I had a fearless phase when I was little. I climbed huge rocks on the beach, I ran around on the top of Table Mountain with my dad, I played with my brother like I was one of the boys, I rode my bike every weekend – I don’t remember being scared of anything. And then I was told that I was girl.
I don’t know who or what made me think “Hey, I’m a girl and I can’t do that!” I do know that there was a massive turn around in my personality and, suddenly, I was scared. Riding my bike near a busy road suddenly terrified me, even though I wasn’t riding in the road and had ridden along that same path a million times before. Climbing rocks suddenly seemed so dangerous. I didn’t want to do anything anymore except stay inside and read my book. That would have been fine if not for one simple fact – I was only doing it because I was too scared to do anything else.
Over the years I have felt my fearlessness come back to me a little bit, although it is nowhere near as strong as when I was a child. I am learning to push through my fear and try new things, go to new places and eat new foods. Fear still overwhelms me sometimes but at least now, if I choose to stay home, it’s because I want to and not because the rest of the world feels too big for me.
I wonder what I would have been like if no one and nothing had told me that I was a girl and that I was therefore less capable. If I had never been told that girls couldn’t throw a ball or ran as fast as a boy. I’m sure that I would have become an unstoppable force as an adult. But I was told those things, whether it was by a specific person in my life or by the media or by the attitude of my classmates at school. I was taught to feel fear and I have to work every single day of my life to overcome it.
The world needs to stop telling children that they can’t do things and that they need to be realistic. So often I hear people say to their kids that they can’t have the career they dream of because how will they pay the bills? Asking them: do they know how few people succeed in that industry? The only thing that kind of talk can result in is a generation of unsatisfied and disappointed adults who gave up far too soon. Yes, there does come a day when everyone needs to be realistic – but that day should never, ever be in our childhood or even in our teenage years. We have our whole lives to be realistic. Children should be taught to be fearless dreamers and triers whilst they are young. Without fear and with a belief that they can do anything that anyone else can do, that they are more than good enough, who knows what they might be able to do.