Bouldering Mental Block

I got really discouraged at the climbing gym Saturday. The day started off so well; I was super hyped to be going in to work on a few problems, but after the warm-up things just kind of fell apart. Part of my warm-up involved a V3 that I had been able to flash just two days previously, but after three attempts at it I still couldn’t seem to send it. Frustrated, I moved on to a V4 I had was able to get up until the finishing move on Thursday. I fell off the second move. And then I fell off the second move again. And again.

It was pretty demoralizing. Since it was Saturday morning, more and more people started showing up, and since these problems were in a new area of the gym, they all crowded around this tiny area. The gym is pretty miserable when it’s packed, so I moved on to another problem I’d been working on. This wall was being taken over by a teen climbing class. Ok, move on. The next wall was covered in toddlers milling about, jumping on the mats and getting under everyone’s feet while their parents merely said “Great job, wow! That’s awesome!” to children who were basically putting themselves and the climbers around them in danger (don’t get me started on the parents that bring their kids to this gym, y’all).

When the walls started clearing up enough for me to climb, I was pretty pissy. Carrying all this pissy-ness onto the walls with me was not a good idea. I took fall after frustrating fall, missing holds that I have been able to get before or not making any new progress on problems I’ve been trying even though I’ve been working on them for weeks (six weeks in the case of a particular V4+). They’re going to change the wall before I finish the problem, I know it. It will be the third problem I’ve worked on nearly every day since having it been set that will be changed before I’ve been able to send it.

This anger, this frustration, and this desperation to finish these problems are all having negative effects on my climbing. I know this. My boyfriend has spoken with me about this many times, since he can carry a lot of frustration into his climbing too, especially when it’s a problem that he’s already figured out the correct beta for but just can’t seem to stick. I let outlying factors fuck with my mental state – the amount of people, the toddlers and their insufferable parents – instead of blocking them out (Really, why should I be concerned about these people? They’re not concerned about me, it doesn’t matter). I let my perfectionism and self-doubt fuck with my mental state – I see a move, know that it’s a hard move, and don’t follow-through and stick it because I know I’ve fallen a thousand times and will probably fall again this time.

There are other outlying factors too. Work stuff, personal life stuff – all these things add up and contribute to the emotions I’m carrying with me on the wall. I need to find the peace and confidence within myself to know that it takes a lot of work and that failure, when climbing, is an inevitable part of the process. Bouldering is fucking hard. Of course I’m going to plateau at V4 and stick there for a long while, because V5s are fucking hard. Falling off a climb says nothing about how hard I work or my value as a person (as much as I seem to wrap them all up together).

I’ve been reading a couple articles about this. “Overcoming the Fear of Failure,” tells me to consider my experience and training, to concentrate on the process of climbing as opposed to the outcome, and finally to be comfortable with the possibility of failure as one potential outcome. The last is probably the most difficult for me, and as the article points out, “you can only assume this mindset by consciously detaching your self-image from your performance.” It’s not about the send; it’s about the experience of the send. It’s about the enjoyment of the act of climbing, not the outcome.

Have you had any experiences like this, in climbing or otherwise? Give me some tips for how you handled it in the comments; I’d love to hear how you worked through it.

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Problems with the Follow-Through

As a follow-up to the last entry, I did in fact meet my goal of 500 words a day for the entire month of July. However, that success was short-lived, as the ultimate goal was to build a habit of writing 500 words every day for the rest of forever, and unfortunately I only made it through the first week of August.

It’s easy to let all the other daily stuff distract you. It’s easy to get derailed. Maybe it’s Sunday morning, and you’re tired and hungover, and you go out for bagels with your best guy and suddenly the whole afternoon has been frittered away and you haven’t accomplished anything. Or maybe you wake up during the week, and you can’t quite seem to get it together for work, so you end up wasting too much of your morning time, which is your best time to write, and you run to the train without having completed anything, only to come home later too tired and drained to do anything except watch X-Files re-runs on Netflix (welcome to my life). There are just so many excuses, so many tiny excuses, that end up knocking down whatever habits you’ve tried to set up.

In college, one of my professors said he thought I was capable, but that I always lost it in the follow-through. I agree. There’s something about making a commitment to my creative work that changes it from something I enjoy into a weight hanging around my neck, dragging me down. I become reticent and resistant; I no longer want to do whatever it is that I wanted to do. Once work has been started on a project, it becomes a reality, and the reality of a piece of work is much more overwhelming than the free-floating dream of it.

But that’s a childish reaction, and one that’s based out of the fear that I am, in fact, as extraordinarily unremarkable as I know myself to be. My desire to be right, to create something of meaning, makes me impotent. So it would seem the best course of action would be to remove the self, the ego, from my work, and try to concentrate on whatever it is about the piece that inspired me to make it in the first place. To concentrate on the purity of the work, with thoughts of how others would judge it left behind.