I am Mayan Smith-Gobat, I was born in New Zealand and began climbing in the wild mountains there roughly 25 years ago. Through my mother, I developed strong family ties to Germany and am now living on a small farm in the middle of the Frankenjura. Trying to find balance and combine my greatest passions.
My first passion was horse riding. I began this sport at age seven and quickly discovered my talent for this physical activity and an affinity to these beautiful animals, which I had difficulties finding with my human friends. While at school, I couldn't break through my inhibitions and stayed the shy, quiet girl, when outdoors with my horses, I felt free and could simply be me, without judgment or self-doubt.
At age 16, I got a summer job working for Alpine Guides in the Southern Alps, here I rediscovered my love for the mountains, became fascinated by climbing (my second passion), and found another place where I felt free. I had a natural talent, and as soon as I finished school, I turned my back on the world where I felt uncomfortable and dedicated myself to rock climbing, quickly becoming one of the strongest women climbers in NZ at that time. This was a massive boost to my self-confidence, but one that was merely tied to success. I still didn't feel comfortable in my skin and didn't like my rounder womanly figure; I just wanted to be one of the guys.
However, things were going well; I won competitions, gained some sponsorships, and received an invitation to compete in China. On this trip, I became very sick and lost a lot of weight. When I finally began climbing again, I loved the feeling of being light, I loved the look of my hard, thin body, and being in control. I severely limited what I let myself eat, and I trained hard. I became addicted to the feeling of being in total control of my body and becoming the best climber I could be. I trained to failure and was only content when I was totally exhausted. I was only satisfied with perfection from myself, and when I failed to do a move, or route, or ate a morsel too much, I beat myself up mentally - I told myself that I was a totally useless piece of shit and, in turn, worked my body even harder.
This cycle carried on for some time until I eventually noticed how self-destructive I had become and that if I carried on much longer, I would need help. I found the thought of telling anyone about my issues so terrifying that it spurred me to research anorexia and bulimia on my own and to slowly dig myself out of the dark hole. I stopped weighing myself, stopped looking in a mirror, and tried to be more kind to myself - rather than beating myself up after climbing or a training session, I tried to see the positives (however small they might be).
Yet, the underlying issue - learning to truly love myself and listen to my body - was and still is the most challenging. For me, it has taken two shoulder surgeries, multiple other injuries and taking a step away from professional climbing to see that I am more than just a good climber (or rider), that my body needs rest and nutrition to be healthy and that it is ok to be lazy and do nothing every now and then.
However hard it is, opening up and letting people see the 'not so perfect' sides of myself, is an important step to truly accepting and loving me for who I am. And I hope that it helps others do the same.