Zahra Alawi climbs over her fears

About six years ago, a young boy was climbing up the side of a building. His nine-year-old cousin watched him as he struggled to stay on the wall, then fell from two stories up. The simple mistake resulted in a temporary coma, but it also had a long term effect on his little cousin. 

The boy’s cousin was sophomore Zahra Alawi, who has now been rock climbing for six months. Her dedication to this activity actually arose from experiencing that horrible accident so long ago.

“I feel like because of what happened to him, it pushes me to climb more because although what happened to him was horrible, it pushes me to work harder and become safer at climbing with more strength,” Alawi said.

With just yourself, a wall, a mat and some chalk to help you out, rock climbing may seem intimidating to some people, especially after witnessing the worst aspects of climbing. Since her cousin’s accident, Alawi has been afraid of heights. However, she refused to succumb to the terrifying feeling she felt when she first tried rock climbing, and instead, she fell in love with the way it helps her defeat personal fears.

Climbing has entirely been an outlet for me to express who I am.”

— Zahra Alawi

“What hinders me in climbing is my fear of heights, but I use it as a way to cope with my fear and to get rid of it,” Alawi said. “After my first fall, I knew it was something I could handle, and something I can use to get over my fear. It’s just my own mind telling me I can’t [do it], so it’s all about getting over that fear and saying, ‘No. I can do that.’”

Through climbing, Alawi has worked on improving herself as an individual. However, part of her success is still due to the friendly and interactive environment at her climbing gym. Besides independently learning techniques and getting familiar with the activity, she also remains opened to help and feedback from other climbers.

“You could be struggling with a hold and someone will shout from below, ‘Put your left foot there,’” Alawi said. “So, climbing is entirely a community sport. If someone’s having trouble, you help them out. It definitely helps me socially because it granted me the ability to talk to people and it’s helped with making sure I’m not worried about my self-image. Climbing has entirely been an outlet for me to express who I am.”

Feeling self conscious has been a long term struggle for Alawi, but now, it is just another fear that can be conquered by climbing.

“I have to get over my fear if I want to be a good climber because when you’re climbing, you do not want to feel an adrenaline rush,” Alawi said. “I’d be scared while I’m climbing, and that leads me to making really bad decisions, thus not reaching how far I can actually go on my climb. But it’s okay to be calm, and everything is going to work out in the end. That’s something that you have to learn while climbing.”