Overhangs are my biggest weakness.
There are a lot of inspiring quotes about weakness. Stuff like ‘focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses’ and ‘be careful who you share your weaknesses with’ or the slightly more positive ‘humanity is the sum of our weaknesses, flaws and imperfections’. If all these quotes tell you anything about weaknesses, it’s that everyone has them - a rather comforting notion – but I want to know more about how to deal with them.
The way I see it there are two options. Option 1: avoid your weaknesses forever and focus on your strengths. Option 2: tackle them head on.
We've all seen enough inspirational memes to know that option 2 is the most likely route to success, but life's never quite that simple.
Firstly, whilst focusing on your strengths involves thriving on things you’re good at, working your weaknesses means acknowledging what you can’t do and then trying to improve, accepting that you might fail along the way. You’re starting at the bottom where everything feels harder and takes longer, with constant reminders of your deficiencies as a human being. Deficiencies that I personally would really rather stuff inside the bouldering mat where I don’t have to look at them.
Sometimes option 1 is hard to resist. Freed from the obligations of childhood where teachers and parents make you practise spelling and eat all your vegetables, us adults have to find our own sources of discipline. Of course, you could work that steep problem that you probably won’t top before reset day, but it’s all too easy to pick the route where effortless success is guaranteed.
And finally option 1 saves face, at least for this session. Tackling a weakness takes humility, especially in an arena as public as your local climbing wall. It can be hard to fall off a colour or a grade that you perceive to be below you, which means the long-term gains are often eclipsed by the need to protect our egos in the short term.
Despite my good intentions I usually fall victim to option 1, but I’m starting to question whether I’m missing the whole point of climbing in the first place. Am I in it for a challenge where success isn’t certain, or just to look good and get to the top of every slab? If it’s the latter, there are probably far better ways to look good that don’t involve shaky legs and the occasional effort grunt. If it’s the challenge thing, maybe I need to change my approach.
You can learn a lot from working on your weaknesses. Humility and perseverance of course, but also movement and technique. For me, the hardest part of overhangs has been setting aside my expectations and giving myself the freedom to fall off something ‘easy’. Once you’ve done that, there’s little more satisfying than unlocking a new side to your climbing style or battling your way to the top of something you thought you couldn’t do, no matter the grade.
That said, sometimes you’ll just want to take a break and do something easy instead. Don’t sweat it - you can’t be a superhero every day.
Hati Whiteley, is blogger and avid climber who, in her own words, hasn’t bicycled across the UK, climbed every route on Stanage or even run a marathon.
Her blog lerockyroad.com is “a celebration/acknowledgement of all the unremarkable stuff we do every day and how, deep down, it’s actually quite remarkable”.