We have recently started another cycle of SisuGirlsClimb and when watching a new batch of 5 to 8 year old girls take to the climbing wall it really got me thinking. Where does fear come from? The reason I ask is because one of the new girls, a total climbing newbie, who had never seen a climbing wall, or met any of the girls in the group before stepped into her harness in silence, glanced with apprehension at the coach and scaled the wall with such confidence and ability that it was hard to imagine she hadn't done it before. But then it struck me, why should she be afraid? What does she have to be afraid of? Are we born with fears or do we create them?
The interesting fact is, we are actually only born with two fears, a fear of falling and a fear of loud noises, these are two survival mechanisms we have passed from generation to generation, but this 5 year old clearly wasn't scared of falling, as she scaled the wall with such ease, and even managed the descent with the same confidence, a typical stumbling point for most new climbers. When she came down I asked her, "how did it feel up there, you were so high" and she said "when I look down I feel high, but I am so happy". No mention of fear, of being scared, or frightened. Do we put these words into the mouths of our girls? Are we helping them develop these fears?
Research shows that any fears you experience have been acquired throughout your life and are often caused by certain events and situations that have marked your mind and emotions in a way that make you feel scared. Are adults creating children's fears?
I personally believe it is important to have a certain level of fear, to be scared a little, as this fear develops our ability to use caution and to be aware of potential danger and risk. Therefore, it is important that we talk about being scared or frightened and the risks associated with certain activities with girls because it is important for them to recognise these fears and have the tools to respond accordingly. However it is a fine line - we want girls to develop caution and awareness, but we don't want to let these fears hold them back.
I believe it is very important for girls to have the ability to express their fears and for those fears to be heard and responded to appropriately. What happens if you expresses a fear and it is ignored? Surely that creates an even greater fear and a lack of trust?
We see a very fine line at SisuGirls between encouraging girls to overcome their fears, but to also be given the opportunity to express their fear and have that fear worked on, slowly, in a safe and trusting environment. We encourage the girls to say, "I don't feel safe, or happy, and I want to come down" and rather than coax them on and force them through their own no, we emphasis the fact that they have been heard and that they have made their choice and we all stick with it - with confidence.
It is certainly something to think about, that fine line between creating caution and creating a fear.