No more than an hour in, the self-sabotaging thoughts in my head, my aching muscles and heavy breaths, did their best to undermine my goal of hiking my first summit. It took everything inside me to muster the strength to continue, and share with my hiking partners that I was already struggling.
One of my goals for this summer was to hike to a summit. Summer was full of visitors, travel and adventure, but nowhere was my planned hikes throughout the summer to prepare. As the summer drew to a close, it weighed heavily on me that I hadn’t achieved this goal. The negative self-doubt had me almost believe I couldn’t do it. So, I reached out to a few of my Women Who Explore tribe and asked if anyone was up to doing this with me.
Don’t let self-sabotaging thoughts define you
Since moving back from Malaysia in 2016, I have let myself go. Workouts that I had committed to while living overseas, disappeared. Reverse culture shock took a toll on our family, and my physical health declined. Weighing more than I did full term with my second daughter, I felt unfit, and not good enough.
Being a photographer for Women Who Explore has introduced me to so many amazing women, of all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels. Yet still, I had this self-defeating mindset of feeling fat and inadequate physically, which kept me from joining on meet-ups, feeling that I wasn’t good enough to hike among younger, fitter women. It was our trip to Whistler, a couple of weekends prior, that challenged those thoughts. We hiked and bouldered, and I had a glimpse of what I could do. I finally felt good enough.
Support is key
Adrianna, an experienced hiker and beautiful soul, was excited to join and did all the leg work and provided me with four hikes to choose from. I chose Raspberry Ridge. Jenny replied with excitement that she too would be able to join. Lindsay, who was in Ontario with family, although saddened she couldn’t be there, offered words of encouragement and belief. Linda, who already had a hike planned provided me words that had me in tears, “I know you can do this! Even if you have to stop a million times, even if it feels like you’re going to die going up (always does for me), I just keep telling myself ‘just keep putting the other foot forward.’ Make it to that tree. Then that bend. That rock. Just keep pushing upward, and before you know it, you’ll be at the top and SO.DAMN.PROUD!”
From the moment we started, Jenny and Adrianna believed in me. They pushed me. Inspired me. They remained patient and understanding at every stop, and there were many!
At one point, my shoulders were screaming, my legs were burning, the negative thoughts in my head were having a hey-day and I believed that I could not go on. The ladies offered to take my pack. Jenny loaded my heavy pack onto her back, and Adrianna carried both hers and Jenny’s. In that moment, their selflessness and support touched me deeper than any words can express.
Self-sabotaging thoughts aren’t the enemy
“Be careful how you are talking to yourself, because you are listening.” ~ Lisa M. Hayes
Lessons from my days as a Life Coach and all that I had learned from surviving depression and suicide attempts, gave me insight into the thoughts that were frequently entering my mind. Every time I undermined myself and negative thoughts appeared, and that was often, my quiet, strong voice would gently say, ‘Thank you for your concern, that doesn’t serve me right now.’
Too often, we fool ourselves into thinking emotions such as frustration, fear, grief, anger, are bad. In fact, it’s how you choose to respond that is either positive or negative. It’s how you choose to listen to the self-sabotaging thoughts and allow them to hold you back or acknowledge them with gratitude and move through them that determines the outcome.
I chose to respond to these thoughts with gratitude and love… most of the time.
One step at a time
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~ Lao Tzu
Linda’s words kept popping into my mind. “Make it to that tree. Then that bend. That rock.” And that’s what I did. Picking out a small spruce tree got me through one tough part. Reaching a pile of rocks, with the vision of sitting, catching my breath and having a snack, got me through another.
Looking up at the peak, which was becoming closer, yet felt like it was worlds away, I still had to fight the self-sabotaging thoughts that I couldn’t do it.
Towards the top, in response to me saying yet again that I couldn’t do it, Jenny said “Just look down, and take it step by step.” I looked down and counted my steps. First number I reached was 12, then 23. After a few moments to catch my breath, the next was 42. I marveled at how the simple act of taking small steps and focusing on them got me through the toughest park of the hike.
As we reached the peak, Jenny encouraged me to go first, so I would be the first over the ridge. It was a grueling uphill stretch. I made what I thought was that final step. And then, as I stepped over the point, and looked, an overwhelming feeling of disappointment hit, “This isn’t it!” The summit still untouchable. I hunched over, in a moment of defeat – and then looked up. Tears welled up. My body almost fell from beneath me. I took a deep breath, and took a moment to take in the stunning view before me. And then I said to myself, “You can do this, one step at a time!”
We stopped to enjoy lunch at 4.44pm. Six hours had passed since we started out. We could see the summit and the Fire station lookout from the concrete bench. Not far now.
The relief and elation of reaching the summit
The reason I had picked Raspberry Ridge, was from all the reviews that talked about the man who lives in the Fire Station, Mike, and his dog Amber.
Many times throughout the hike, that’s what got me through, “Lee, you must meet Mike and Amber!”
What everyone wrote was true. Mike is a genuine, gentle, humble and welcoming man. He was more than happy to show us around, and take pictures. We even had a great giggle at him saying to me “Be careful, I haven’t been around a woman for a while.”
Words can’t fully describe the elation and pride I felt as I stood on the helipad at the summit of the Raspberry Ridge Lookout.
The self-sabotaging thoughts I had worked through, the physical pain I endured and moved past, and the love, support and patience from Jenny and Adrianna got me to my first summit. My daughters were proud. My husband beamed with pride. Most of all, the pride I felt for myself has inspired me in more ways than one.
If I can do that, at 47 years old, being as unfit as I am, I can anything.