David's story: tackling a fear of failure
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David's story: tackling a fear of failure

Like a lot of young people, 16 year old David found lockdown made him feel more alone than he ever had. His anxiety increased and he couldn’t see a way to ask for help. By his own admission he gave up with online learning as “I didn’t really see the point, because it was just never ending, I just felt like I couldn’t deal with it.”

Loss of time in school didn’t just affect young people’s educational attainment. At a vital time in a teenager’s life, having nearly all personal interaction with friends, peers and influential adults removed, meant opportunities to build relationships, social identity and a sense of belonging were stripped away. David found he was comparing himself to other people, perceiving that they were doing OK and so believing he was the only one who wasn't coping.

David booked to come to Outward Bound in the summer of 2021. The two years of his GCSEs had been disrupted by the pandemic and he was facing the transition from school to A Level college.

Facing new challenges
520x520 Loch Eil scramble

David had never been to Outward Bound before. He’d never tried rock climbing, canoeing and high challenge activities and to begin with, he couldn’t get over his fear of doing new things.

“I was really fearful that I would have been left, left to figure it out for myself. It was the opposite, if I couldn’t do something, there was always the opportunity to stop and re-group. It was the people around me, cheering me on, telling me that I can do it and eventually I believed them.”

At Outward Bound we define wellbeing as feeling good and functioning well.

Feeling good day to day and knowing life is going well are both needed for an individual to have high wellbeing and to flourish. As his time on the course progressed, David began to realise that the fear of failure he felt was his head and this was holding him back. Outward Bound focuses on ‘challenge by choice’ – no young person is forced to do anything they don’t want to do. For many, realising they have a support network around them gives them the confidence to face their fear of failure. David tells us "once I got to know the people that I was with, once I found that connection and stuff, you know they will look out for you if you struggle to do something, and if they struggle to do something they know that I would do the same."

When reflecting on what he had learnt on the hills, lochs and with his group at Outward Bound, David realised this was directly transferable to helping him tackle his anxiety and wellbeing challenges.

I learnt I can do more than I ever imagined. At the end of the course I sort of grew into it and it was amazing to be there and do things I thought I could never do.
A new mindset at home and school

Pre-Outward Bound, asking for help felt like a sign of weakness. “Before, I didn’t communicate, and my mum would always be asking me how my day was and I’d say ‘it was fine’ and it wasn’t really fine, but now, I can say what was wrong with my day, I can say more about what’s happening in my life. It kind of gives me a sense of relief, whenever I do it, it’s like a weight has been lifted off my chest, it kind of gives me a sense of joy when I do it. And it’s not just with my Mum, it's with my whole family. We’re more open with each other and we can talk about things that we avoided in the past.”

David credits his Outward Bound experience with changing his mindset. He gives this example about how he’d approach online learning now. “If I had to do it again, I would contact the school saying that I'd been struggling doing the work because of the situation and I would have just that one to one help online or something. If I got stuck I could ask for help, if I felt that I couldn’t do it I feel that I could give it another go.”

Three ways to improve wellbeing

There are three key ways that Outward Bound courses support wellbeing in young people.

  1. Building connections and relationships with others
  2. Tackling fear of failure and being able to respond to change
  3. Building confidence, capability and purpose

In our report on wellbeing, we look more closely at these three factors and how our courses support young people to feel good and function well. Download it here.

Download our wellbeing report

Our impact report explains how learning and adventure in the wild can improve young people's personal and social wellbeing.

Wellbeing: Tori's story

Tori was 14 when lockdown struck. She found it really hard to maintain relationships with her peers and as a result her anxiety and wellbeing suffered.