When I started preparing for the Vuelta Ride and told others about my project, I received quit a lot of reactions – from genuine support to outrageous disbelief whether I would be able to make it. In fact, 80% of the people I told about were reluctant to believe I would be able to ride 3300km in 21 days – the same stages at the same day as the professionals. Not only physically but also logistically it was a tough task to do. It required knowledge I not yet had.

From the outside, it looked like a normal female cyclist trying to accomplish something that only the best male cyclists in the world could achieve.

In addition to the physical challenge, the organizational preparation put me outside of my comfort zone dealing with tasks I have never done before; communicating with the media, creating a crowdfunding initiative, recruiting a voluntary team and planning a time table of a route I was not familiar with.

The doubts of others combined with the step into unfamiliar terrain of knowledge and experience requires a lot of self-confidence to keep believing that I could not only prepare the project but also finish the ride successfully.

How could 80% of the people believe I won’t be able to complete it? They must be seeing something I don’t see? Maybe they are right?

But believing in yourself is the single most important factor to achieve your goals. It is the foundation of all other factors that make a project, goal or dream successful.

Here is what I do to strengthen my self-confidence:

  • Ignore the opinion of others about your abilities. (the power of giving a shit) Criticism or doubt from others can have a great impact on our own self-belief if we let them. It is easier said than done to ignore other’s opinions but remember, there is no single person in the world who knows you better than yourself. How can they possibly know what your abilities are and even more importantly how strong your inner drive is?
  • Be true to yourself. As much you should ignore the opinion of the others, as much you have to respect yourself. But to being able to respect yourself, you have to know yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses, your inner motivation and drive. (First principle of the RAD philosophy, “R” stands for real.) Knowing and appreciating your own abilities are important prerequisites to respect them. When you respect yourself, you can build confidence in them.
  • Focus on yourself. Some people have asked me whether I used the doubts of others as motivation to “prove them” what I can do. No, and I would advise against this type of drive because then you start to rely on the opinions of others which will have an impact on your self-confidence. Every goal or motivation should come from within. Then it is completely on you whether you succeed or not and not subject to others. Stay true to your intrinsic motivation.

When I decided to ride the 3300km Vuelta a España I knew that I physically and mentally can do it. Years and years of racing, extreme cycling challenges and mental training had prepared me for this challenge. I respected my strengths and weaknesses and could act accordingly.

When you are confident about yourself failure does not become an option.