The confidence wall - 3 steps to start building your beliefs
I’m going to tell you about a time that I fell off a bouldering wall. It was scary, it was demoralising, it knocked my confidence and it hurt.
Despite it’s more obvious scary parts, bouldering has become a meditation for me. I say this as it pushes out all pesky thoughts as I have to focus on the wall and my next move in order not to fall, plus it uses all the muscles in my body. Most of all however, it works my mind.
I had been working on one specific climb at my local wall, you only have a few weeks before they change the routes again, so it’s got an element of time pressure to it. I had refined my muscle memory for the first few moves; by this point, I almost felt like a dancer, gliding my way across and up the wall until I got to the point where I knew I would struggle.
The position at this point put my knee in an awkward position and it required a small lurch for someone of a height of 5ft4. Each time I approached this position, the voices would get louder: ‘you’re only going to fall, you’ve not managed it yet, you’re not tall enough’. And it sucked. The voices would creep in and it wouldn’t matter how ready my body was, my mind had already beaten me to it and I’d have to stop and climb back down before I fell from reduced strength.
One day, I was in this familiar position, leaning desperately forwards, fingers grasping for any bit of wall they could reach. I was trying to ignore the voices, but they were very much still there and they were keeping my left hand from letting go and therefore stopping my right hand from progressing further. And as I desperately searched for something solid to grab, I lost my footing and I fell. I was already in an awkward sideways position so when I landed, I fell on my shoulder… Not the best.
That fall took me out of climbing for a few months whilst my shoulder recovered. But the lesson from it has thankfully lasted a lot longer. My lack of belief and low confidence that I could make the leap were exactly why the thing I was most afraid of happening (falling), happened.
It’s been a salient reminder that the things we tell ourselves are so important. Those thoughts have the power to build us up or knock us down. Just like telling ourselves we’re a failure can knock our confidence, so too can positive thinking build that confidence back up.
This month, I’m focusing on what we’re putting off doing because we’re too afraid. Sometimes that fear is smart and it is what saves us or stops us from doing something that isn’t wise. But sometimes that fear is unhelpful and it prevents us from trying something new that could grow our skills or bring us closer to that goal.
Confidence is a constantly morphing thing that can be present in one place and not another. It can reduce in size, it can manifest in strange ways, but it always needs to be nurtured and used wisely.
It came to me as a bit of an unintentional epiphany really, but one day as I was climbing, a quiet voice said, ‘you’ll only fall if you believe you’ll fall’. And yes, it might sound simple but if the voices saying I will fall were right, why can’t this one be right too?
And so as I started to build up my confidence in climbing, I started to let that confident voice get louder, I chose to hear it and let it grow. But to support it with that growth, I also looked to make the right environment for it. I didn’t skip climbing difficulty levels, I went climbing frequently and often alone so I could practice without social pressure and slowly, I proved to myself, I didn’t always have to fall.
Building confidence takes time and reinforcing your beliefs with positive thinking is a result of many combined efforts. I find thinking about things as if they were outside of us makes it much easier to understand. That’s why I often refer to games as a reference. For example, if we were in control of a climber in a game, we would need to arm them with many things to contribute to their confidence aka their ability to climb. Things like, experience, self-believe, community, equipment, fitness to name a few.
So what this can boil down to is this:
Step 1: Are you telling yourself the things you need to hear? If not, can you catch those thoughts and break that cycle.
Step 2: Are you setting yourself up for success? If you have missed out a few practice steps, not given yourself the right equipment or not created the right environment, your confidence might suffer. If you have an excuse as to why you aren't confident about something, either resolve it or refer back to step one!
Step 3: What is your aim? If the thing you are doing doesn't fit in with your overall goal or values then it's likely you might find that you aren't confident with it. Why would you be! You aren't incentivised to find the confidence. Can you find the incentive in your situation that makes it worth summoning confidence for?
So, with that in mind, my final questions to you are, what is that thing you’ve been putting off because you’re afraid? And what can you arm yourself with to confidently believing that it is something you can achieve?