When I was 12 years old, I joined my school’s English Drama Club because I was afraid of public speaking and had really low self-esteem. Over time I grew more confident and outspoken.
When I was 16 years old, I joined my JC’s Rock Climbing Team because I was afraid of heights. I wish I can say that I am no longer afraid of heights but I still am. However, I did learn how to manage my fears better and how to push through despite my anxiety.
If you find my Instagram handle @thericegrain, you’ll see my personal philosophy:
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
With this to live by, I often put myself in situations in which I am forced to get out of my comfort zone.
Fear is like a white-picket fence that separates where you are now and where you can possibly be. To have fears is natural, it’s a basic survival instinct. It keeps you from being complacent. However, it becomes detrimental when that fence becomes the very thing that cages you in. And when you are caged in, you don’t allow yourself to grow.
I can tell you to not be afraid to try something new. But I think I will be doing you a disservice by saying that. So instead this is what I want to tell you:
Try something new in spite of your fears because you can only grow from it.
For many, climbing is something completely new. It gained popularity in the recent years but it is still widely misunderstood. People fear that they are not strong enough to climb. People fear that it is too vigorous or extreme. People feel that they might be too old to try. There is nothing wrong if you feel that way. After all, these thoughts pop up because it is your instinct to keep yourself safe and comfortable.
There are a few disciplines of climbing. My favourite is bouldering. Bouldering is different in such a way that there are no ropes and harnesses involved but instead, there are standard gymnastic mattresses for safety. The goal is to get from the starting point to the ending point. The challenge is that the holds that can be used are limited and are strategically placed on the wall to make the climb tricky. Therefore, it is important to plan how to efficiently employ techniques and strength to get to the top of the climb.
The climbs are called boulder problems. An essential part of bouldering is problem-solving. A boulder problem is like a math problem. Techniques, strength, etc. are formulae. You have to apply the appropriate formula to solve the problem. And this is why bouldering is so special to me. Both mind and body have to work together to complete the boulder problem. Every time I reach the top of my climb, I feel so accomplished.
Some boulder problems take more time to finish but the beauty is in the challenge. It is when you find a breakthrough – when you feel like you have exhausted everything there is and you are at the verge of giving up – yet somehow you find a glimmer of hope and what you thought was a dead-end is actually not. It is in the moment of working through the problem and constantly having a go at it that you start to see new avenues and possibilities that you can explore. This entire process makes bouldering so fulfilling. Simply put, there is joy from all the hard work that you’ve put in, the delayed gratification ultimately is worth the wait.
I never thought that I can get that much joy from bouldering. When I just started, I thought that it is pretty scary. However, the more I got exposed to it, the more I understand that it is quite safe because there are proper procedures that can be followed, I just have to learn and practice them. In the beginning, I struggled to keep myself on the wall. I felt lacking in both my movement and strength. However, my coach enabled me to climb better. He spotted my mistakes and he gave me advice on how I can tackle my weaknesses. It also helped that I was given the space to improve in my own time. I also had a strong social support, with my peers climbing with me and us cheering each other on. The climbers, especially the veteran ones, inspired me to deepen my love for climbing.
I went from a complete beginner to now, seven and a half years later, a climbing instructor at Boulder Movement. I now work on inspiring, enabling and growing the climbing community.
People tend to equate climbing to falling. I think that is the biggest misconception out there. Yes, there will be times when you will find yourself off the wall and on the mat. But climbing is more than that.
Climbing is about getting back up every time you fall.
Climbing is the harmony between your mind and body.
Climbing is a conversation.
And personally, climbing is my compass.
I never knew then, but I know now. And all it took was a step to the other side of my fears.