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Summiting Self-Esteem: 3 Powerful Tips Unearthed on the Trails of Volcan Acatenango

 


a girl at the top of a volcano
Sunset at Base Camp

 

It was the end of 2023 and one of my girlfriends gave me a call, inviting me to take a trip with her to Guatemala and hike the third highest volcano in Central America. Naturally, I jump on it!

 

I love traveling, adventure and challenging myself in different ways, so this fit the bill for exactly how I’d love to start the year.

 

I hadn’t done much research on this particular hike but had heard from some of my boyfriend’s family whose native to the country, that it was a pretty grueling experience.

 

Needless to stay, I still signed up, figuring that I could handle it. I’m going to just put it simply.

 

IT WAS HARD.

 

Really hard. Like probably one of the hardest and most physically challenging experiences that I have endured in my 35 years. However, I will say.

 

 

IT WAS WORTH IT.

 

Yes, it was exhausting, grueling, and there were a lot of moments where I felt like turning around and just giving up. But I kept going, and I’m glad I did.

 

The hike proved to not just be a physical challenge, but it also allowed me to take a deeper look into myself, my thoughts, and what I helped me to find the grit to keep going. It allowed me to strengthen my sense of self and self esteem by learning these 3 lessons.

 

 

 

 

1.     NO ONE IS GOING TO RESCUE ME

 

Man, this was a big one. Not to say that I didn’t know this already, but facing the Volcano really made me come face to face with this lesson.

 

The hike to base camp itself is a steep 5 hours of incline, with brief moments of reprieve that then continue in a grueling pace all the way to the top.

 

I work out regularly and thought that I would be prepared for trek, but I was humbled REAL QUICK. Plus, I’m a Florida girl, we don’t even have rolling hills in my neck of the woods, so that 13,000 ft of elevation hit me hard.

 

As we trekked higher and higher, my heart rate would accelerate, and the shortness of breath was constant. There were many times along the way that I had to stop and just take a couple of breaths before starting back up.

 

I was constantly checking in with my body and my breath, wondering to myself why I decided to do this.

 

There does seem to be a point of no return after about an hour in, we’re all going up, and the idea of turning around was not an option.

 

That is when it hit me… No one is going to rescue me. No one is going to show up with a helicopter to scoop me up like a frail little bird and drop me off at base camp.

 

There was only one way to the top, one foot in front of the other.

 

So, I continued, just walking one foot in front of the other, knowing that the only way that I was going to get to the top was being my own rescuer.

 

Which meant I needed to FOCUS and CONCENTRATE on where I was going, rather than bringing attention to the pain and difficulty of the challenge.

 

I don’t want to minimize that difficulty at all because like I’ve mentioned, it’s tough. However, what I realized that in order to get to the top, my mind had to be focused on where I was at and where I was headed.

 

If I was going to do this, I had to show up for myself and know that I chose to do this for reason. The only one that could get myself through it was me.



  

 

  

2.     WHAT TO REMEMBER WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH

 

Physical challenges have a way of bringing us face to face with different parts of ourselves that we might not face on the daily.

 

This Volcano did just that. I became SO AWARE of the internal battle within myself, all the different parts of me that would show up wanting to get into the driver’s seat.

 

The fearful one, that began to worry about my heartbeats for minute and would subsequently begin to create extraordinary scenarios in which my heart spontaneously exploded in the middle of the hike and I would have to be airlifted out, I could hear the title now, “Florida woman’s heart burst in the middle of Volcano hike”.

 

The cynical one, that started to feel angry at my choice to do this, silently mocking the faster hikers in my heard, and complaining at the fact that I should have brought more snacks.

 

It was quite amusing to witness these different parts calling me for attention, and how if I chose to focus on them, how that energy would grow and expand.

 

 

I then had to really stop and think and remember, what helps me when things get tough?

 

In a way, those parts are all just trying to help in their own way, trying to keep myself safe and comfortable in an otherwise extremely uncomfortable experience.

 

But what is the part of me that feels the wisest, that knows what to remember in order to keep going?

 

What I finally anchored into and kept coming back to when those voices would become relentless, is the part of me that feels like the inner wise spiritual woman.

 

During the sunrise hike, which required us to wake up at 4am in 30-degree weather to continue the arduous hike all the way to the summit, I discovered and really remembered this.

 

I was the last one of the whole group and was struggling with my breath even worse than the day before. I felt so tempted to just turn around, already hearing the story I would tell the rest of the group as to how I would justify turning around.

 

In that moment, I felt I had to make a choice. Either I turn around or I dig deep into my gut, into my heart and find the woman that keeps going no matter how hard it gets.

 

 

I began to think of my father who passed away in 2019 and what he taught me about what it takes to keep going no matter what.

 

I thought of his resiliency, his strength, his determination to make it in a country that wasn’t his, his perseverance to learn a language in his 30’s and to make a way for his family with 20 dollars in his pocket.

 

I thought to myself I am my father’s daughter. Those traits live within me to, and I began to tap into the perseverance that lives within me, the strength and determination that I inherited from him, knowing that I do have the capacity to finish this.


holding a picture of little girl and her dad
Me and my dad

 

3.     WHAT I SAY TO MYSELF MATTERS

 

We are always talking to ourselves, whether we are aware of it or not. Before the hike, I had set the intention to pay attention to my self talk, and really bring awareness to how I was talking to myself especially when things got hard. This was the biggest lesson of them all.

 

When things get hard, how am I going to talk to myself ?


Will I be the annoying friend I should have left at home or the best friend that I’m glad I brought along?

 

I definitely vacillated between both at some points, but began making the conscious choice to really tap into the coach within me and push myself forward, especially during the parts that felt especially brutal.

 

The 4am hike to the summit turned out to be the real test. I was so tempted to turn around, however I thought to myself, “You didn’t come up all the way up here to not complete your goal.” So, I began to tap into my affirmations, reminding myself of my inner strength.

 

One affirmation that always comes to mind for me when things get hard, was given to me by my partner. He’s a marathon runner and when we would go running together , he would always say out loud, “I’m a champion”. At the time, I thought it was a little corny, just rolling my eyes, but deep inside it stuck.

 

I am a champion, I kept chanting to myself like a prayer all the way to the top.

 

 

Before I knew it, one foot in front of the other, I was there, at the summit.

 

The feeling was otherworldly.

 

After all those grueling hours, I had made it. Feeling the impending sunrise and the cold wind in my face, I looked around to see everyone celebrating. The feeling was indescribable.

 

As I was I watched the sun come up through the clouds, I cried tears of joy, gratitude and elation to feel so alive.

 

I did it. I was at the top. Not only of the volcano, but of this mental challenge and physical challenge to prove to myself that I have the capacity to overcome the hardest of situations. To find my inner grit, the champion within me.


girl at the top of Volcan Acatenango
Finally reaching the Summit

 

 

The reason I share my story, is because we all don’t have to travel to Guatemala and physically hike a volcano to discover or learn these lessons that boost our self esteem.

 

Sometimes the volcanos in our lives show up in all kinds of different ways, they can be external challenges, such as sudden unemployment, the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or an unexpected medical condition.  

 


Sometimes they are internal volcanos, such as relentless anxiety, depression or unresolved trauma.

 

We know the volcano is there and we have no choice but to hike it, so some good questions to ask ourselves are:

 

how am I going to show up for myself on the way up?

 

Which part of me will be in the driver’s seat?

 

How do I talk to myself when the going gets tough?

 

 

By learning how to anchor into those strongest parts of ourselves, putting one foot in front of the other, and reminding ourselves of our own inner strength, we can rise to the summit.

 

To look around and feel the pain, the joy, to feel all of it and know that we have the capacity to HOLD all of it.

 

Knowing that without these volcanos, we’d never discover the strongest parts of ourselves.




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