For the most part, I’m not afraid of falling when I climb. Though Joshua Tree showed me that my outdoor bouldering head needs some work, in the gym, I don’t feel much fear.
Of falling, at least. But I feel a lot of fear of failing.
And in climbing, falling sure looks like failing.
But what I’m afraid of is not the actual falling. I’m afraid of people judging me for falling.
Which means I’m not afraid of trying hard on things that I know will be hard for me.
I expect to fall on climbs that are at my limit, so I’m okay with failing, because that’s the only way to learn new things.
But I don’t want to fail on climbs that seem like they should be easy for me.
Because of all those people who might be judging me for failing.
But you know what? The only one actually judging me for failing is the little voice in my head.
The strangers who might be watching me probably only want to try the problem themselves.
The routesetters just want to see if I follow their intended movement pattern or totally break the beta.
And the friends that I climb with, who constantly encourage me and literally cheer me on, certainly don’t think less of me for failing on any route or problem.
So it really doesn’t matter if I fail on something I think I should be able to do or that I’ve done before.
My fear of failing actually means I don’t often climb problems that I already sent, because I don’t want to unsend them.
And that does matter, because that robs me of so many chances to practice skills and perfect my technique. Which, in turn, impedes my progress as a climber and makes me more likely to fail on similar climbs in the future. It’s a vicious cycle!
So I decided to change the cycle. I tried a problem that I loved but had only sent once. And I failed. I totally unsent it. While people were watching me.
But I tried. And I learned. And I smiled the whole time.
That sure doesn’t seem like failing to me after all.