Discomfort doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong

“Fear let’s us know we are closer to our truth.†– Pema Chodron

I fondly remember my first rock climbing trip to Joshua Tree National Park. A deep blue sky filled the spaces between the mountains of stone. I delighted in seeing all the Joshua trees, and I loved climbing on granite. My rubber soles gripped the small, spikey granules. The sun warmed my face. I had the fortune of climbing with talented climbers. They pushed me out of my comfort zone while keeping me safe. One of my friends, Joe, suggested we climb, “Stick to What.†Most climbs have fun names which describe the climb or the original climber’s state of mind (e.g., “Never Again.â€)

Joe effortlessly traversed the steep incline. He resembled a dancer who glided across the rock. I looked like a fledgling ice skater. Each time I stepped, I slipped. All the previous climbs I felt moored to the rock. Now, I felt uncomfortable, and my inner critic guided me all the way up. She told me that I lacked skill. I should be kicked out of Joshua Tree for imitating a rock climber. (Yep, super harsh.) She said that others will criticize my awful technique. I continued to clumsily slip my way up the slab. I desperately searched for good hand holds or foot holds. Anything to stop on and breathe. Nothing. Step. Slip. Step. Slip. Inner critic. Inner critic. Inner critic.
I finally made it to the top shaking and breathless. Joe smiled and said, “That was exciting, huh?†I replied, “More like terrifying. I slipped the whole way up!†Joe nodded, “Yeah, I know. Me too. That’s how you climb this one. There are no good foot holds. The key is just to keep moving. Slipping is part of the climb.â€

Our minds are quick to judge something as bad, especially discomfort. We often assume we’re doing something wrong when we feel uncomfortable. However, it may just be part of the climb. When we experience discomfort, it can help to investigate with curiosity versus stopping out of fear. We can also thank our inner critic. “Yes, thank you inner critic for trying to protect me from being banished from Joshua Tree. It’s ok. I’ve got this. Slipping is part of the climb.â€