Guest Post: Squashing Helpless and Hardcore, and Overcoming Insecurity as a Newbie

Guest post author Trisha Cloutier.
Outdoor Women's Alliance (OWA) is an entirely volunteer-run nonprofit media and adventure collective promoting leadership and confidence for women through human-powered outdoor experiences. 

Since 2007, the organization has grown from one girl with a vision to 30 dedicated volunteers supporting 230,000 people worldwide.

Trisha Cloutier is the New England Team Leader for OWA, and today, she's sharing her experiences around learning, personal growth, and how OWA helped her understand the importance and value of women helping teach each other.

Have you ever wanted to try a new outdoor activity, but then felt stunted by the fear of being a newbie? Nobody wants to feel like a beginner or fail at something. It can be a stressful and vulnerable position to put yourself in, and can completely deter some people from ever trying.

Through my experiences as an outdoor adventurer, I have found myself in this position countless times. I have also found, as a woman in the male-ruled world of adventure sports, that when I do put myself out there to try new things in coed situations, it’s easy for me to fall into one of two roles that typically aren’t natural to who I am: the “damsel in distress” or the “hardcore girl.”

Neither one of these roles are conducive to learning or progressing with skills. The “damsel in distress” stands on the sidelines and lets people help her with things she is capable of doing on her own. The “hardcore girl” feels she needs to prove she can hang with the guys, so she’ll push too far beyond her comfort zone to keep from looking helpless, sometimes putting herself in unsafe situations to accomplish this.

PC: Outdoor Women's Alliance.
I have fallen into both roles at some point, but I noticed that it doesn’t just happen to me. I’ve seen women switch into these roles at the crag, on the slopes — wherever they are participating in groups outdoors. With this realization, I started taking action against slipping into these roles.

I decided to take my skills progression into my own hands, searching out guided trips, clinics, and the like. But I was growing frustrated with the lack of female guides and had a hard time finding women to adventure with.

It was around this time that I discovered OWA. In this organization, I found a community of women working to make a safe space for women — of all skill levels — in the outdoor world.

PC: Outdoor Women's Alliance
Not only did I find a place where women can engage in outdoor sports together in a safe and supportive space, I am seeing the real value of women teaching and learning from one another. Those programmed and subconscious roles we create for ourselves among male-dominated groups, such as the “damsel in distress” or the “hardcore girl,” are eliminated by being in a group of all women. And when those roles are no longer part of the equation, we break down walls and engage with each other, the activity, and the present moment as ourselves, purely.

Participating in outdoor adventure activities with other women is not just for newcomers. When the pressure and stigma of being a woman is washed away, we are free to feel empowered to share our talents and knowledge. There is a natural progression into leadership within these groups. There are no “glass ceilings” among women in the outdoors and we can teach, learn, and exchange skills with fluidity.

OWA opened that door for me.

PC: Outdoor Women's Alliance.
These teaching moments help women gain more confidence in their activity of choice and help to inspire more leadership in the outdoor world. With this momentum, and with the growing interest in organizations like OWA, hopefully, we’ll reach a time when there will be no shortage of women leaders in the outdoors. Then we can squash those old, worn-out female roles once and for all.

Huge thanks to Trisha for sharing her story and her perspective! If you’ve discovered empowerment through the outdoors as a woman, or have seen its benefits first hand and believe more women should have access, OWA has a way to help you be part of this movement. 

Their regional teams currently serve over 8,000 members through clinics, events, and backcountry outings, but many within their larger community of 230,000 worldwide  fall outside team regions. They receive regular requests to expand into new areas and want to offer the benefits to all.

To answer this need, OWA is creating an online program that women can use to connect, grow skills, and build in-person communities right where they are with all the same benefits of our regional teams — worldwide. To find out more and to join the effort with your donation, click here.