“Words of welcome and encouragement” by Michele Zehr

Hi everyone!

This is Michele, the Head Dame of the Central Virginia Chapter of Trail Dames. I wanted to send out a note to the 302 members of our meet-up group, as I know I’ve not met most of you. After leading hikes for women for several years now, I’ve noticed a theme in the conversations we have on almost every hike. When women come to a hike for the very first time, they are often really scared and feel a lot of self-doubt, because they don’t know if they can “keep up” with the group or if the hike is going to be too difficult. So let me offer some empowering words of encouragement around this very real fear that so many women share.

First, it’s ok that you’re afraid. In the beginning, I was too, and then a few years later I found myself hiking 2,200 miles on the Appalachian Trail! I know for me, the fears came up as snapshots in my mind, like seeing myself holding up the group or being the only one that was sweating and breathing hard when hiking up a hill (or seeing myself not being able to even get to the top!). I feared that the other people in the group would get frustrated or impatient with me because I was slow and out of shape (you know those “looks” people can give). I didn’t feel like I needed to voluntarily go into situations where I was being judged like this, because frankly, our culture does a pretty good job of that all on its own.

So here is what makes Trail Dames radically different than any other hiking group you’ll probably ever hike with in your life. You all, the women who courageously show up even though you’re anxious and afraid…YOU all are “the point” of this group. It’s not about hiking fast, getting to the goal, hiking 20 miles, or being competitive. There’s no need to apologize if you’re out of breath, because more than likely we’ll all be out of breath right along with you! In fact, there’s no need to apologize for anything, as you’re perfect just as you are. So if you have ever RSVP’d YES to one of our hikes and then at the last minute felt so afraid that you decided not to come, I want you to know we understand.

I also want you to know that women, in general, never give themselves enough credit for just how amazingly powerful they are. I know this because I started a business specifically focused on women’s empowerment, and I see women surprise themselves all the time. So consider coming out and trying a hike with us, because there is no judging and no rushing. We take breaks when we need to, we help one another, and we laugh a lot. You deserve to be able to enjoy nature just as much as anyone else, and you deserve to feel safe and supported. This is what we can offer. Peace to all of you women of awesomeness!!

Michele Zehr, Head Dame of the Central Virginia Chapter of Trail Dames
www.traildames.com

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