Updated: Mar 23, 2019
You can't learn to tie a knot while being chased by a bear.
When I started dating my now husband, an avid rock climber by profession as well as by passion, I knew I was in a bit of trouble. Though I am not the kind of girl to totally alter my personality in order to accommodate a love interest, I do believe that shared interests bring people closer together. Like-minded people definitely tend to run in similar circles for a reason; sometimes romantic attachments are an exception though, as sadly we might believe that we have to become more like someone (or their ideals) on in order to be with them. To put it simply, I was in trouble because I have an often paralyzing fear of falling. It's not so much a fear of heights; I grew up hiking and mountaineering. But those activities are not the same as scaling, ascending up the face of a mountain sometimes by the very tips of your fingers and toes. Losing one's hold, unless you are Alex Honnold, is common in Rock Climbing. Hence, the rope and the belayer. I knew eventually, I would be climbing; and to me, that meant possibly falling. In a few short months, I went from dating a climber, to marrying a climber, to having a child with a climber. Any of you climbers or friends of avid climbers understand that Rock Climbing is often not just an idle pastime or a hobby. It's Life.
I went climbing a few times. My husband always had me on a tight belay, so even if I lost my footing or slipped off the rock, I never fell very far. But that knowledge didn't stop the shaking, the near hyperventilation, the vertigo. I sincerely wanted to be good at it; but mostly, I just wanted it to be over. The more I feared failing at something that is so significant to my significant other, the more I failed. It was an unhappy cycle. Today, I'm still not the most proficient climber; however, I'm now on a journey of improvement. This improvement started with the realization of a few key facts. ONE, if you fear failure, you WILL fail.
If you strive for success with hope and with true grit, you will still fail--but at least failure won't be agonized over so much. There will be more freedom to to take risks and persevere. Fear inhibits learning, improvement and performance. There are technical aspects to climbing--rope and device management, safety procedures for belaying a partner etc.--that need to be committed to memory. Quite literally, I was too afraid to pay attention, too afraid to properly concentrate and learn those vital technicalities. You can't learn to properly tie a knot when you're figuratively being chased by a bear.
And TWO, focus and self-awareness are key to overcoming fears. Awareness and Acceptance: focus and be aware of what is going on; don't retreat or shrink back into a dark, blank corner in your mind. Be present. Be mindful, as they say in Yoga--which, by the way, is awesome for so many things including Rock Climbing. Accept yourself. That is not to say, accept your unhappiness or your limitations; accept that you are a work in progress. Accept that to progress you will have to try and to do--and that unavoidably means to fail a little or a lot. Accept that failures are a part of successes. Perfection is subjective and illusory.
Allow yourself and others room to error and to grow. Practice safely, and enjoy yourself!
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