Two bolts off the ground, body feels good. The climb is right at the grade, an enjoyable right hand jug… perfect for making this next clip. Tons of options for feet. Confidence. Next move is a slight reach, decent. one more move, a smaller crimp, not ideal but fine. You look up and see the next bolt a few more meters away. All of a sudden a familiar voice chimes in, “Take! Call your partner to take in rope, you’re going to slip and take a fall, you’ve just made a clip… relax into the comfort of that last bolt”
When you enter the realm of climbing on the sharp end of the rope, or any climbing for that matter, you’re inevitably going to come up against one of the most difficult cruxes on every route… yourself. It’s amazing really, I’ve seen shaky legs and over gripped holds suddenly seem completely bomber once the rope has been clipped.
Work with any team of people and when the going gets tough people tend to push forward, motivate each other, and are more reluctant to give up. However, we tend to give up very easily on ourselves. We love comfort, crave it even. When we’re above the last gear placement or bolt, our minds start mustering dread at entering the world of the uncomfortable, entering the world of self-reliance and trust in our own abilities and strengths. Despite how we train and how strong we become physically, it’s our mental strength that will truly allow the us to grow as a climber. Being able to mute that voice that begs you to just let go, fall, come to rest hanging in the air and let your muscles relax. It’s often a little voice, just above the sound of a whisper, saying, “Keep going, you’ve got this, just breathe, you can hold on a little longer”.
Personally, I’ve always battled with the inner monologue in my climbing. Every piece I place or bolt I clip becomes a relief that I feel in my muscles as well as my mind. Almost every time that rope make it up a little farther on a difficult route my mind starts to poke and prod, mentioning that, “It’s a difficult route, no one would blame you if you just lean on the rope at this bolt”, “you’re tired, you’ve had a long day, you won’t be able to keep climbing without a rest”. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy if you succumb to this monologue.
On the other hand, the more you listen to the this dialogue and quietly, consciously push it back into the recesses of your mind and push forward, the more you overcome this self-limiting talk. The more you realize you’re in greater control than your mind leads you to believe. The more capable you are than you ever realized. The more you gain control over your self-limiting inner dialogue the more you grow in your own self-confidence. You can hang on longer, there’s other options for feet, just breathe and have a look around, trust yourself.
This is easy to conceptualize when climbing. However, it couldn’t be more applicable to our everyday lives. We’re far more capable the we would have ourselves believe. It’s the query into the unknown that our mind can’t stand. The ego doesn’t want to fail, doesn’t want to falter, and doesn’t want to push you somewhere where that possibility exists. But where the possibility of failure exists is where the potential for growth, triumph, and learning lives. So next time that voice tries to provide justification for not moving ahead, quietly and consciously move it aside, and go boldly into the direction of the unknown.