In her recent TEDx talk, pro climber Emily Harrington succinctly describes how she uses her fear of falling to succeed at climbing some of the hardest routes in the world.
Starting out climbing aged 11, she – like most beginners – was afraid of falling. She was also ashamed of that fear, thinking it was somehow a weakness in girls, not boys. “I wish someone had told me…you are afraid because you’re human. And fear can be your strength, provided you give it purpose”.
Understanding this concept should be at the heart of how we climb. Instead of focusing on the negatives of fear, and what could go wrong if we fall, we can use fear to feed our determination and motivation. Recognise it, seek it out, learn from it. With purpose, Emily goes on to say, the fear is no longer paralysing, but an asset. And when you become more comfortable with fear, that can be hugely empowering.
That’s not to say Emily doesn’t fall any more. She does. Over and over and over again. “But I would never succeed if it weren’t for the hundreds and thousands of failures that came before.”
How many times have each of us tried to climb something we thought was beyond our limit, only to fall off and immediately give up because we scared ourselves out of trying again..?
Next time, try to recognise this fear and accept it. Try the climb again, knowing that you’ll probably fall. But this time, let the fear of falling motivate you. “Find what scares you, and go do it”, as Emily encourages. “Because that is passion. And the world needs passion. The world needs people who are not afraid to be afraid”.
Watch the TEDX talk here.