A few weeks ago, I did something that, in retrospect, was a big step outside my comfort zone.
Every Monday at 7 PM, the Rock Oasis climbing centre holds an “in search of climbing partners” night for solo climbers. As a solo climber desperate to do more than auto-belays, I told myself I should go.
So I did, and, in what is probably more of a shock to me than anyone else, I survived.
In fact, I had a pretty good time.
It helped that we were all on common ground, each of us wanting to climb more than we did, but lacking the necessary climbing buddy. But it wasn’t just the “in-the-moment” event that I enjoyed; it helped me realize just how pivotal rock-climbing has been to my confidence.
Growing up, I was absolutely terrified of heights. Couple that with bad experiences climbing with middle school (the instructor refused to lower me- there were tears), and I was pretty much convinced that I would never be able to rock-climb without bursting into tears.
But there was always a part of me that loved the idea of rock-climbing, and when my sister got really into it and dragged me along a few times, my eyes were opened.
I’m convinced that climbing with people I trusted- my parents and my sister- is the only reason I’m so in love with climbing now. As weird as it is to think about now, I’d never been climbing with them before, and it was a totally new experience.
The very first time I went with them, I made it to the top of the wall. I had literally never done that before, and now I can’t stop trying.
This rambling has a purpose (I think), trust me:
I’m absolutely terrified of talking to people, and honestly believed I would never willingly put myself in a situation like that of the Rock Oasis; that is, meeting new people in a busy place- alone.
And yet, thanks to my sister stubbornly dragging me to a climbing centre nearly half a year ago, I went to a rock-climbing meet-up, alone, and had fun.
Yeah, I was absolutely terrified for most of it, but the fact that I actually went made me so proud that when I left, which is normally when I burst into tears, I was absolutely beaming.
So, to summarize: instead of dwelling on past experiences, I trusted my sister when she said I would have fun. Because of that simple decision, I had my first half-decent experience in a situation that previously made me nervous just thinking about it.
It’s only been a few weeks, but I’ve already noticed the differences in my thinking. Things that I normally avoid without hesitation don’t seem so hopelessly negative to me anymore. An example: a student organization put together a bouldering trip and I really wanted to go, so I signed up? I’m as confused as you probably aren’t.
My fears aren’t totally gone though, of course: I haven’t gone back to the solo climbers meet-up since then, because even my good experience doesn’t stop the stress from building the closer it gets to 7 PM. But when I don’t go, it doesn’t feel as much like a failure. I know that I can do it, because I’ve done it already.
Even with just one good experience of stepping outside of my comfort zone, my confidence has completely changed. Things I used to accept as out of reach are now things I can see myself doing in the future. Maybe not right now- I’m still human, after all- but eventually.
So I leave you with this: What’s something you’ve always accepted as out of reach? What would it take for you to change that?
For me, it was being around people I trust, and that made all the difference.