Hi friends! This is the 2nd contribution to my series, This Body Can. I met Zoe at my gym in Sacramento. One of the first things I learned about her is that she loved to rock climb. I hate to admit this but when I heard that I remember thinking, “she doesn’t look like she climbs”. My next thought was how ridiculous it was that something like that would even enter my mind. What is a climber supposed to look like?? That is the point of this series. We are kind of programed to judge people based on how they look, or based on how we think someone who climbs (runs, lifts, cycles, etc.) should look. No more judgment. These posts are an education of sorts; teaching us that we are all capable no matter who we are or what we look like. Thank you for your story, Zoe.
To Kiss the Sky: A Tale of Movement and Challenging Self-Doubt
As women we’ve been taught at a very young age how to behave, how to look, how to embody femininity. “Are you pretty enough?” “Are you thin enough?” “You want to be smart, but not too smart where it can be intimidating.” “Assertiveness is good, but you can’t be too assertive because you don’t want to be overbearing.” “You want to be physically fit but you don’t want to bulk up; after all, the purpose of working out is to maintain your thin, feminine frame.”
I’m not sure about you guys, but these are some of the messages that have bombarded my life since I was young. The truth is beauty, intelligence, and athleticism comes in all forms, shapes and sizes. Exercise doesn’t have to be this dreaded activity each day at the gym. It can be pushing your body to see how fast you can run, picking up some heavy shit and moving it just because you can, or maybe even hanging off the side of a cliff to see if you can climb high enough to kiss the sky.
Hey everyone, my name is Zoe and I’m out here in good ol’ Sacramento, CA. I’ve been relatively active throughout my life, although I would hardly call myself an athlete. Moving my body has been a regular part of my life; climbing trees, hide and seek, tag, volleyball, softball, running, hula, cycling, outrigger paddling, stand-up paddling, kayaking, hiking, yoga, weightlifting, powerlifting. The list is endless; if it sounds fun, I’m ready to play.
My latest body movement obsession is rock climbing. This mild infatuation that began three years ago quickly grew into a torrid love affair. Rock climbing isn’t one of those mainstream sports that many people are quick to jump into. There’s often a misconception that rock climbing is for thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. While there may be some who fall into this category, I wouldn’t label myself an adrenaline junkie and I’m certainly not someone who wants to challenge death. Climbing has really become an analogy of my life.
One memorable climb happened last summer, when I lead my first sport route. On that sunny weekend afternoon when you may have been eating lunch or sleeping in, I was falling off the side of a cliff. This happened not once, but twice. My arms were scraped up from sliding down the granite wall and my knee was banged up pretty good, which I knew would later turn into a bruise; a deep, rich purple, a color I was all too familiar with. The rope I was attached to caught my fall, a lifeline I was grateful for because without it I would have surely fallen to serious injury or even death. It was the first time I ever experienced paralyzing, “take your breath away” fear. At that moment when I was hanging from that rope, trying to catch my breath, I thought “Why do I keep doing this to myself??”
In life, I’m often faced with challenges where fear and self-doubt threaten to place their grip on me. In much the same way when I face a challenging climbing route, I choose to focus on the smaller more immediate goals that help me reach my overall goal. Spending too much time thinking about that tiny little peak at the very top of a route overwhelms me. Negative self-talk can easily consume me, a habit that all of us have often engaged in at some point in our lives. It discourages us from pushing ourselves to our limits. Of course, I do tend to make mistakes in my life journey but I value mistakes because they can sometimes be great opportunities to learn. They are what build resiliency and strength within me, much in the same way that falling off the wall can teach me to be a better climber and a better problem solver.
On that sunny day last Summer I took a risk and reached for a hold to pull myself higher, only to fall. It was an important moment in a lifetime of moving my body and playing outside because I asked myself a very important question: “Why do I keep doing this to myself?” I keep doing this to myself because I am one of the few who believe we can climb high enough to kiss the sky, to refute the definitions of what beauty, strength and athleticism are, to trail blaze our way to create new definitions of what healthy looks like. Because to us, challenging our self-doubt and exploring how far we can push our limits is the only way we can truly live.
Zoe is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT). You can learn more about Zoe at www.thepeakconselinggroup.org.