I never intended to embark on this journey in the mountains. In fact, in my prior life, I loved looking at the mountains but didn’t understand why on earth one would want to go climb them. The few times I was dragged into them, I felt like crap about myself. I wasn’t fast enough. I wasn’t coordinated enough. I wasn’t comfortable. I didn’t have the right gear. OMG my feet hurt SO bad. And there were bugs. Like, so many bugs. Why would anyone want to do this?

Jokes on me! The mountains called me in July 2022, and I was met with a world beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I was met with open arms from people who were in and around them, gently guiding me step by step. There was never anyone outside of myself telling me not to do it. That voice came from within.

I started with an inner voice that thought I was a fraud. Who was I to think I had the right to climb mountains? You don’t even like to be outside, no less in the wilderness with no service. As I started hiking more and more and learning from others around me, I started being able to answer other people’s questions. I could explain maps and junctions, why you want to go this way versus that way, what gear you want to bring, and why. All the while, I had this nasty inner voice telling me I had no right to be there. You aren’t an outdoors woman. You have no experience with this. You can’t guide people.

Welcome, imposture syndrome. Now, if you entered here and have no cares in the world about hiking, that’s cool. I hope that you stick with this a little bit longer because this comes into play no matter what you are into, and there are ways to recognize it and work through it. Here are five ways that I recognize my imposture (“Vixen”—yes, I named her!).

1. Acknowledge the feelings that you are having.
The key to overcoming imposter syndrome is recognizing when it occurs. I have become keenly aware of when I doubt myself or feel like I don’t deserve something.

2. Challenge your negative “Vixen” inside.
You are missing a key part of self-awareness when you put yourself down for not being good enough despite the evidence. Learn to take a step back, ground yourself, and take a moment to look at your accomplishments or steps to get exactly where you are now. None of this happened by chance. It happened because YOU made it happen!

3. Set realistic, small, attainable goals.
I know you likely want to conquer the world and take everything by storm! (is that just me?!) But hold your pants, person. Breathe. Start breaking your goals down into small bite-size pieces. That way, when you look back at your accomplishments, you can say, “Holy cow! I just did a lot! High five!” This is a great way to build confidence and get experience under your belt. For example, for hiking, don’t run off to the highest, most technical mountain first. You will likely feel way in over your head and like you will never want to hike again. Start off short and low. Enjoy the process, and build from there.

4. Seek out community.
I cannot speak well enough about the community I have formed while staying at Tmax-n-Topos hostel. The people who enter those doors are the salt of the earth. David and Teri do an unbelievable job at keeping “doinks” at bay and allowing a safe space for everyone who enters to grow, learn, rest, and play. I have a phenomenal group of friends I have made there. I also have an outstanding hiking partner, Rochelle. We have spent hundreds of hours together in the woods. We trust one another, have a safe space to grow, and give one another feedback about how we can do things better. Having someone you can throw ideas off of and encourage each other is essential to growth. I couldn’t be more grateful for her kindness, patience, humor, and encouragement.

5. Learning to have self-compassion.
You are going to make mistakes. That is how we learn. Rather than making harsh judgments about yourself for it, process it. Sit with it. Try to see how you can learn and grow from the experience. If there are people around you being assholes about something, remove your proximity to them. You don’t need that! You deserve a safe space to grow. If YOU are the one being an asshole to yourself, take a moment and think about why. You deserve to treat yourself kindly. You are the only one on this planet. It’s okay to have self-doubt. It’s okay not to do everything right. But be kind to yourself no matter what. You deserve it.

So, climbing mountains is pretty much like climbing life. We all have summits we want to get to. We all come into conditions that cause us to reroute. We all have moments when we aren’t sure we can attain our goals or even go for them because we don’t see ourselves succeeding.

You are fucking awesome. If you don’t think that right now, I will help encourage you to believe it until you do. You deserve peace. You deserve to know that you are doing your best. You deserve kindness. You deserve success. You got this!

I have to thank everyone who has been a part of this journey. To the lovers, to the haters (I see you), to the learning opportunities, to the failures, to the successes. I am grateful. I couldn’t do any of it without you. I appreciate my life coaches, Naomi and Kelly, for taking the time to help me process and gain clarity in safe spaces. You ladies are amazing, and I KNOW you will have great success!