Me, Body Image, and Self-esteem
I want to talk about a few subjects some find uncomfortable to discuss. They are body image and self-esteem. Why? Because I’m reading articles about climbing and how women are portrayed in the sport.
The Climber Image
I thought women climbers were of a certain type. Tall, slender, and ripped. Those are qualities appear to be common in the magazines (print and online) or the Instagram pics I see. Do I fit those traits? Not at all.
Recently I came across an article from Outdoor Magazine written by professional climber Sasha DiGiulian about her struggles with body image. How she’s still learning to accept her body and helping redefine beauty standards. In my opinion, Sasha is one of the best climbers out there. So, her article makes me think about how I view myself and reflect on how this sport has helped me accept my body.
Going back to those qualities, I’m skinny but have a belly. Tall? I’m not even close. I’m a shorty, 5’2ish” for the record. But I also read Sasha stating she’s small too. Seeing that made me feel better about myself. Ripped? Toned, maybe.
Must… Reach Just a Little… More
When I was first starting climbing, I admit, was a little frustrating at times because it seemed like I couldn’t reach for the holds. Certain problems and routes had holds that were just out of my arm’s length and it seemed like there wasn’t a possible way to get to it. I would think “are you kidding me? How the hell am I going to get that? I can’t move any higher.” Granted, there are a few times I still think that now.
With practice and stubbornness, I’ve learned to climb better for those out-of-reach holds. That’s part of the fun and challenge of climbing is figuring out how to get to those farther apart holds. Whether it’s getting my feet higher or trusting my body to move in a certain way or jumping to the next hold and hopefully sticking it. I’ve got to figure out my own beta to send because everyone’s different and tackles the problems differently.
I’m Not Short, I’m Fun-sized
Since I’ve been climbing for a while now, I have noticed some advantages to being small despite my negative thinking of my height. I scrunch up better than my taller climbing partners on tighter problems. Curling up does work at times. On sit-starts, I can move easier than others.
By being skinny, I have less weight and momentum so I don’t swing out so much. However, there are times I definitely do. Plus, my small hands can grab on to tiny holds or holds with small crevasses.
There was one session where I was belaying a friend and he came across a hold on the route he couldn’t stay on well. He slipped off and said he was tired enough to come down. After lowering him, we switched so I could climb.
I climbed up to the hold he couldn’t grab. I got my hand on it and found out was good for me. It had small grooves where my fingers fit nicely and grip well. I used it to help me send. As I was being lowered, I said “you couldn’t grab that?” He told me maybe because I had smaller hands it was better for me. Well, that’s a perk.
Show Off Your Muscles
It wasn’t until I started climbing I began building strength and muscle in my body. Building those also helped contribute to becoming better at climbing. Maybe 3 or 4 months after climbing regularly I noticed the definition in my arms. Now, am I ripped? No but I’m fine with that.
I’ve had friends and family positively comment about seeing my muscles in real life or in photos I post on Facebook and Instagram. I am proud of those muscles. They show how far I’ve gone to get to where I am in my climbing journey.
When it comes to the image of a climber, there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all mold. Climbers come in different shapes and sizes. That’s what makes us unique. How our bodies look and are shouldn’t hold us back from what we want to do. It doesn’t affect how we send, it’s as long as we reach the top is what counts.