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ABOUT A YEAR AGO, I got an un­ex­pect­edly pow­er­ful con­fi­dence boost while on an alpine hik­ing trip. I don’t know what I was think­ing go­ing on a five-day “detox­i­fi­ca­tion” moun­tain re­treat—I typ­i­cally re­sist be­ing in na­ture for lengthy stretches of time and avoid any form of con­tact with khaki pants that un­zip into shorts.

The B.C. lo­ca­tion was beau­ti­ful, but the sched­ule was bru­tal: Up at 5:30 a.m. Yoga at 6. Af­ter lunch, a tough four- to five-hour hike. At 8 p.m., a spin class. Wi-Fi was shut down at bed­time, and food, though de­li­cious, was lim­ited to a measly 900 calo­ries a day. I was rav­en­ous and ir­ri­ta­ble among a group of ex­cited health fa­nat­ics happy to drink herbal tea or a caf­feine-free cof­fee sub­sti­tute (made with hick­ory) that did not taste any­thing like cof­fee. “But it smells like it!” said a sprightly woman be­side me at break­fast. Ev­ery night, I lis­tened to my stom­ach rum­ble and dreamed of hitch­hik­ing back to the com­fort of the city lights.

The last day was the hard­est: a long hike, all up­hill. I de­ject­edly wrapped my blis­tered feet and packed my snack of two small plums and an ounce of cheese. At the rest stop a third of the way up, I paused and set down my 30-pound back­pack, sweat drip­ping into my eyes and my legs shaky from the strain. “I quit,” I said to my hick­ory-drink­ing hik­ing mate who was do­ing lunges be­side me to stay warmed up. “I can’t get up this hill. It’s im­pos­si­ble. I swear on Star­bucks, I just can’t do it.” But when our guide started us up again and en­cour­aged me to try to go far­ther, I did. And some­how I kept climb­ing even though I wanted to cry. When we reached the sum­mit, the pic­turesque scene—a tran­quil sap­phire­hued alpine lake sur­rounded by tow­er­ing hem­lock and cedar trees—was stun­ning. So, too, was the recog­ni­tion that I had made it through one of the hard­est phys­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ences of my life. As I swat­ted away a swarm of thirsty mos­qui­toes, I re­al­ized that I was strong­er than I thought. If I could do this im­pos­si­bly hard thing, I could do any­thing. A year later, that be­lief is still there. No mat­ter what chal­lenge is in front of me, I think “Girl, you hiked over bear drop­pings car­ry­ing a back­pack that wasn’t even Chanel. You got this.”

And that brings me to this month’s theme: “Love your­self.” Self-love (the be­lief that you are valu­able and wor­thy) and self-con­fi­dence (the be­lief that you can han­dle any test and rely on your­self) are in­ex­tric­ably linked. So many of the in­cred­i­ble women we spoke to for “Vote of Con­fi­dence” (page 40) told us that their self-es­teem was driven by tak­ing risks or fac­ing their fears and the con­fi­dence that came af­ter­wards. I guar­an­tee that their ad­vice will help you feel more em­pow­ered—no hike in the moun­tains re­quired.

Vanessa Craft Ed­i­tor-in-Chief Fol­low me on In­sta­gram and Twit­ter @vanes­sacraft. What do you want to see in the mag­a­zine? We want to know! Tell us at ed­i­tors@ELLECanada.com or #Tel­lELLECanada.

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