Confidence Can Be Found on the Side of an Ice Cliff – As a mountaineer on a mission to reach the second-highest peak on each continent, I have to infuse preparation into the very fabric of my life. Sometimes this translates to me wearing goggles while I do dishes or an acclimatization mask while working at my desk so the gear doesn’t feel completely foreign when I get up on the peak. Other times, it means making physical training part of family time. This became the case when I recently took my youngest kids ice climbing.
The thought of ascending up the face of an ice cliff probably sends a shiver of fear through the veins of most adults. We catastrophize about what could happen and doubt our ability to go up a very hard and slippery surface. My kids, of course, jumped at the chance. As I watched and worked with them throughout the day, I was struck by the way they were able to push through the fear of failure and gradually build their confidence. When they grow up and the noise of the outside world telling them they can’t do something becomes louder, I hope they think back to their ice climbing experience and remember the lessons that are relevant to us all.
Find an audience.
When we lack confidence in ourselves, we often have a tendency to practice alone until we feel we’re good enough to let others see what we’re doing. This may sound counterintuitive, but challenge yourself to involve others earlier than you might prefer. When one of my kids was up on the ice face and doing well, their confidence was boosted by the cheering from the rest of the family. The same was true if they were doing poorly. Identify the people you know will support you and ask them to be part of your journey.
Gather information and make adjustments.
There were sections of the ice face that were clearly more difficult than others. Rather than getting overwhelmed and throwing in the towel, we used our heads to help make things easier on our bodies. As they approached the tricky part, my kids asked me to take a photo so they could see things from a different angle.
They climbed back down and reviewed the image with curiosity rather than frustration or disappointment. We discussed solutions as a family to be able to benefit from all our different perspectives. When they then climbed back up equipped with their new strategy, they were able to breeze right through the spot that had tripped them up earlier. When you’re approaching something in life or work that makes you nervous or tests your abilities, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Survey the people in your community and make informed decisions about how to proceed.
One of my daughters had her confidence shaken a bit when she would get to a particular spot on the ice. She returned to the base and expressed hesitation about whether she wanted to continue. I could recognize that she was more worried about her own ability rather than sensing actual danger, and encouraged her to try one more time. Once she was up there, I took a photo to show her that she had made it a bit higher than the first time. Seeing her progress was motivating, and she was able to build off that momentum. When you get down on yourself about not being able to achieve something, remember how far you’ve come. Maybe you take photos, or perhaps you keep a journal… just find a way to document your progress and use it as a catalyst to power ahead.
Embrace being a beginner.
Part of what shakes our confidence is thinking that we have to come out of the gate being exceptional at something. For things that are outside your comfort zone (like ice climbing was to all of us), acknowledge and appreciate your beginner status. Being a beginner means that you have all the runway in the world to build your confidence and make gradual improvements. That should be exciting! After all, how boring would life be if we were all just naturally perfect at everything? The Beauty is in the challenge. As each of my family members (including me!) experienced moments of struggle that day, it provided the opportunity for the others to show up and support each other. We stepped off the ice feeling not only more confident about our abilities but also closer as a family because we let ourselves be vulnerable and leaned into our beginner status.
One of my daughters was nervous about the climb. Rather than let that fear paralyze her, she simply started chanting, “I am scared, I am scared, I am scared…” as she put one foot in front of the other. By naming her fear while simultaneously recognizing that it wasn’t stopping her, her nerves eventually faded, and confidence took over. In the end, she looked at me and said, “Mom, we do things scared sometimes, don’t we?” Why yes, honey. More often than not, we do.
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