Overcoming obstacles with Sophie Radcliffe
It is no wonder that modern day social media is playing a role in the way both men and women feel about themselves. Every day we are being exposed to unrealistic expectations of what we think life should be or what we should physically look like but in reality, nobody knows what goes on behind the scenes. A survey conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health found that Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness amongst 14-24 year olds in the UK.
We need to find solutions that can help us overcome the negative feelings these platforms feed. According to the NHS, physical activity may cause chemical changes in the brain, which can help to positively change our mood, and, as they say, ‘healthy body, healthy mind’. Setting a goal and achieving it can be an empowering mechanism and Sophie Radcliffe, adventurer and endurance athlete reinforces this statement when she said: “The best way to feel empowered is to do things that make you feel strong, confident and good with yourself.”
At the age of 27, Sophie Radcliffe left her 9-5 London job behind to embark on a journey of challenges. She exceeded all her expectations over the last few years having cycled 300km from London to Paris in 24 hours on nine occasions. She has also climbed the highest mountains in the eight Alpine countries whilst cycling between them and completed the Ironman challenge not once, but twice. Radcliffe said: “I struggled a lot with confidence but after completing the challenge I realised I could be anything I wanted to be in life,” referring to the Kinabalu challenge in the Borneo jungle, her very first adventure back in November 2008 at the age of 22. She added: “As I was growing up I realised how much of a challenge it is to figure out who you are and learn to be true to that person and I tried to pursue that in the traditional ways I thought might define me and they did, but nothing compares to when I didd my first challenge.” The race entailed mountain biking, trail running, kayaking, white water rafting and climbing up 4095m to reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu. This was a game changing experience for Radcliffe as not only it was extremely rewarding both mentally and physically but it set her up to have a future competing in endurance challenges.
Now, Radcliffe works towards motivating others in excelling expectations, empowering self belief and exploring what your body and mind can do through the world of adventure. She said: “Fitness is about what my body can do, not what it looks like. I focus on functionality rather than aesthetics, on developing a strong mind instead of focusing on negatives.” Social media is an important tool today yet it is so challenging because it is fuelling an idealised image of perfection young teens try to adhere to. It’s also a way we try to connect with adventure and excitement, but it’s sad that we now turn to our screens to find that connection rather than going out and living our lives. Radcliffe said: “I live my life bold and courageously and now I have a strong sense of confidence in who I am even though It has taken 10 years of constantly putting myself out there.” When you’re out there, “nature doesn’t care” added Radcliffe. When you learn to overcome obstacles and see what your body is capable of, all those insecurities will fade.
Radcliffe runs up a youth empowerment project called trail blazers, dedicated to building confidence and resilience in teenage girls. She said: “ Nowadays girls have a lot of judgement and criticism and I want to bring out the person they are inside and help them rise and shine!” The initiative entails assemblies, workshops, outdoor sports challenges and a series of digital catch ups to track the progress and it was born out of Radcliffe’s belief that “Confidence is like a muscle, the more you train it the stronger it gets.”