There I was climbing with people I barely knew, climbing a route I’d never researched, testing moves I had never used, and loving every moment of the struggle or wiggle as I climbed to the top of the route. I was afraid to fall, afraid to embarrass myself in front of strangers and climbing gurus. Yet when I fell no one laughed, no one shouted you can’t do it. I only heard encouragement from my new friends and alternate moves that I might be able to try using to move a little farther up the route.

After what seemed like an hour or so I had wiggled, pulled, and pushed my way to the top of the route that earlier had me second guessing my willpower and abilities. I was grateful for that moment when I reached the top to look down at my friends and celebrate that moment with them when I had climbed the toughest climb of my young passion for climbing.

Many of us have heard the phrase “you can’t do that.” or “you won’t make it.” by others who doubt our skills, abilities, and willpower. (Perhaps by others who doubt themselves because they tried, failed, and gave up instead of finding a way to complete the challenge in their own way.) They look at us and set limitations for us that we haven’t thought to set for ourselves. These assumptions can cripple goals, deflate confidence, or fuel the desire to accomplish lofty goals even more. I’ve been affected by both mindsets personally,  there are countless people who have limited me based off my looks, not my abilities.

These moments when we feel limited or helpless are heavy times. They can defeat us before we even begin our journeys, these moments are pivoting moments that can define you. These moments when the fight is the hardest, you have the option to allow those who limit you to win, to tell you what you can and can’t do, resulting in a type of learned helplessness.

An attitude of I can’t is a quicker destroyer of lives than an attitude of instead of doing it your way and the way you might think I should do it let me show you how I’m doing it. Some might say this behavior and attitude are dangerous because what if you fail and prove those who limited you right? I say that failure is a guaranteed step between you and the outcome you desire. You alone set your limits, how far you decide to go is entirely up to you. Just do your best, stretch a little as you go, and indeed you’ll step outside of the limits they set for you and reap the reward of true freedom in your own comfort zone.