Confidence Is Born From Failure

[3-Minute Read] Sandy Suckling shares an intimate recount of her journey toward self-belief and conquering her fear of failure.

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Living through my worst fears transformed my confidence

Sandy Suckling shares an intimate recount of her journey toward self-belief and conquering her fear of failure.

An Unprecedented Achievement

In April 2022, Sandy Suckling ran 1100km from Broken Hill to Melbourne, Australia, topping her previous personal best by 800km. An incredible feat at any age; it was unprecedented for a 62-year-old to take on such an extreme distance for the first time.

The physical, mental and emotional work that enabled Sandy to achieve her dream took place long before she toed the start line. When I interviewed Sandy a few weeks ago, she shared an intimate recount of her journey toward self-belief and conquering her fear of failure.

[In Sandy’s Words]

Realising My Worst Fears

I escaped a physically and emotionally abusive relationship in my mid-30s. Depression was one of my constant companions during that time, and when I finally regained control and balance after years of hard work, I promised myself I would never let it get to that point again.

However, life hasn’t always been smooth sailing, occasionally tipping out of balance again and sliding me back into the old feelings of self-doubt – the downward spiral.

There would be things that I wanted to do, but I found it hard to commit because I was worried about the predicted outcome and the potential consequences of failure. What would people think? Would I hurt myself? I’d put a lot of energy into questioning what could go wrong and end up feeling frustrated and angry.

Strangely, the turning point in my confidence came when my worst fears were realised, and I failed to finish a race that was deeply important to me.

The moment of truth arrived when I was flown off the course of the Tor des Geants, a 330km trail race in the Italian Alps, in a helicopter.

Photo: Sandy Suckling racing in the Gobi Desert in 2011. Photo supplied by Sandy.

I Gained Something Far More Valuable

Considered one of the toughest races in the world, Tor des Geants traverses 330 kilometres of trails in the Italian alps. The route weaves around some of the highest peaks in Italy, taking competitors up more than 24,000 metres of vertical gain – the equivalent of running 2.5 times from sea level to the top of Mt Everest – and runners have to finish the course in a smidge over six days.

I felt intimidated by the race; I guess most runners do. I had watched other runners participate for years and dreamed of doing it, but the fear of failure kept me from signing on.

I’d get excited about the idea, but before long, the negative voice would start chattering in my head. It is an expensive race to join from Australia. There are event fees, travel expenses, funding a support crew, and the exchange rates don’t work in our favour.

Then there’s the work that had to get done. I’m more than happy to work hard to achieve my goals. Still, I was mindful of the effort of my coach, husband and all the other people around me. They all invested their time and passion into helping me succeed, and I didn’t want to disappoint them.

Only 250 kilometres into the race, I heard the words I dreaded from a marshal. My health had deteriorated to the point where the race doctor said I had to stop. I was physically, mentally and emotionally depleted and couldn’t stop myself from crying.

I felt defeated, distressed, ashamed and finally, as the helicopter lifted off to take me to the hospital, numb.

As we gained height, I could see the landscape I had crossed, and my tears stopped.

I could see the sharpness and grandeur of the mountains.

The rays of light.

The tiny trails and villages.

I remembered where I was, and feelings of gratitude flowed – gratitude for my health and running ability, the people who love and support me, and the resources and opportunity to be here.

I spent the remainder of the race cheering for other runners and bridging the emotional distance between us.

While this wasn’t the race end that I had envisaged, it was far greater and more valuable.

The Lessons In “Failure”

I’ve learned to conquer my fear of things not going to plan.

I try not to indulge preconceived ideas of outcomes or experiences; instead, I throw myself into the moment and let it unfold.

That’s the attitude I took with me when I started running the 1100km from Broken Hill to Melbourne. Keeping an open mind, I made the conscious decision to take the journey one step at a time, enabling me to succeed. We had extremes of weather, and my energy went through highs and lows. Whenever my internal critic doubted my ability to finish, I remembered that helicopter ride, the beauty of the scenery and the love of the people around me, and I realised that, as the cliche goes, it wasn’t about the destination but the journey.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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