‘Keep believing the impossible is possible…You won’t know how good you are, you will never be able to tap into your potential, until you learn that mistakes are part of life and learning…The route can be as easy or as hard as you perceive it to be…Facing [my] fears is worth it, even if it is terrifying while doing it.’
Anoushé Husain is a champion for all those experiencing barriers and self-limiting beliefs.
Born missing her right arm below the elbow, living with multiple health conditions, a cancer survivor, a Muslim and coming from an ethnic minority, Anoushé has never let what society or culture thinks she should do limit her or dictate the direction of her life. She is constantly breaking the mould and challenging not only her own beliefs about her own potential but also that of society and her own culture.
She has become a role model to anyone facing a self-limiting belief or barrier and is sharing her journey to help others unlock their potential. Anoushé candidly talks about her life, how she has remained resilient in the face of huge obstacles and talks about issues that we as a society do not talk about enough. In particular, Anoushé highlights the plight of those stigmatised by society in order to change the misconceptions around these groups. She is heavily driven by teaching others learn to shed their self-limiting beliefs and help empower them to reach their potential.
Anoushé uses her voice in whatever way she can to champion causes she holds close to her heart. From blogging to the news, tv and radio, Anoushé is out there sharing her journey in a hope to help others reach their potential.
A policy advisor by day, Anoushé is currently ranked 2nd in the UK as a paraclimber in just a year of training. When she is not at work, training or coaching others, Anoushé works with a staggering number of organisations.
She is an Ambassador for LimbPower, the leading charity for amputees and those with limb differences. She has become one of the faces of the This Girl Can Climb campaign, is a role model for parents and children from Reach, a charity for children with congenital upper limb differences. She is also active with the Arctic One foundation and Shine Cancer Support, a young adult cancer charity. She is also indoor-climbing the height of Mount Everest to raise money for Shine Cancer Support.
Anoushé is the 2017 Asian Women of Achievement Award winner for Sport and is now an Ambassador for the Women of the Future Programme.
She will also be speaking at this year’s WAExpo 2017 on 7th October in Bristol, the flagship event of the Women’s Adventure Expo.
As you can imagine, with accomplishments like these, Women’s Adventure Expo couldn’t wait to find out more from this lady……..
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us Anoushé. Here at Women’s Adventure Expo we are all about inspiring women to get out there and have an adventure. What’s the best adventure you’ve had in the last few years and what does it mean to you to be able to fill your life with adventure, and especially climbing?
I’ve only been climbing for just under 2 years. I think the biggest adventure has been learning how to conquer my own self-limiting beliefs.
For me, to have found climbing means more than a lot of people realise. It’s actually the reason that I have managed to keep my Ehler Danlos prognosis at bay. It’s more than just a sport to me, it’s actually medicine for my physical body but also my mind, emotional self and soul. Climbing is now life.
What does it feel like when you complete a challenge or project?
Exhilarated! If it’s a challenge that’s technically difficult but physically doable, I’m normally quite happy. However, if it’s a challenge that requires me to face my fears by performing more dynamic moves or using moves where I’m less mobile, then that sense of pride and exhilaration is multiplied greatly. I did my first dynamic move on a boulder 2 days ago, I’m still in disbelief that I finally pulled it off after over a year of trying to pluck up the courage.
What is really exciting in the world of climbing right now?
Wow, I don’t really know where to start? Like I said, I’ve not been climbing all that long and am only really starting to learn how vast the world of climbing is but the things that are really striking me are the women who are getting out there and doing their thing. From climbers like Shauna Coxsey or Janja Garnbret in the performance climbing world to Masha Gordon, a mum, a mountaineer, a double Guinness world record holder and someone who has just summited Makalu.
I think what’s more exciting about this actually is not just the physical and mental prowess of these women but how they are using it to grow grassroots climbing, empower women, get girls active and help the vulnerable.
It’s one thing to have talent, it’s another to teach others how to harness theirs.
In terms of my world, the excitement has been there since last year. In just under a year of learning how to climb (I didn’t even know how to do a figure of 8 properly!) I tried out the British Mountaineering Council’s paraclimbing competitions and ranked 2nd within my disability category.
Last year was a serious trial and error. I live with multiple health issues including my left arm being weakened from cancer surgeries 5 years ago. I was also born missing my right arm below my elbow and have Ehler Danlos Syndrome so my joints spontaneously subluxate and dislocate among other things. When I had cancer, I could barely walk 100 metres without being in pain due to my joints so to be able to climb a few years later is frankly humbling. I didn’t believe my body would take to it or that I would be able to overcome some of the more recent damage that has taken place.
I used to be a competitive swimmer as a child and competitive martial artist as a teenager so to find competition again, something I could do with all my health drama, was incredible.
Having ranked 2nd, I made the decision this year to take things more seriously. I had some serious weaknesses and was carrying a lot of extra weight so I knew I was going to need to work hard to get my body into a better shape if I was going to perform at a higher standard.
7 months later and I am 2 weeks away from the start of the season. I’m both very nervous and excited to see whether the training will have paid off and whether I can take #1.
Wow, you’ve achieved and overcome so much in such a short space of time. What’s next?
Carrying on! I have 4 competitions to go and if I can do it? Get on Team GB.. I’m now the Asian Women of Achievement winner for Sport. An ambassador for LimbPower, working with the This Girl Can Campaign and multiple other organisations. I love being able to share what I am learning from my own journey with others and so I’ve also launched my public career and chosen to work with organisations like Grit&Rock to speak to girls in schools and inspire them.
You are clearly an inspiration to others, but who inspires you and why?
It’s very hard to pick one person because I know so many people with incredible journeys but if I had to pick one person it would be my Castle Climbing Coach, Thanh. I’ve only known him since Feb 2016 when I started training but his attention to detail and control in his climbing is incredible. When I have spare time during lunch at work, I’m going through my videos or his to see how he has done a certain move and how to apply it to my own climbing. He strives for perfection in himself but also in those he trains. He’s also super modest about how good he is which is both quite funny and endearing.
Climbing style aside, as a coach, Thanh reminds me of my karate coach. He is patient, he cares, he pushes when he thinks I’m ready, even if I might not be but he also holds back and warns me.
My Ehler Danlos only got formally diagnosed last summer. So less than a month before starting my first climbing competitions or any sports competitions in over 10 years, I had to deal with and start learning about the ramifications of a life-long, incurable and degrading condition.
The thing is, I wasn’t the only one. As my coach, Thanh took it on himself to work out ways around my EDS symptoms and to keep training. Every time I had a flare and I had a lot of them, he took it within his stride and kept everything going.
The competition season last year was really difficult because I really wasn’t stable at the time and my other health issues were also playing up. There were numerous times that I considered throwing in the towel and questioned my sanity. Had Thanh at any point given an inkling that I shouldn’t have been competing, I would have given up and probably stopped climbing. He didn’t and because of that, I kept going, pushing through and taking that really tough time on the chin.
7 months later, my EDS is as stable as it’s ever going to get. I’ve been discharged from multiple hospitals and I am a lot healthier and happier. I have Thanh to thank for holding the ship steady through that storm so I could come out the other end and start fighting for my health. I might have lost points in the competitions and not gotten where I wanted to but I did rank 2nd and frankly, I can look at that whole season of hell with pride. If I can do that, I can do anything I set my mind to
Not a lot of coaches would take that on. He did and I wouldn’t have learned how resilient I can be without his support.
He really does sound like an amazing coach and has really supported and pushed you to achieve so much. So what are you most proud of being able to do today that you could not do a year ago?
Gosh, there are so many things. Last year I could barely rockover on my left leg, now, I barely hesitate with high ones! I can cut loose now. I got my first grade 6 climbs and now am doing them on a regular basis. My first dynamic movement on a boulder! My first lead climbs
So many milestones.
It’s clear from the way you talk about climbing that it has become a major part of your life. For you, what does adventure / climbing bring which enriches your soul and makes you happy?
Climbing is my escape from the world. Whether I’ve had a stressful day in life or at work, I’m in pain or my joints are giving me grief or I just want to find my zone and forget the world for a precious few minutes. For me, climbing is active meditation as it requires balance, mental focus, physical strength and contact with your soul. If your own balance is off, it will mirror on the wall. Whether or not I’m training or going for a fun climb, I always come off the wall happier than when I started.
So, do you have a mantra you live by, or saying which motivates you?
Keep believing the impossible is possible.
People often think that things are impossible, especially when things go wrong or we make mistakes. At Women’s Adventure Expo be believe that we learn from our mistakes and they can improve us, but many people are scared to make them. What would you say to a person who fears making mistakes or taking risks?
In the context of life and in climbing, falling is not failure. It’s simply an opportunity to learn, try again and succeed at a later date. I fall of walls on a very regular basis. If I were to consider the mistakes I make on the wall or in life the end of the game, I wouldn’t be climbing today and I wouldn’t be crushing my milestones to bits.
You won’t know how good you are, you will never be able to tap into your potential until you learn that mistakes are part of life and learning.
Part of people believing something is impossible is often fear related. How do you deal with fear when you are completing a challenge?
Fear is both good and bad. It’s good because that means I’m trying something that’s out of my comfort zone, testing my boundaries, seeing if I can expand my potential. At the same time, fear can be limiting if I allow it to be. I’ve had to face a lot of fears as I have learned to get around some of the more physically challenging things I need to do. The way I do it is to again, plan little steps
I was and still am crazy scared of jumping off boulders. 4 months ago, walking on a sift mat was scary, then jumping 10cm, 20cm. Now I can do about 1m. Just keep dipping your toes in the water, eventually you’ll get used to the fear and lean to swim.
Many women, including those from minority groups, fear or lack confidence to get out there and have an adventure. What do you think the outdoor industry could do to make adventure, and adventure sport more accessible to minority groups in the UK?
This is a funny question because I prefer indoor climbing over outdoor. Indoor feels more accessible and less daunting. I look a fellow paraclimbers with different disabilities and nothing is stopping them from enjoying the outside but none of them are ethnically South East Asian or Muslim. I actually don’t really know any Muslim climbers indoors and definitely not outdoors. I don’t think it’s the climbing that’s putting minorities off from going outside
For me, camping in a tent is actually quite hard with my medical issues and feels rather daunting. Having talked to other Muslim women, they feel the same. I wonder if there isn’t something in providing more information on facilities or even trips where there would be an option to stay in a hotel nearby
What do you think are the most important questions a woman can ask herself when struggling with a challenge? What do you think makes her feel more confident about planning her own adventure, or starting a new sport?
Why not try? What have I got to lose? What’s the worst that could happen? Is there a reason that I shouldn’t be doing this? Will I regret not trying
Starting something new can be really really scary and that’s ok, it’s normal to feel that. For me, planning out little steps and celebrating each of those helps me feel like things aren’t as scary and I’m making small wins. That in turn helps my confidence. It’s an upwards cycle.
Do you think as women we speak to ourselves and accept things about ourselves, which we wouldn’t allow or like someone else to say to us? What do you think women should tell themselves?
Absolutely. I think women are great at putting themselves down and it’s a shame. I think women should imagine saying what they say to themselves to their best friend or a complete stranger. If it doesn’t work for them, then it’s not ok to say it to yourselves either!
And finally Anoushé, what are the three biggest struggles you have overcome in your climbing, and what are the biggest lessons climbing has taught you?
Learning to trust my left leg. Learning to move dynamically. Learning to overcome my fear of bouldering.
Climbing is my mirror. If something is not working on a route that should be? Then I need to look at myself to find what is out of balance
The route can be as easy or as hard as you perceive it to be
Facing my fears is worth it, even if it is terrifying while doing it!
Wow! Thank you so much Anoushé for taking the time to answer our questions. It has been an absolute privilege to learn so much from such an inspiring woman. We wish you lots of luck in all your future challenges and can’t wait to hear all about them.
If you have been left inspired by Anoushé’s attitude and achievements, you can hear more and meet her, at our annual flagship event ‘WAExpo 2017’ being held on Saturday 7th October at @Bristol. Tickets are on sale now so don’t miss out. Find out more HERE.
Interview by Vicky Taylor for Women’s Adventure Expo
Photo Credit Sandy Carr