All Things Climbing, Personal Musings

Is Climbing a Humbling Sport?

I was watching Germany’s Ultimate Beastmaster some time ago and it occurred to me the difference in attitude between climbers and non-climbers.

This may already be raising red flags to you about my attitude towards non-climbers, and that’s fair enough, but I am just going to point out now that it is from my perspective and I don’t mean any offence by my opinion. I thought this was an interesting topic and I’m crap at handling anything delicately. Bear with me.

Also, this isn’t really comparing with other sports people either, as most enthusiasts in their sport will go through some sort of process in self reflection and bettering their body and mind.

This is more so comparing with my past self and how much climbing has changed me physically and mentally.

Before I found climbing, I was getting more and more overweight, I was shy (I’m on the verge of saying I was -probably still am, that’s why I’m here – an introvert, but maybe that’s not completely true either.), I was emotionally vulnerable and easily influenced. To put it simply, I wasn’t very healthy.

The change climbing has had on me has been out of this world amazing. After my very first session, I was starting to feel good about myself and this was something completely new to me at the time. I guess that is what got me hooked on climbing to begin with. I do not know why it was climbing that stuck. Why wasn’t it running? Or going to gyms? Or pilates?

I realise now it’s because I never felt comfortable around the people. But walking into a climbing gym, and seeing everyone so focused on the wall, I felt invisible. I loved it.

Until you get on the wall, that’s when the connections start to reveal themselves. Climbing is an inclusive sport, if you are on the wall, you have something in common with everyone else there. If you fall, most likely somebody there will offer beta, or friendly encouragement. Things that can only better you.

Anyway, how has this changed me as a person?

You would be inclined to think that I have grown a bit arrogant, as would normally be expected of someone who spends a lot of their time getting stronger and more confident in themselves. And you would normally be right. But not in this case.

It’s true, I have more confidence, I am healthier and happier in my body and mind, but climbing has also taught me a valuable lesson as well. It taught me how to be humble and modest and more critical of what I am capable of. Climbing requires a lot of self reflection if you want to get better. It requires you to be realistic about your ability and really analyse if you are capable of what you have in mind. This creates an atmosphere of constant self awareness  and progress that really changes you as a person.

I don’t know why, but I believe climbing has a profound effect on people. Just watch a couple of episodes of this year’s Ultimate Beastmaster/American Ninja Warrior or equivalent, and you will see the difference in approach before they have started the obstacle course. Whilst everyone else has been attacking these tracks with arrogant zeal and perhaps overly ridiculous complicated rituals (who needs to stand there for five minutes, staring at a jump they are about to attempt?), climbers have stood in the background, quietly observing, their manner usually unassuming. It makes me wonder if it is climbing that has made them so humble.

Of course, there are always going to be exceptions to the “rule”. If someone is determined to be arrogant, climbing can only do so much…


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