Working on self-image involves redefining yourself. Another limiting factor is self-worth. Working on self-worth involves changing what you value. Our self-worth constantly becomes tied up in our performance. If we want to improve, we need to test ourselves on challenging climbs, but a diet of challenging climbs will yield plenty of performances that fall short of our aspirations. Poor performances can make us feel like “failures.”
Many people lose effectiveness in their climbing (and other aspects of life) by tying their self-worth to how they are performing. All of us have experienced this to some degree at some time, and many of us feel it constantly. If we are climbing well, we feel good, not just about our climbing but about ourselves. After a “good” day on the crags, we might be confident, upbeat, and self-assured in all our affairs for days afterwards. Conversely, a “bad” day can make us feel down and unsure not just about our climbing but even our jobs, relationships, or our optimism for future happiness. In short, climbing rewards or punishes us, as if we were naïve children and climbing was our parent.
Authentic self-worth comes from an internal value system, not from simple achievement. Self-worth comes from the positive results of your effort.
Instead of simply falling into this habitual self-worth mindset, analyze it. Focus your attention on it. Discover its logic, or lack thereof. In the light of consciousness, its hold on you will begin to break down. You will see that external achievement is not the root of anything really valuable that we can derive from a climbing challenge. So what is? What can we take away and really use?
The answer: learning.
Hard climbs push us out of our comfort zone, and once in the unknown, we can learn. Often, in the midst of the challenge, we push ourselves in ways we didn’t know possible, gaining knowledge that we can’t lose. And, if our effort is strong and creative, we can gain that knowledge regardless of the outcome of the climb. Achievement may or may not be the result of an effort, but the essential payoff of the experience is learning.
If, on the other hand, the self-worth you derive from your climbing is based on what you learn during the experience, then you are less concerned about the outcome of your efforts and able to focus more on the effort itself. What really matters when facing a challenge? What matters is learning. You want to test yourself, throw yourself into something outside your comfort zone and see what you’re capable of. Your true goal is not to conquer fifty feet of inanimate rock, but to expand your abilities through learning.
With a focus on learning, awareness improves.
The Rock Warrior's Way: Mental Training for Climbers