because I was doing something different.
It took me choosing to make a change to see the difference.
When you finally accept you want or need something different, you can stop trying to fit into a mould and you find people who are right for you and who enjoy being with you just as you are.
This Is Not Me
I used to pretend to be a skier.
I first learned to ski when I was eleven and then, on and off until I was 28, I kept trying to be a skier.
It always felt a bit awkward, uncomfortable and was never natural to me.
When skiing with other skiers, I always felt anxious; as if I was being rushed and criticised at the same time.
I’ve generally found that most skiers like to go down the mountain fast; not all, but most of the ones I’ve met. They like speed, steepness, ice and bumps on the piste (moguls).
They are always out to prove themselves, to do more and overcome bigger challenges. Often liking to think fast on their feet and making snap decisions.
It’s a competition.
They don’t want to slow down, wait around or waste time; they want to achieve as much as possible in the shortest time possible, as though they are out to consume the mountain.
Great for them, but this is not me…
I used to think believe this was what I had to be like – since this is exactly how I would describe most of the people I was surrounded by while growing up, and chose to surround myself with in my life (on and off the mountain) for a long time.
Trying to be something that wasn’t right for me constantly made me feel that I didn’t quite fit. I wasn’t good enough; and if I didn’t learn to hurry up I would miss out: there wouldn’t be anything left, because no one was going to wait around for me (or if they had to, they’d get annoyed) – I felt like I was a nuisance.
The truth is that I didn’t fit in!
Appreciating the Ride
After a riding accident I was forced to change from skiing to snowboarding if I wanted to keep playing on the mountains, but the moment I got on the board it felt totally right and a perfect fit – although I still had to learn and improve my skills.
Snowboarding is more about playing and having fun, fully committed to the experience.
Snowboarders take their time, go at their own pace and are happy for others to go at theirs.
The thicker, fresher, fluffier and more unspoilt the snow, the better.
You often see them chilling out for a moment on the side of the slope, enjoying the view, chatting about the air they just grabbed and how they tried something and messed it up and ended up covered in snow, laughing about it.
Going snowboarding with other snowboarders was like being at a really good party; everyone’s sociable, very friendly, getting drunk on adrenaline and having a good time. One person tries something silly, often encouraged by everyone else, and then everyone else has to have a go.
Snowboarding is about appreciating the ride.
Some people like to play around, doing jumps or going to explore untouched snow, while others like to just cruise the mountain – and that’s OK.
Now don’t get me wrong when I say it’s about having fun, that doesn’t mean that snowboarders are just chilled out slackers …
Don’t Think So Much
On the last day of my trip I ended up with a big group with people I had met during the holiday, all snowboarders who were working the season. As we headed down the mountain, I was in awe, watching them bouncing off the sides like bunnies flying through the air, doing twists, grabs and jumps off the sides of the piste. No one was cruising.
I felt both part of the group and allowed to do my own thing as I watched them do theirs.
However, unlike my experiences with skiers, I was totally inspired. I could see what and how they were doing things and as we paused for a moment here and there we’d chat about it. So when I followed them down I found myself becoming bolder and trying smaller versions of their tricks and techniques. They looked as if they were having so much fun that I wanted to have a go!
I felt confident enough to try because I was supported and encouraged by the group.
Words of wisdom offered to me by a snowboarder: “Don’t think so much: just get into your body; feel and trust that your body will work out how to do it.”
Come and Find Me
By the end of my holiday, both my boarding and my self-confidence had soared. I had learned by having fun, inspired and encouraged by people who understood how I felt and saw the world like I did. It was AWESOME!
It was a far cry from being criticised, bullied, nagged, told to hurry up, judged and penalised for making mistakes – all techniques I had experienced skiing, in school, growing up, and while training as a three-day event rider. They are all methods of control, not support.
The message was always, “Don’t feel, or show your feelings; they don’t matter, just do as you’re told.”
The result of those methods was that I grew less and less confident in myself and more and more terrified of getting it wrong. And, for a while in my life, like visiting the mountains, I gave up trying altogether, because nothing was fun anymore.
On my recent holiday, though, when I finally allowed myself to be me and feel my way through things (and chose to play with the right people), I felt brave enough to have a go at new things, make mistakes and laugh about them. I felt supported enough to pick myself up and try again, getting a little better and more confident each time.
People are unique, and we want different things.
This may sound like an obvious statement, but it’s amazing how easily we can all forget.
If you’re happy with approaching life, or the mountains, as a skier and that works for you , then great! Keep racing, striving, and enjoying the wind on your face. We may get to meet for a moment at the lifts and you can tell me all about it; just don’t tell me I’m wrong and try to cut me up!
Naturally, I am a snowboarder of the mountain of life, and finally I can accept it, so I have bought my own board.
I like the flow of the ride, not the race. I enjoy getting in the zone as I weave my way, taking my time and admiring the scenery. When things are going well and my confidence is high and I go faster. That’s fun too. I am just as capable of achieving a lot if it’s what I really want.
Above all, though, I am here to enjoy myself with those who think it’s cool to be different. I am supported by people who will laugh with me, not at me; who will help brush me down when I face-plant in a pile of snow and who will want to celebrate with me when I get it right.
If that’s who you are, too, come and find me!