I recently rode my bike to my parents’ house and, when I was ready to ride back home, I invited them to join me with their bikes for a small section of my ride home. My dad agreed and was ready to go in a heartbeat. My mom, however, refused to join us because this meant she had to ride her bike on the road (as opposed to on bike paths / in the woods), where there could be a little bit of traffic – not too much though, because it was a Saturday. In fact, she refused with such a force that there was no use in even trying to make her change her mind. So my dad and I hopped on our bikes and rode ahead, and my brother drove my mother and her bike to the meeting point with his car.
For the rest of my ride home, after having split from my parents who eventually went for a ride in the woods, I was thinking about how non-negotiable my mother’s decision to not ride her bike on the road had been. It had been fuelled by fear, that much I knew. She said she was afraid to ride her bike on a street with potentially high traffic, even if it was only for a very short segment of said street. Considering that the odds of this activity actually being a particularly dangerous one were very low and considering that my mom isn’t exactly new to riding her bike, I wondered why she was so vehemently against at least trying to ride on the road. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand what was going on there, given that I so often struggle with the exact same behaviour*. My mother, at some point in her life, was probably told by her parents that it’s not safe to ride a bike alongside traffic (or maybe even that she’s simply not capable to do so, such that she’d stay off the road and therefore safe) and she’s held on to that belief ever since. She’s now convinced that she can’t ride her bike on the road for some reason, probably because she thinks she’s not skilled enough and therefore refuses to even consider that she, just like many other cyclists, may be totally fine riding a bike on the road.
It’s funny how our (= my mom’s and mine) brain’s work – when it comes to an activity of which we believe that we can’t do it for one reason or another, we have absolutely no issue with standing our ground and say no in the most convincing of ways (spoiler alert: most of the time when that happens, we’re actually afraid!). However, when we’re called to express our preferences and needs, stand up for our values and principles or when it’s of utmost importance that we set a boundary, we let people walk all over us and stretch whatever we thought we believed in in whichever way necessary to make people like us still. People-pleasing versus boundary-setting – this is a tough one, my friends!
What I took away from this little experience (and so many others) is that if we don’t dare to question whether what we’ve believed for most of our existence is even true, we keep limiting ourselves without even realising that we may miss out. It’s true that curiosity and the will to question our beliefs aren’t going to magically change our lives, because wanting to question beliefs is one thing, actively challenging those beliefs and taking action to prove ourselves wrong is the actual and only remedy and let me tell you, it is haaaaaaard.
But I want you to know this:
We can do hard things.Glennon Doyle, Untamed
This goes for all of you and especially for you, Mom (I know you’re reading this).
* Not necessarily when it comes to riding my bike alongside traffic, even though it’s also not my favourite thing in the world (given that being hit by a car while riding a bike is an actual possibility and usually doesn’t turn out that well for cyclists).